Black separatism

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Black separatism is a movement to create separate institutions for people of African descent in societies historically dominated by whites, particularly in the United States. Black separatism is a subcategory of black nationalism, stemming from the idea of racial solidarity, implies that blacks should organize themselves on the basis of their common experience of oppression as a result of their blackness, culture, and African heritage.[1] Black separatism in its purist form, as a subcategory of black nationalism, asserts that blacks and whites ideally should form two separate nations.[2] Black separatists also often seek a separate homeland. Black separatists generally think that black people cannot advance in a society dominated by a white majority.

Black nationalism vs. black separatism[edit]

It is important to understand that all black separatists are black nationalists but not all black nationalists are black separatists. To understand this distinction, one must understand that black separatists believe that black people should be physically separated from other races, primarily whites. In other words black separatists would want a separate nation for black people. This is different from black nationalists which may or may not believe in a physical separation of black people. A specific example of a separatist movement would be the Pan-Africanism movement.[3]


Conceptual Breakdown of Black Separatism

In his discussion of black nationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the historian Wilson Jeremiah Moses observes that "black separatism, or self-containment, which in its extreme form advocated the perpetual physical separation of the races, usually referred only to a simple institutional separatism, or the desire to see black people making independent efforts to sustain themselves in a proven hostile environment."[4]

Scholars Talmadge Anderson and James Stewart further make a distinction between the "classical version of Black separatism advocated by Booker T. Washington" and "modern separatist ideology." They observe that "Washington's accommodationist advice" at the end of the nineteenth century "was for Blacks not to agitate for social, intellectual, and professional equality with Whites." By contrast, they observe, "contemporary separatists exhort Blacks not only to equal Whites but to surpass them as a tribute to and redemption of their African heritage."[5] Anderson and Stewart add, moreover, that in general "modern black separatism is difficult to define because of its similarity to black nationalism."[5]

Indeed, black separatism's specific goals were historically in flux and varied from group to group. Martin Delany in the 19th century and Marcus Garvey in the 1920s outspokenly called for African Americans to return to Africa, by moving to Liberia. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton looked to form separatist colonies in the American West. The Nation of Islam calls for several independent black states on American soil. More mainstream views within black separatism hold that black people would be better served by schools and businesses exclusively for black people, and by local black politicians and police.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall 1978, p. 1.
  2. ^ Hall 1978, p. 3.
  3. ^ Hall 1978, p. 2.
  4. ^ Moses 1988, p. 23
  5. ^ a b Anderson & Stewart 2007, p. 203


  • Moses, Wilson Jeremiah (1988), The Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-520639-5 .
  • Anderson, Talmadge; Stewart, James B. (2007), Introduction to African American studies: Transdisciplinary Approaches and Implications, Baltimore: Inprint, ISBN 978-1-58073-039-6 .
  • Little, Malcolm (1964), The Ballot or the Bullet, April 4, 1964 .
  • Hall, Raymond L. (1978), Black Separatism in the United States, University Press of New England .

Further reading[edit]

  • Jenkins, B. L., & Phillis, S. (1976). Black separatism: a bibliography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
  • Hall, R. L. (1977). Black separatism and social reality: rhetoric and reason. New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Hall, R. L. (1978). Black separatism in the United States. Hanover, N.H.: Published for Dartmouth College by the University Press of New England.
  • Bell, H. H., Holly, J. T., & Harris, J. D. (1970). Black separatism and the Caribbean, 1860. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Browne, R. S., & Vernon, R. (1968). On black separatism. New York: Pathfinder Press.

External articles[edit]