Relations and Duties of Free Colored Men... to Africa

Alexander CRUMMELL   |   Adelaide CROMWELL HILL   |   Charles DUNBAR

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"ONE OF THE FATHERS OF AFRICAN NATIONALISM": FIRST EDITION OF ALEXANDER CRUMMELL'S RELATIONS AND DUTIES OF FREE COLORED MEN IN AMERICA TO AFRICA, 1861, AN ESPECIALLY RARE AND MEMORABLE ASSOCIATION COPY WITH THE OWNER SIGNATURE OF BLACK SCHOLAR DR. ADELAIDE CROMWELL HILL, GRANDDAUGHTER OF 19TH CENTURY BLACK HISTORIAN JOHN WESLEY CROMWELL

(CROMWELL HILL, ADELAIDE) CRUMMELL, Alex[ander], Rev. The Relations and Duties of Free Colored Men in America to Africa. A Letter to Charles B. Dunbar, M.D., Esq. of New York City. Hartford: Case, Lockwood, 1861. Octavo, modern half blue and red paper boards; pp. (1-5), 6-54.

First edition of a groundbreaking work by Crummell, an "intellectual idol of W.E.B. Du Bois," published as America erupted into Civil War, pivotal in asserting all men "hold some relation to the land of their Fathers," especially "the sons of Africa in America," an exceptional association copy with the owner signature on the title page of preeminent 20th-century Black American scholar and activist Adelaide Cromwell Hill.

In the decades when America moved from the Revolution to a Civil War, Crummell initiated "some of the earliest and most powerful conceptions of Black people as a people… in essence an early form of Black nationalism" (Rael, Eighty-Eight Years, 142-43). Born in 1819, his goal of becoming an Episcopal minister was halted when he was "initially denied entrance into the church's theological seminary as a Black man" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature). Finally ordained in 1844, he received his AB degree in theology in 1853 before traveling to England and then Liberia, where he spent two decades before returning to assume the rectorship of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Crummell, Henry Highland Garnet, Martin Delany and others "made every effort to differentiate their aims and motives from those of white colonizationists" (Davis, Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation, 122). Asserting this is "not… a plea for Colonization," Crummell bases Relations and Duties on his belief that all hold a "relation to the land of their Fathers," including and particularly "the sons of Africa in America." It was prompted by a letter from Black physician Charles Benjamin Dunbar, who had left his practice in New York for Liberia just before the outbreak of the Civil War. At his death there in 1878 Dr. Dunbar was honored by Liberia's leaders for his loyalty to the country as a physician, citizen and agricultural leader.

"One of the fathers of African nationalism," Crummell "effectively inaugurated the discourse of Pan-Africanism… at the core of his picture of the world is a single guiding concept… the politics of race." While he "shared with his European and American contemporaries… an essentially negative sense of traditional culture in Africa… his notion of 'race'—like that of most of the later Pan-Africanists—is not so much thought as felt." To scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah, Crummell remains a signal figure with much "to teach the one race to which we all belong" (Appiah, Alexander Crummell, 388-404; original emphasis). By the 1870s he became "an intellectual idol of W.E.B. Du Bois" and in the 1880s Crummell debated Frederick Douglass at Harpers Ferry. To Black scholar William J. Moses, Douglass fundamentally wanted "'Black people to remember slavery and forget they were Black,' while Crummell wanted them 'to remember that they were Black and forget slavery'" (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 580). Sabin 17727. American Antiquarian Society 192562. Library of Congress. This major association copy carries an outstanding African American provenance. It possesses the owner signature of Adelaide Cromwell Hill (born Adelaide Cromwell), the prominent Black historian and sociologist who followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, John Wesley Cromwell, a pioneering 19th-century lawyer, author and civil rights activist. Dr. Cromwell Hill, an influential scholar and activist, was a distinguished professor at Boston University and pivotal co-founder of its African Studies Program—only the second in the country. In addition to authoring major works on Black history, she also served as the first African American appointed Library Commissioner in Massachusetts.

A fine copy.

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