White [r]acists have been funding black activists’ ‘Back to Africa’ movements
By Keisha N. Blain, 2016
One man’s GoFundMe dares racists to put their money where their mouth is
In a new twist on the age old racist call to “go back to Africa,” a black man in Indiana just created a GoFundMe page daring racists to cover his travel expenses to the continent. “If you want me to go back to Africa,” Larry Mitchell says, “I will gladly go.” Telling white racists to “put their money where their mouth is,” Mitchell called on members of the [Klan] and anyone else who shared their views to submit a donation.
It sounds like a stunt (and according to Mitchell it started as one), but for many years this kind of move was a real political strategy employed by black activists.
For centuries, black men and women have attempted to relocate to Africa, often maintaining the belief that black emigration — also referred to as repatriation — would reunite them with their ancestors and return them to their native land. One of the earliest efforts of this kind was led by Paul Cuffe, a wealthy African American businessman and an avid sailor who traveled extensively to and from West Africa in the 19th Century. Concerned about the welfare of people of African descent in the United States, Cuffe began to endorse emigration to Sierra Leone, where he led a group of thirty eight individuals, using his own funds to cover travel expenses.
In the years following Cuffe’s death in 1817, the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization founded by a coalition of white [enslavers of Africans] and Quakers, played a central role in supporting emigration [of African Americans]. While members of the ACS advocated the abolition of [the slavery system], they founded the organization on the racist premise that [whites were supposedly superior thus] African Americans and whites could not peacefully coexist. As a result, they actively endorsed emigration [of African Americans] and played a significant role in relocating Americans to West Africa during the early to mid-nineteenth century. The organization received widespread support from prominent white Americans and — believe it or not — a $100,000 appropriation from Congress in 1819. Between 1817 and 1866, the ACS sent an estimated thirteen thousand African Americans to Liberia and established the nation as a colony for freed men and women in 1822.
While many race leaders criticized the racist agenda of the ACS, a cadre of black leaders welcomed the organization’s assistance. During the late nineteenth century, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church became one of the most vocal proponents for emigration [of African Americans]. Insisting that African Americans should take pride in their homeland, and convinced that extinction was the only alternative to emigration, Turner appealed to African Americans to leave the country.
Utilizing a variety of outlets including his newspapers, The Voice of Mission and the Voice of the People, he advocated for emigration as the best means to improve the social and economic conditions of African Americans. His efforts resulted in the emigration of an estimated five hundred African Americans to Liberia during the 1890s.
In the decades to follow, several black activists and intellectuals would lead the fight for emigration, often relying on the assistance of white supremacists and ardent segregationists eager to rid the country of black people. During the early twentieth century, Marcus Garvey [and] the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), became leading proponents of emigration.
Similar to Bishop Turner, Garvey and his supporters reached out to white segregationists — including Earnest Sevier Cox of Richmond, Virginia — in an effort to solicit financial and political support for the UNIA’s Liberia plan. In a controversial decision that generated widespread criticism, Garvey later held a meeting with Edward Young Clarke, acting imperial wizard of the [Klan], in 1922.
To be sure, Garvey did not solicit financial support from the [Klan], and his decision was largely motivated by his concerns over growing violence towards UNIA members. But Garvey’s meeting with the [Klan], similar to Turner’s willingness to work with the ACS, highlights how a particular kind of ruthless political pragmatism informed leaders’ responses to white supremacy in the United States.
Several nationalist leaders followed suit in subsequent years, reaching “across the aisle” in an effort to support emigration to Africa. During the 1930s, Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, founder of the Peace Movement of Ethiopia (PME), collaborated with Mississippi Senator Theodore G. Bilbo and launched a massive letter-writing campaign to solicit support from white supremacists and segregationists to help advance her pro-emigration campaign. Her efforts yielded a few hundred dollars.
During the 1940s, Pan-Africanist leader Amy Jacques Garvey also reached out to white [r]acists, including Bilbo and Cox, to ask them to match their separatist views with tangible resources, including money, to facilitate emigration to Africa. Her requests fell on deaf ears.
More than sixty years later, Larry Mitchell has made the same kind of appeal for racists to “put their money where their mouth is” on his GoFundMe page. At the time of writing this article, he has raised more than $1700 — an indication that some white [r]acists take him up on his offer.
In reality, Mitchell has no intentions of actually leaving the United States, as he recently admitted. If he raises the $100,000, he plans to go on vacation somewhere in Africa. His appeal, however, sheds light on the controversial political strategies Black people have employed in their efforts to combat racism and discrimination. The individuals who inspired Mitchell’s request serve as a bitter reminder that old racist views die hard.
Source: https://timeline. com/black-history/home