Retire Upon Ourselves

Quality Education for  Africans in America

The Elders Speak!

Great stress is being laid – and not without reason – upon the facilities of education now within reach of our people in the United States – the book learning which many of them are now receiving. This is certainly a matter for congratulation. But we must not lose sight of the important fact to be gathered from the very etymology of the word education, viz; that book learning is not the most essential part of our educational  needs as a people. You do not educate a man when you merely fill his mind; but you do educate him when you lead out his powers. You do not educate a man when you merely tell him what he knew not; but you do educate him when you make him feel what he ought to feel; the one is mental, the other affectional. The one teaches him to lean upon others, the other teaches him to 'retire upon himself.' All this latter lesson is what the Negroes of America need more than all the literature of the schools. 

And this view of their education becomes more important when we look upon the work which a large portion of them are destined to do in  their Fatherland. There they will not be able to succeed as mere  imitators of the European. And yet this is what, for the most part, they are becoming, by the very condition of their training, in America. The effect of the instruction received by our people directly from their white teachers, and indirectly from their surroundings, is to induce an accretive growth, and not a development from within — to impress upon them a mould and not to give them inward vigor. But in the work to be done in Africa they will need a great deal more than the thin veneering. which answers all their practical needs, while they  remain in America, and are not forced by the exigencies of their circumstances to 'retire upon themselves.'

The proper Negro is in Africa, and only in co-operation with him will the American Negro succeed in constructing the much-needed African  nationality. I have travelled among Negroes in all parts of the world. I have seen them under Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian and Semitic rule. I have lived in the United States, in the West Indies, in Venezuela; I have travelled in Syria, Egypt, and in the interior of Africa, and I testify that the manhood of the race is in the heart of Africa the basis upon which the African national superstructure is to be erected of materials imported no doubt in large proportions from the Western Hemisphere. During my travels in the interior of Africa, I have met men, both Pagan and Mohammedan, to whom as well from their physical as their mental characteristics, one voluntarily and instinctively feels like doing reverence. . . 

The best of the African peoples have seldom been seen in foreign lands. As a rule, it was from the servile class the inferior tribes that America was furnished with slaves. The higher classes very rare]y fell into the hands of the slave-traders. Among the blacks in America, now, I can always tell the men whose ancestors in Africa were of the servile class. . . .

Even 'in the unhealthy swamps of the West Coast,' I have seen men who would grace any court in Europe, and women whose form any artist would covet. Notwithstanding the so-called savagery of  Ashantee, and the alleged atrocities of Dahomey, there is a future for this race, which will be peculiar in the history of humanity, if not in what the world calls glory, yet in usefulness to mankind; and in looking forward to that future, I feel proud that I am a member of this race.  

                                            — Edward Wilmot Blyden (1878) 

First of all, we must note among American Negroes certain persistent culture patterns: the determination to educate their children; . . . the refusal, despite overwhelming temptation, to adopt entirely white American standards as to the good, the beautiful and the true [1948]. . . . Take for instance the current problem of the education of our children. By the law of the land today [1960] they should be admitted to the public schools. If and when they are admitted to these schools, . . . Negro teachers will become rarer and in many cases will disappear. Negro children will be . . . taught under unpleasant, if not discouraging, circumstances. Even more largely than today they will fall out of school, cease to enter high school, and fewer and fewer will go to college.  Theoretically Negro universities will disappear.  Negro history will be taught less or not at all and . . . Negroes will remember their white or indian ancestors and quite forget their Negro forebearers. . . . long before the year 2000, there will be no school segregation on the basis of race. The deficiency in knowledge of Negro history and culture, however, will remain and this danger must be met or else American Negroes will disappear. . . .

                                             — W.E.B. DuBois, 1948 and 1960

In the same way that we break beyond false boundaries of Western colonialism, attempting to re-create our essential Pan-African unity, expressing our solidarity with the larger pro-human struggles, so, too, our truth demands that we reject the artificial barriers of the academic disciplines to seek the human unity which underlies the experience of our people . . . we deny a priori validity of methodological disciplines, concepts, and “fields” which have been established without our participation, and which have often worked against the best intellectual and political interests of the African peoples. . . . Here again, examples abound of black scholars who have acted out this element of the struggle in their own lives, who have moved continuously beyond, and sometimes against, the disciplines assigned to them by the university. Instead, they have allowed the experience of our people to become the organizing reality. Disciplines, fields, and concepts have been either ignored and rejected, or transformed, restructured, and taken to higher levels of usefulness in their lives and work.

                                                   — Vincent Harding, 1974


(Positive Education Always Corrects Errors)


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My Pledge

 Let me forever be discarded
 by the Black race, and let me
 be condemned by the White,
   if I strive not with all my
powers, if I put not forth all my
 energies to bring respect and
  dignity to the African race.

Edward Wilmot Blyden

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Ida B. Wells Community Academy
Main Office: 1180 Slosson Street
Akron, Ohio   44320-2730
Phone:  330.867.1085   FAX:  330.867.1074

We have two Learning Centers

Mrs. Christina A. Fenn, Manager
Elementary School Campus (Grades K-4)
1180 Slosson Street
Akron, Ohio  44320-2730
330.867.1085   FAX: 330.867.1074
Mr. Robert M. Singleton, Manager
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442 Bell Street
Akron, Ohio  44307-2306
330.253.4298   FAX:  330.253.5512

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  Updated October 3, 2004