A Letter to the Editor (1880)…”Who Are We?”

December 30, 1880
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


REV. TANNER, D.D.: – In reading your valuable paper I observed an interrogation, “Who are we?” Are we simply Negroes, are we Africans or are we Americans? In this country we are generally called Negroes and sometimes colored Americans. Of course we are not Negroes, for the word Negro is simply used by the Americans to criticize or to burlesque our race. Again I say we are not Negroes and neither are we Americans, but than God we are Africans. To show you that the word Negro is used a as burlesque, some writers have tried to define it, and in doing so they say “it means a black African.” What an absurd expression, for those who have read the history of our race, know that all Africans are not black. We should not be called African because we are black, but because we are from Africa, our native land, and we are Africans and expect to die the same. IN Africa we are called by our right name, but in America where as much prejudiced and hatred are formed against us, we are called Negroes (and sometimes niggers). Every race should be proud of their name; I am proud of the name of my race. History says we are Africans. How true that is, and some of us are of the purest hue. Are we simply Negroes? No. Are we Americans? No. Then who are we? Africans. I am proud of Africa; I am proud of her soil; I am proud of her men of learning, and I am also proud of the bright future which is before her. Who is it that wants to be called an American? A country where more hatred is formed again the African than any other country upon the earth. Who is it that wishes to be called a Negro, a word translated into mean grammar, to speak sarcastically of our race? O yes; we are Africans. Read Dr. William Wells Brown and Martin Delany’s works. No doubt, Mr. Editor,, what I have said will meet with sheer criticism, however you shall hear from me again on the same subject.
Duffield, W. Va.

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