What Does it Mean to be a Citizen?
The Past and Present of the New Afrikan Independence Movement
Online. Saturday, July 17, 10AM-1 PM EST.
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On March 31, 1968, over 500 Black nationalists convened in Detroit to begin the process of securing independence from the United States. Many concluded that Black Americans’ best remaining hope for liberation was the creation of a sovereign nation-state, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). New Afrikan citizens traced boundaries that encompassed a large portion of the South—including South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—as part of their demand for reparation. As champions of these goals, they framed their struggle as one that would allow the descendants of enslaved people to choose freely whether they should be citizens of the United States. The struggle to “Free the Land” remains active to this day.
Considering these ambitious goals, one may ask what does it mean to be a citizen? To what degree has the development of United States citizenship been a project of class and race-based exclusions? What merit is there in attempting to “matter” within a seemingly exclusive society as opposed to fighting to create a new one? We will explore these questions and others as we examine the history of the New Afrikan Independence Movement and consider its continued relevance to issues facing the United States in the present moment.
In order to contribute to this conversation, seminar participants will engage with key portions of Onaci’s book, Free the Land, as well as video from the New Afrikan Independence Movement and relevant current events.
Facilitator: Edward Onaci is an Associate Professor of History and African American & Africana Studies at Ursinus College. He is the author of Free the Land: The Republic of New Afrika and the Pursuit of a Black Nation-State, which was released with the University of North Carolina Press in 2020. The book explores the history of the New Afrikan Independence Movement and the lived experience of revolutionary activism.
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