2 - The black nationalist tradition  pp. 16-36

The black nationalist tradition

By Alphonso Pinkney

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One of the fundamental components of nationalist ideology is the expression of unity by a people in their struggle for selfdetermination. Obviously such expressions assume different forms, depending upon a variety of circumstances. In the case of people of African descent in the United States these expressions have varied widely over a period of more than four centuries. Perhaps the first collective expressions of black unity in what is now the United States took the form of slave conspiracies and revolts in the early years of European colonization. Herbert Aptheker traces the first slave revolt back to 1526 in what is now South Carolina, and the first serious slave conspiracy is said to date back to the Virginia colony in 1663. Later in the colonial era two blacks were burned alive and an additional 29 were executed in New York City in 1741 for their part in a slave conspiracy that left many buildings destroyed by fire. Such conspiracies and revolts continued throughout the period of legal slavery.

In addition, black solidarity manifested itself in the early years through petitions by slaves for freedom, especially immediately prior to and during the Revolutionary War. In 1773, for example, the slaves of Massachusetts petitioned the colonial governing officials to grant them the freedom to work in order to earn money for transportation to, as they put it, “some part of the Coast of Africa, where we propose a settlement.”