Blyden, Edward Wilmot
Pioneer of Pan-African Unity
Edward Blyden was a teacher and author who promoted the idea of black African pride. He stressed the importance of African languages and culture but also explored the possibility of combining African and Western cultures. The inventor of the phrase “African personality,” Blyden laid the groundwork in his writings for the NEGRITUDE movement of the mid-1900s.
Of African descent, Blyden was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. In 1850 he went to the United States to study at a theological college. However, the school refused to accept Blyden because of his color. The following year Blyden emigrated to LIBERIA, where he worked as a minister, teacher, and newspaper editor. He also served as Liberian ambassador to Great Britain and president of Liberia College. Blyden later moved to FREETOWN, the capital of SIERRA LEONE. There he became increasingly interested in Islam and held the post of director of Muslim education. Blyden died in Freetown in 1912, but his ideas had enormous influence in the twentieth century among African and African American leaders and intellectuals. (See also Independence Movements.)