Black separatism

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Black separatism is a separatist political movement that seeks separate economic and cultural development for those of African descent in societies, particularly in the United States. Black separatism stems from the idea of racial solidarity, and it also implies that black people should organize themselves on the basis of their common skin color, their race, culture, and African heritage.[1] There were a total of 255 black separatist groups recorded in the United States as of 2019.[2][3]

Black separatism in its purest form asserts that blacks and whites ideally should form two independent nations.[4] Additionally, black separatists often seek to return to their original cultural homeland of Africa.[5] This sentiment was spearheaded by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s.[6] Black separatists generally think that black people are hindered in a white-dominated society.


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."[7]

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."[8] Anderson and Stewart add, moreover, that in general "modern black separatism is difficult to define because of its similarity to black nationalism."[8]

Indeed, black separatism's specific goals were historically in flux and they also 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 that are exclusively for black people, as well as by local black politicians and police.[9]

Similarity to black nationalism[edit]

There are similarities between black nationalism and black separatism, mainly that they both advocate for the civil rights of black people. There are a few differences between them, however. Black separatists believe that black people should be physically separated from other races, primarily whites; black separatists would for example want a separate nation for black people. Examples of black separatist organizations include the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party.[10]

This is slightly different from black nationalists because black nationalists do not always believe in a physical separation of black people. In some form, black nationalists do believe in separation, but not physical separation. Black nationalists focus more on Black pride, justice, and identity. Their belief is that black people should be proud of their own skin, heritage, and beauty. They also believe that there should be justice for black people, especially in the United States.

Usage by the Southern Poverty Law Center[edit]

The term "Black separatism" has been used by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an American civil rights advocacy group, to categorize several groups in the United States promoting antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ and male supremacist views.[11] However, in October 2020, the SPLC announced that they would no longer use the category of "Black separatism", saying this was done to avoid creating a false equivalence between Black separatism and White supremacist extremism.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall 1978, p. 1.
  2. ^ "United States - active hate groups by type 2019". Statista. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  3. ^ "Black Separatist". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on February 17, 2021.
  4. ^ Hall 1978, p. 3.
  5. ^ "Back to Africa movement gathers pace". New African Magazine. January 4, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  6. ^ "Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, The Twentieth Century, Divining America: Religion in American History, TeacherServe, National Humanities Center". Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  7. ^ Moses 1988, p. 23
  8. ^ a b Anderson & Stewart 2007, p. 203
  9. ^ M.R. Delany; Robert Campbell (1971) [1969]. Search for a place: Black separatism and Africa, 1860. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-06179-8. OCLC 2907368.
  10. ^ "New Black Panther Party". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Hodges, Raven (October 8, 2020). "Equity Through Accuracy: Changes to Our Hate Map". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on October 16, 2020.


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

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 links[edit]