African VS. Negro:

by Nwalimu Gee

    The purpose of this article is to shed a little light on why Negro is used in our organization's name:  The Universal Negro Improvement Association.

    Marcus Garvey was the MAN!  Garvey founded the UNIA in 1914 and had a program, a plan, and a method to unite the oppressed and scattered peoples of African descent.

    Marcus Garvey travelled throughout the world and everywhere he went, he witnessed the oppression of the darker peoples by the Caucasian race.  His idea of a great nation of Black people with a power base and government in Africa has yet to be realized and that is not all he wanted.

    It had only been fifty years since Africans were freed from slavery in this country and European dominance was unchecked throughout the civilized world.   Africa, Australia, South America, Cuba, America, the Carribean Islands, Melanesia and wherever there were Black people, there was daring acts of White Supremacy.

    Marcus Garvey had a vision of a United African People with one President, under one government to represent all Black People but there was one small concern.  The majority of the oppressed were people of African descent in foreign countries, but many were oppressed in their own native homelands.  Australia, New Guinea, Andaman Islands, Phillipine Islands, Pacific Islands, Melanesia, New Zealand and many other parts of the world were people considered "Black" but not of African descent.  Where did they come from?

    "Scientific" proof has been given and shows us that Africa is the home of the original man (the primordial man, Adam and Eve, first inhabitants, etc.)   and it has been argued that all mankind originated in Africa and that these Islanders are indeed African.  Yet, there are a few unanswered questions to consider before we call all "Blacks" African.  First, what is the origin of the word African?  Did "Africans" call themselves Africans?  What is the origin of the term Negro? What physical features are necessary to make a Negro and/or African?   Since all human forms of life began in Africa, are White People descendants of Black People?  Are they bleached Africans?  There are many things to consider if we believe in the evolution of mankind or the theory of creation.  Perhaps it's a little of both and there is a belief that there's one human race made of various families of man.

    If we consider and define Negro by Webster's dictionary we find that;

Negro: a member of the Negroid ethniBlack from Latin - Niger.

Negroid: pertaining to, or designating a major ethnic division of the human species where members are characterized by brown to black pigmentation and often by tightly curled hair, broad nose and thick lips.

Negro: a member of the African branch of the Black race formerly called Ethiopian.

Afro: from Latin, Afr - Afer, an African.

   The point to be made here is, all Blacks are not African.  Australian Aborigines do not consider themselves Africans and as a matter of fact, they claim to be the original man on this earth.

    J.A. Rogers wrote many volumes about race and it would help if most read his books.  Rogers says that "Nature knows no color line".  It is found that one could find Black People all over the world who have no direct ancestral link to Africa, but they are indeed "Black" and Negro is what the Latin's called us.  Negro is not of Latin origin and according to J.A. Rogers, Negro is the oldest term in history that describes us as a common race (family) of mankind.

    W.E.B. DuBois did more to harm the UNIA  and Mr. Garvey than perhaps several vicious caucasians.  Mr. DuBois, the founder of the (NAACP) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was a victim of Negrophobia.  He purposely attacked Mr. Garvey and the UNIA several ways, but particularly because Mr. Garvey represented true Africanism.  Mr. Garvey said, "They hate Garvey because the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Black Star Line employed every shade of color in the race according to ability and merit, and put the NAACP to shame for employing only the lightest of the race."

    It's no secret that during the early 1900's (and even today - check out TV) the lighter complexioned Negroes are favored.  Some passed for White, others thought they were better than their darker skinned brothers and Mr. DuBois hated being called a Negro.  (His father was a caucasian.)  DuBois founded the NAACP along with caucasian Jews.  The "Negro" became the enemy to the "colored" and this shameful neurosis was contagious to the masses of Blacks in America.  Even the blackest of our people called themselves "colored", but thanks to the Garvey movement the "Negro"was saved.  Integration and miscegenation will not save the Black Man.

    "White" supremacists divide the race by using names such as colored and mulatto.  There would not be coloreds or mulattoes if it were not for the caucasian, but there would be Africans and Negroes.

    Negro became a bad word to us during the rise of the Nation of Islam.   Under the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, Negro was degrading to the Black Man because he was "Muslim".  Malcolm taught us to hate the word Negro.

    The New Consciousness of being "African" among the Cultural Nationalist also contributed to the demise of the term Negro.  Nobody wanted to be a Negro anymore!  Even though Negro means the same as Black (to describe the Melanin content) it is preferred to use the European version, "Black".  Marcus Garvey accepted the use of Negro because it described the Melanin-Dominant people who were oppressed whether they were Africans or not.  Of course Garvey's ancestors were Africans like millions of Blacks in European dominated nations but it must be remembered that any person of any race born in Africa would be an African but not a Negro.  We must learn the difference between Nationality and Race.

    Marcus Garvey wanted Africa free of aliens if not physically at least free of the political and economical control they had over indigenous Africans.   Today, many Africans are more White Arabs than they are African Negroes.  The Algerians, Tunisians and others of course have some Negro blood and it does not make them Negro or Black, but African.  Likewise some Italians and Spaniards have Negro blood in their ancestry but it does not make them Black.  Again, Negro is perhaps the best word to describe Melanin-Dominated peoples including those from New Zealand, Australia, the Phillipines, etc.

    Black peoples' struggle does not center on African-American concerns but on the uniting of the "Negroid" peoples globally.  This is the reason Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association; to liberate all Negroes and not just Africans.  Africa of course is the Motherland.

*originally published in "Garvey Speaks" December 1990

History Archives Membership Information Events Divisions What's New FAQ