On Cruses’s Two Streams

The notion that Africans/Blacks in the US can advance by asserting their “Americanness” & denying their “Africanness” is an old idea, visible in the poetry of Phillis Wheatley in the 18th Century. Wheatley and many who would come after her reflect Cruse’s integrationist stream.

Cruse also acknowledged another stream, the Black nationalist stream, which many say begins with Martin Delany, but I think saw its inception within the traditions of insurrection, maroonage, and the earliest examples of repatriation with Paul Cuffe in the early 19th Century.

When one considers the intellectual legacies of integrationism and Black nationalism, they seem irreconcilable. Assimilation results in African people’s subordination to white domination. Whereas nationalism rejects the legitimacy of African life under alien subjugation.

The history of these streams remains unfinished, but as ever, the integrationist stream is presented as the singular expression of Black political thought, while the nationalist stream is decried as folly. However, all evidence suggests that integrationism is not possible, nor is capable of solving all of the problems of our people–problems that result from our lack of control over our lives.

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