WILL THE AFRO-AMERICAN RETURN TO AFRICA? 387
WILL THE AFRO-AMERICAN RETURN TO AFRICA?
BY T. THOMAS FORTUNE,
THERE are some questions absurd to ask and ridiculous to
answer; but as most questions propounded are of this kind,
sensible men treat them with generous toleration, upon the
theory that error cannot long prosper if reason will take the
trouble to combat it. People of superficial intelligence would
have no occupation if they could not ask questions, which busy
and thoughtful people must answer, or witness the triumph of
error and humbug and the multitude's worship of them.
Will the Afro-American return to Africa? This question has
been asked regularly for more than half a century by people of
one sort and another; but, since the war of the rebellion, in the
thoughts of some people, especially those engaged in foreign
mission work, it has been stereotyped, like the "Jobject !" of
Congressman William Steele Holman, for emergent use.
The story is told of three London tailors, who once got off in
a corner by themselves and solemnly resolved that they were the
people of Great Britain. It was a glorious moment in their lives.
That action, silly from every view point, made them famous; and
most that we do is an appeal to posterity. Since they lived,
resolved and died (even tailors die!), a great many people have
laughed at their silliness, but imitated their example.
A handful of people, who imagine that they control the matter
entirely, insist that the Afro-American must, will, shall return to
Africa. They will not listen to any argument. They will not
be moved by any appeal to reason, to facts as stubborn as fate, to
barriers as insurmountable as the Alps over which Napoleon
climbed into the camp of the astonished Austrians. What is the
use, these good people contend, of reaching a decision, if you are
not going to die by it? Even so must have reasoned the three
tailors of Tooley Street. If the Afro-American was not such a
stubborn creature, entirely devoted to worship of the flesh-pots
of the United States, bent upon questioning the disposition to
be made of him by philanthropists and other kindly disposed
people, he would act upon the decision that he must go and
begin the pilgrimage immediately, regardless of his best interests.
The people who insist that we shall go back to Africa are really
good people. They mean well, most intermeddlers do, but they
are both imprudent and impudent. They have never been to
Africa; they do not know anything about the country or its
people. They look at the situation from one point of view, and
we look at it from another. They will not understand that