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Zionism in black and white: Part I: 1898-1948.

Soon after the publication of Herzl's Der Judenstaat (1896), another diaspora people, whose ancestral home is Africa, began reacting to the Zionist project with attraction, antagonism, or both in an ambivalent mix, including almost every attitude except perhaps indifference. Despite past and present complexities, the trend over the course of more than 100 years has tilted African and African American attitudes toward renewed Jewish statehood from the positive toward the negative pole of the attitudinal spectrum. Ironically, the tipping point from favorable to unfavorable came soon after Zionism ceased to be just an idea and a movement and became the reality of modern Israel. We will look here at the predominantly positive, first half of the story--from 1898 through 1948. (1)


The process began in 1898 with Edward Wilmot Blyden, the founding father of the modern Pan-African movement later shaped and led by W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Sheikh Anta Diop, George Padmore, and Kwame Nkrumah. Born into a free black family in Charlotte-Amalie, capital of St. Thomas, Danish Virgin Islands, Blyden always prided himself on his "pure" African ancestry. Yet he also prized his close cultural ties with Jews, beginning with members of Amelie's 400-strong Jewish community which produced such expatriate luminaries as the Confederate statesman Judah P. Benjamin and the Impressionist painter Camille Pisarro. Young Edward played on Synagogue Hill, watched the Yom Kippur services from outside the congregation, and struck up a youthful friendship with David Cardoze, later a rabbi, who taught Blyden the rudiments of Hebrew, which he subsequently mastered with the help of Dr. Isidor Kalish. (2)

Blyden suffered rejection because of his race when he journeyed to the United States in 1850 seeking a theological education, but was sent as an agent of the American Colonization Society to Liberia, the American "Back to Africa" experiment that in 1847 had became an independent nation. Devoting the rest of his life to Africa as an educator, publicist, and diplomat, he traveled widely, including an 1866 trip to Jerusalem, which he described in the book From West Africa to Palestine (1873). Blyden did not visit early Alliance Israelite Universelle projects, but nevertheless predicted that "Jews are to be restored to the land of their fathers" once "the misrule of the Turks" was overcome. (3)

Longing for the emergence among African Americans of "a Negro of Negroes, like Moses was a Hebrew of the Hebrews--even if brought up in Pharaoh's house," who would mobilize the selective return of new world blacks to help regenerate Africa, Blyden was fascinated when he saw Herzl's meteoric rise as Zionism's new Moses. His response to "that 'tidal wave' from Vienna--that inspiration almost Mosaic in its originality," and to Herzl's Der Judenstaat and the First and Second Zionist Congress, held in 1897 and 1898, was a pamphlet, The Jewish Question (1898). Its publication was underwritten by Blyden's Jewish friend, Liverpool merchant and African trader Louis Solomon. (4)

Blyden begins by announcing his
   deepest possible interest in the current history of the
   Jews--especially in that marvelous movement called
   Zionism. The question, in some respects, is similar to
   that which at this moment agitates thousands of descendants
   of Africa in America, anxious to return to the
   land of their fathers.... And as to the history of the
   African race--their enslavement, persecution, proscription,
   and sufferings--closely resembles that of the
   Jews, I have been led ... by a fellow feeling to study the
   great question now uppermost in the minds of thousands,
   if not millions, of Jews. (5)

Blyden, who in later life became increasingly sympathetic to the spread of Islam as well as Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, was, let us say, overly optimistic that: "There is hardly a man in the civilized world--Christian, Mohammedan, or Jew--who does not recognize the claim and right of the Jew to the Holy Land." Blyden is predisposed to the historic Jewish claim to "the land of Israel," but sees in "the great Zionist movement" a wider, spiritual message to the Jews:
   to rise from their neutrality and co-operating with or
   utilizing both their children--Christianity and Islam--work
   for the saving of mankind.... This ... is the work
   that at this moment lies before the Jews, a work that will
   by no means exclude the colonization of Palestine, but
   rather enlarge its scope. It is true that the persecution
   of the ages has driven Israel to almost exclusive devotion
   to almost exclusive consideration of their internal
   affairs. But this very introspective devotion is ... a serious
   hindrance to the fulfillment of their aspirations.
   There is a double task upon Israel--to look after the
   sufferers and proscribed among themselves, and also to
   extend to other races ... the great truths of which they
   are depositaries. (6)

Blyden knows exactly where Zionist instrumentality should be applied in realizing this wider Jewish mission:
   The great body of the "Dark Continent" has been apparently
   overlooked by the Jews.... There is not, to my
   knowledge, a single synagogue in West Africa along
   three thousand miles of coast, and probably not two
   dozen representatives of God's chosen people in that
   whole extent of country--not a Jewish institution of any
   kind--either for commercial, religious or educational
   purposes. Have the Jews no witness to bear in inter-tropical
   Africa? ... If the world owes an immense debt to the
   Jews, the Jews as well as the rest of mankind owe an
   immense debt to Africa; for it was upon that soil that a
   few nomads from Western Asia settled down, and, in the
   furnace of affliction, as well as in the house of preservation,
   grew to be a nation.... Now, Africa appeals to the
   Jew ... to come with his scientific and other culture,
   gathered by his exile in many lands, and with his special
   spiritual endowments, to the assistance of Africa. (7)

Remarkably, and apparently without any knowledge of Blyden, Herzl in his 1902 novel, Altneuland, has Zionist Professor Steineck remark: "Now, that I have lived to see the return of the Jews, I wish I could help to prepare the return of the Negroes.... All men should have a homeland. Then they will be kinder towards each other. They will understand each other better and love their brethren better." (8)

Close to the surface of Blyden's encomiums of Zionism were the tension points--between "Palestinocentric" and "territorialist" schools and between the emphasis on mass vs. elite emigration and on political action vs. cultural renewal, and over how to somehow neutralize the opposition of Muslims as well as Christians while winning over Africans--that would challenge and frustrate the Zionist movement in both the immediate future and long-term. Blyden watched the Zionist movement fissure in 1903 over the British offer of an "autonomous settlement" in Uganda as a substitute Zion and, the next year (four before his own death), mourned that Herzl died at such a seemingly auspicious moment for the "repatriation of the Jews to their ancient homeland." (9)


Trinidad-born barrister Henry Sylvester Williams founded the African Association in London two weeks after the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897. He organized the first Pan-African Conference, held in London in 1900, which was attended by over 30 delegates from the West Indies and the U.S., and one each from Liberia and Ethiopia. Soon, the leadership of the Pan-African movement fell to African American intellectual and activist, W. E. B. Du Bois, who was also the moving force behind the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Before and during World War I, Du Bois outgrew the fashionable antisemitism he acquired at Harvard and German universities, and came to admire and work with the American Jewish elite involved in the early civil rights cause. (10)

Du Bois also studied the Zionist movement carefully, especially after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, declaring, when in Paris to organize the Pan African Congress of 1919, that:
   The African movement must mean to us what the Zionist
   movement must mean to the Jews, the centralization of
   race effort and the recognition of a racial front. To help
   bear the burden of Africa does not mean any lessening of
   effort in our problems at home.... For any ebullition of
   effort and feeling that results in an amelioration of the lot
   of Africa tends to ameliorate the conditions of colored
   peoples throughout the world.

In 1921, Du Bois commented favorably on the completion of blueprints for a Hebrew University on the Mount of Olives "in the new Palestine." In 1929, he blamed "the murder of Jews in Palestine" by "ruthless and bloodthirsty evil-doers" primarily on British maladministration. As late as 1940, he defended Zionist community building in Palestine: "If this is a failure, God send us Negroes some of the same article." (11)

Back in the 1920s, Du Bois' Pan-African vision, which attracted intellectual elites, was challenged by Marcus Garvey's mass-based "Back to Africa" movement. Born in Jamaica in 1887, Garvey arrived in the U.S. in 1916 in hopes that Black Nationalist organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) could implement Booker T. Washington's gospel of racial self-help on a global scale. In 1918, when he launched his newspaper, The Negro World, he cabled British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour to do for Africans what the Balfour Declaration promised to do for Jews. In 1919, he founded the Black Star shipping line to further his remigration plans. In 1920, he endowed the UNIA, whose membership ultimately reached 300,000, with rifles of nobility, patriotic rituals, and a paramilitary Universal African Legion that may have been modeled on Jabotinsky's World War I Jewish Legion--and electrified Harlem with a march of 25,000 to Madison Square Garden. (12)

Despite or because of his own Pan-Africanism, Du Bois spoke for the NAACP and many of its white supporters in denouncing his rival, Garvey, as "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world.. . either a lunatic or a traitor ... who should be locked up or sent home." The dark-skinned Garvey and light-skinned Du Bois exchanged epithets disparaging each other's complexion as well as character. Garvey's enemies were further infuriated 1922 when it was revealed that he had traveled to Atlanta to meet with KKK leader Edward Y. Clarke, and Garvey defiantly declared: "call me a Klansman if you will, but, potentially, every white man is a Klansman." In 1923 following a long investigation by J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation (not yet named the FBI), Garvey was indicted and convicted for mail fraud. He was jailed in an Atlanta federal penitentiary until 1927 when the balance of his sentence was commuted, and he was deported to Jamaica. (13)

From the first, Garvey's movement, though it also compared itself to anti-British struggles in Ireland and Egypt, was permeated by analogies with Zionism. A South African supporter wrote in 1921, "Africans have the same confidence in Marcus Garvey that the Israelites had in Moses." In 1924, a Dahomean, speaking at a UNIA Convention in New York, affirmed that Garveyism was: "The Zionism of the Black Race." Declaring that the UNIA was "in sympathy with the Zionist movement," Garvey himself said in 1920: "A new spirit, a new courage, came to us at the same time it came to the Jew. When a Jew says, 'We shall have Palestine', the same feeling comes to us when we say 'We shall have Africa'." He never wavered from his faith that: "Africa remains the heritage of Black people, as Palestine is of the Jews." (14)

Until his trial and conviction, Garvey had written in naive but seemingly friendly terms about Jews, attributing to them miraculous powers to ignite but then to end World War I. This all changed after he complained about being "punished for the crime of [Black Star agent] Silverstone and persecuted by [federal prosecutor] Maxwell Mattuck, another Jew, and ... sentenced by Judge Julian Mack, the NAACP board member." President of the Zionist Organization of America from 1918 to 1921, Judge Mack was not on the NAACP's national board, but was a member of the Chicago chapter and did contribute to the organization. Mack tried to be fair to Garvey, but Mack's refusal to recuse himself convinced Garvey and his wife, Amy Jacques-Garvey, that he was the victim of "an international frameup" orchestrated by the NAACP and the Jewish prosecutor and judge and their fellow Jews on the jury. (15)

Though from a distance in Jamaica and then London, Garvey from this point became, in the words of African American journalist Roi Ottley, "the first Negro leader to raise the Jewish question' in Negro life." Originally proZionist Yiddish papers like the Morgen Journal and Tageblatt recoiled from him, and his vituperative anti-semitism crescendoed when Garvey called Hitler "a great man" and announced that "Hitler's ways could make the Negro the man he ought to be." After 1935, as Nazi persecution of the Jews became increasingly manifest, Garvey backtracked to some degree by expressing sympathy for the victims and again praising their efforts to build a homeland in Palestine. (16)


There have been Jews of many different hues--Jews by descent or conversion--probably since the mixed multitude leaving Egypt with Moses. Ethiopia's Falashas or Beta Israel fall within this covenantal fellowship under the 1971 ruling by Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yossef that they are "descendants of Jewish tribes that moved South to Cush"--a ruling that became the basis of their incorporation under Israel's Law of Return in 1975. (17)

The modern racial identity movement--"Black Judaism"--is different. Between the world wars, African American attitudes toward Zionism were influenced by "Black Jewish" movements founded by Black Christians, usually from Holiness or Pentecostal sects, whose quest to "purify" their religion led them to adopt Hebraic rites and rituals and sometimes to claim that people of African racial ancestry are the only true descendants of the Biblical Jews. In addition to the U.S., "Judaizing sects" among nonwhites appeared in a scattered arc from the Caribbean to Africa to New Zealand. A parallel movement among English Protestants led to the emergence in the nineteenth century of the "Anglo Israelite" movement claiming that the Lost Tribes had settled the British Isles--which later generated the white supremacist Christian Identity churches in the U.S. (18)

The first wave of American "Black Jewish" churches, founded around 1900, were typically "Hebrew Christian" in that they retained belief in Christ while introducing the Saturday Sabbath, Passover celebration, and the new doctrine that God and Jesus were black--as were the Patriarchs, Moses, Solomon, and Sheba. The Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations, and the Church of God and Saints of Christ were founded, respectively, by F. S. Cherry, a seaman and railroad worker, and William S. Crowdy, a cook for the Santa Fe Railroad. Both were born as slaves and brought up as Southern Baptists. (19)

Crowdy's itinerant ministry through the Midwest and Northeast led him to preach Black Judaism in the streets of Harlem in 1899. In 1903, he ordained a young South African who carried his gospel back to Pretoria. In 1921, Enoch Mgijima, a former follower of Crowdy's, was at the center of "the Bulhoek Tragedy" in which South African authorities killed 163 Black Israelites and wounded and jailed hundreds more. Cherry's church, headquartered in Philadelphia, spread to Chicago where it strongly supported the Garvey movement in the 1920s. He preached that black people were "chased out of Palestine by the Romans into the west coast of Africa," and from there they were "captured and sold" as slaves to America. They were destined to return to the Holy Land. (20)

During and after World War I, a second wave of Black-Jewish congregations emerged in Northern cities. Calling themselves Israelites, Hebrews, Canaanites, Essenes, Judaites, Rechabites, Falashas, or Abyssinians (Ethiopians), they were founded primarily by West Indian immigrants. Influenced by close contact with the Ashkenazic Jewish communities, their ministers often learned some Yiddish and Hebrew, and abandoned the Christological trappings of the earlier congregations. They still claimed a hereditary link to the Biblical Israelites, but were more open to positive relations with "white" Jews. (21)

The key figure in the 1920s was Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford. The son of an Evangelical minister in Barbados, Ford came to Harlem in 1911 and, at first, pursued a career as a musician. Joining the Garvey movement, Ford associated with the Moorish Zionist movement led by a fellow Garveyite Mordecai Herman. As Garvey's musical director, Ford composed "Ethiopia, Thou Land of our Fathers," the Garveyite "national anthem," which New York's Yiddish papers called "the Negro Hatikvah." As many as 600 Black Jews marched in Garveyite Parades in Manhattan. But Garvey, who founded his own African Orthodox Church mirroring his Catholic upbringing, rebuffed Ford's repeated efforts to convert him to Black Judaism. With the help of white Jewish benefactors, Ford founded his own congregation, Beth B'Nai Abraham, an offshoot of the Moorish Zionist Temple. (22)

By this time, "Ethiopianism" was becoming an ideological bridge in Black Jews' attempts to build bridges to the white Jewish community including Zionists. In the nineteenth century, Psalm 68:31--"Princes shall come out of Egypt, and Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands to God"--had been a more popular verse with free black preachers attempting to instill racial pride in their congregations than the Exodus analogies at the heart of the slave spirituals. Then, Ethiopia took on political as well as theological salience with African Americans because of a series of developments: the unexpected victory of the Ethiopians over the Italians at the Battle of Adawa in 1896, the signing of a U.S.-Ethiopian trade treaty in 1901, the visit to the U.S. of an Ethiopian delegation seeking renewal of the treaty in 1919, and the coronation of Emperor Hailie Selassie in 1930. It should be remembered that Selassie spent part of his exile during the Italian occupation in the British Palestine Mandate. (23)

Black Jews like Arnold Ford, who met with a member of the Ethiopian trade mission around 1919, were impacted, but they were electrified when they also discovered the existence of Ethiopia's "Black Jews." Polish Jewish adventurer and Zionist Jacques Faitlovich devoted his life to the cause of the Falashas or Beta Israel, establishing the American Pro-Falasha Committee in 1922 and bringing Emmanuel Taamrat, the first Falasha to come to New York, to study in the U.S. around 1931. Faitlovich battled for the Falashas amidst debates over their racial classification and even whether they were Jewish. In Harlem, however, that the Falashas were "Black Jews" was never in doubt. (24)

Convinced that the Falashas, and all Ethiopians, descended from the marriage of King Solomon with the Queen of Sheba which produced Ethiopia's legendary first emperor, Menelik I, Ford saw "Back to Palestine" and "Back to Ethiopia" as complementary "Zionist" enterprises. Ford may have been the first Black-Jewish leader to urge the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine to be shared by whites and blacks. He supported the Palestine Foundation Fund, showed Holy Land movies to his congregation, and promoted Jewish-Arab reconciliation efforts. In 1930 after a friendly meeting with Faitlovich (who wanted to find out if the Black Jews of Harlem were really Falashas!) and with an invitation to the Ethiopian coronation, Ford made aliyah to Addis Ababa where he established a school but died in 1935, just before the Italian invasion, without ever having journeyed to the countryside to visit Falasha villages. Among the handful of followers who accompanied Ford to Ethiopia was Eudora Paris who adopted and converted to Black Judaism an Ethiopian Coptic Christian child, known as Hailu Moshe Paris, who accompanied her back to New York in 1936. Educated at Yeshiva University, he spent time in Israel as well as Ethiopia where he worked with Falashas before returning to New York where in the 1970s he became leader of the Black-Jewish Mt. Horeb Congregation in the Bronx. (25)

Back in the 1930s, Ford had ordained as his successor Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew, also from the West Indies, who was so taken by his discovery that there were Falashas that (to paraphrase Howard Brotz) he convinced himself that he was one. Matthew's Black Jewish congregation, the Commandment Keepers of the Royal Order of Ethiopian Hebrews (which had several hundred black and six white congregants), became one of the most enduring and influential. He also established the Ethiopian Hebrew Rabbinical College (later known as the Israelite Rabbinical Academy) that trained dozens of Black Jewish rabbis. Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye of the Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, who formed the high-profile Alliance of Black Jews in 1995, was ordained as a rabbi by the Commandment Keepers before he was formally converted to Judaism under both Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. (26)

Rabbi Matthew met Emmanuel Taamrat soon after his arrival in New York in 1931. In the 1940s, Matthew maintained cordial relations with Faitlovich, who by then lived in Tel Aviv but continued to promote outreach for Judaism and Zionism across ethnic and racial lines through the Lost Tribes Committee (supported by Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi) and the missionary "Mosaic Law for One People," formed in New York in 1944 by David Horowitz. Faitlovitch seriously considered the mass conversion of African Americans to Judaism. No such crusade materialized, but efforts for rapprochement across the racial divide by white and black Zionists did foster sympathy among African Americans for the momentous events in the Middle East about to unfold after World War II. (27)


Following the founding session of the UN in San Francisco in April, 1945, the only complaint in the black press regarding lobbying for a Jewish state was that it had not been more successful. The Chicago Defender editorialized, "The Jews, who hoped to get some consideration at San Francisco because of atrocities against Jews, are out of luck" because the world cared more about Hitler's non-Jewish victims. Citing Saudi Arabia's unrepentant continuation of the slave trade, W. E. B. Du Bois was singularly unsympathetic with the Arabs whom he faulted for "widespread ignorance and poverty and disease and a fanatic belief in the Mohammedan religion"--in contrast to Palestine's "young and forward thinking Jews, [who] bring a new civilization to an old land...." (28)

Though always insisting that the obligation of "the Negro people to support the fight for a free Israel" was inextricably linked with the obligation of the Jewish people "to support the fight for a free Africa," Du Bois was vociferous in his advocacy of the UN Partition Resolution, passed in November, 1947. After Israel's Declaration of independence in May, 1948, followed four months later by the appointment of African American Ralph Bunche, previously secretary of the Palestine Peacekeeping Commission, to succeed assassinated Count Folke Bernadette, Du Bois concentrated his fire not on the Stern Gang but on the Truman Administration and "the apparent apostasy" of Bunche--"the grandson of slaves"--for not being pro-Zionist. (29)

In an excruciatingly difficult situation, Bunche walked a diplomatic fine line. Long an advocate of Black-Jewish cooperation to prevent the emergence of "an American Hitler," he in fact was ambivalent about Zionism. This is revealed in his private papers by his troubled reaction to the "vibrant and virulent" Jewish nationalism he encountered in Europe's DP camps. A liberal integrationist, Bunche's attitude was similar to NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White who did not approve of "the self-segregation of Zionism" or "Jews who had made it a sacred cult." Yet White had supported the Partition Resolution--successfully lobbying Haiti and Liberia in its behalf--"because Palestine seemed the only haven in the world for nearly one million ... pathetically homeless Jews of Europe who look towards Palestine with the same hope that a devout churchman holds toward heaven." At its thirty-ninth annual convention in Kansas City in June, 1948, the NAACP passed a resolution lauding: "The valiant struggle of the people of Israel for independence [that] serves as an inspiration to all persecuted people throughout the world. We hail the establishment of the new State of Israel and welcome it in the family of nations." (30)

Ralph Bunche was an effective mediator, winning over Egypt's King Farouk and Israel to the armistice agreement signed in February, 1949. During this period, Bunche met clandestinely with Irgun chief, Menachem Begin, then still in hiding, who recalled in his memoir Bunche saying: "I can understand you. I am also a member of a persecuted minority." Begin considered Bunche "a brilliant mind," and--following Bunche's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950--Israel's President Chaim Weizmann honored him in a letter to an NAACP tribute dinner. (31)

During this period, Paul Robeson--like Du Bois, a follower of the Popular Front--declared he would sing for Israeli soldiers, should they need to fight, the same way he had for the antifascist forces in Spain. As did many other African American artists, famed singer Marian Anderson embraced Israel. (32)

In 1948, African American critics of the new Jewish state were few and isolated. In 1947, Pittsburgh Courier columnist George Schuyler--an iconoclastic conservative who considered himself "the black H. L. Mencken"--had excoriated Bunche for being a Jewish pawn who was "likely to increase [the] hostility of the colored people of the East for American Negroes." Agreeing with the like-minded African American writer George J. A. Rogers, Schuyler described the Hebrew Bible as "the Jewish Mein Kampf' and Zionism as reactionary "hogwash ... steeped in a religious and racial exclusiveness ... not unreminiscent of the barbarous days to the so-called Mosaic period." Schuyler was rebuked in a long editorial in his own newspaper. (33)

The still little-known Nation of Islam (NOI) was also critical of the creation of Israel. Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad had only recently been released from his jail sentence for draft evasion during World War II, and Malcolm X--in jail for burglary--had not yet completed his conversion to the Nation of Islam. Even so, Muhammad was "livid" that Bunche had been involved in creating a homeland for Jews who were not "real" Jews while Bunche's own people remained homeless. (34)

The Nation of Islam emerged from a messianic, racially nationalist milieu much like Black Judaism. Yet the godlike figure, Wallace D. Fard, who appointed Elijah Muhammad his prophet in the 1930s identified himself as an Arab from Mecca and taught NOI true believers that all black people were descendants of "the Lost-Found Tribe of Shabazz" that ruled the world from Egypt and Mecca before the evil scientist Yakub (Jacob) created the demonic white race including "the so-called Johnny-come-lately Jews." The ingredients for Elijah Muhammad's--and Malcolm X's--later incendiary critiques of Israel were already present, but at the time the NOI's public pronouncements were relatively muted, and Muhammad on occasion even complimented Jews--at least the Orthodox who kept kosher--as "better" than other whites. (35)

More important, pro-Zionist Black Jews figured larger on the African American religious scene into the 1950s than anti-Zionist Black Muslims. Their only criticism of Israel at the time seems to have been that they wanted "a piece of the action." Rabbi Sar Abel Respes of Philadelphia's Colored House of Moses wrote President Eisenhower asking for support in establishing a Black Jewish colony in Israel. Later, Respes' group became the only Black-Jewish congregation to undergo ritual conversion en masse to Judaism. New York's Wentworth Arthur Matthew also made an effort to found a Black-Jewish community in Israel "in the name of the Falasha Hebrew in the Western Hemisphere." (36)

American Jews (and Israelis, too) are understandably concerned about public opinion polls that, since the 1960s, have shown that in the U.S., blacks have higher levels of generalized antisemitism--and lower levels of support for Israel--than whites. Yet other polls show that, among blacks as among whites, the higher the level of religious commitment, the less anti-Jewish prejudice. Just like white Evangelical Protestants, black evangelical Protestants are immunized, at least to some degree, by their reverence of what they call the Old Testament to fashionable "anti-Zionism." The same has been true--but more so--of Black Jews. (37)

Perhaps, Zionists ought to suspend criticism at least to some degree and be grateful for the friends--black and white--that they still have in the midst of a sea of criticism of Israel that has been rising almost since the beginning of the Jewish state.


(1.) Eric J. Sundquist's Strangers in the Land: Black, Jews, Post-Holocaust America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), includes an extended, provocative chapter--"The Black Nation Israel"--on this subject.

(2.) Hollis R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 3-6; Lynch, "A Black Nineteenth-Century Response to Jews and Zionism: The Case of Edward Wilmot Blyden, 1832-1912," in Jews in Black Perspectives: A Dialogue, ed. Joseph R. Washington, Jr. (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984), pp. 43-44; Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 210-11.

(3.) Lynch, "A Black Nineteenth-Century Response to Jews and Zionism," pp. 45-46; Edward Wilmot Blyden, From West Africa to Palestine (Manchester: John Heywood, 1873).

(4.) Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden, p. 121; Lynch, "A Black Nineteenth-Century Response to Jews and Zionism," p. 50; Edward Wilmot Blyden, The Jewish Question (Liverpool: Lionel Hart, 1898).

(5.) Blyden, Black Spokesman: Selected Published Writings of Edward Wilmot Blyden, ed. Hollis R. Lynch (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1971), pp. 210-11.

(6.) Ibid, 211-13.

(7.) Ibid., 213-14.

(8.) Theodore Herzl, Altneuland (Old-New-Land), trans. Paula Arnold (Haifa: Haifa Publishing Co., 1960), pp. 129-30.

(9.) Robert G. Weisbord, African Zion; The Attempt to Establish a Jewish Colony in the East Africa Protectorate, 1903-1905 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968); Benyamin Neuberger, "Early African Nationalism, Judaism and Zionism: Edward Wilmot Blyden," Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Spring, 1985), p. 163. For reflections on similarities and differences between the challenges faced by the Zionist movement and by African and American "national liberation" movements, see John Gibb and St. Clair Drake, "African Diaspora and Jewish Diaspora: Convergence and Divergence," in Jews in Black Perspectives, pp. 19-23; Jonathan Frankel, Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 4; and Theodore Draper, The Rediscovery of Black Nationalism (New York: Viking Press, 1970), p. 116.

(10.) Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyclen, p. 250; Harold Brackman, "'A Calamity Almost Beyond Comprehension': Nazi Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in the Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois," American Jewish History, Vol. 88, No. 1 (March, 2000), pp. 55-58.

(11.) W. E. B. Du Bois, "Not 'Separatism'," Crisis, No. 17 (February, 1919), p. 166; Benyamin Neuberger, "W. E. B. Du Bois on Black Nationalism and Zionism," Jewish Journal of Sociology, Vol. 28 (December, 1986), 139-44; Robert G. Weisbord and Richard Kazarian, Jr., Israel in the Black American Perspective (Westport, CN: Greenview Press, 1985), p. 15; Brackman, "'A Calamity Almost Beyond Comprehension'," p. 82.

(12.) Robert A. Hill, "Black Zionism: Marcus Garvey and the Jewish Question," in African American and Jews in the Twentieth Century: Studies in Convergence and Conflict, ed. V. P. Franklin, Nancy L. Grant, Harold M. Kletnick, and Genna Rae McNeil (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), p. 49.

(13.) Theodore Kornweibel, Jr., "Seeing Red": Federal Campaigns Against Black Militancy, 1919-1925 (Bloomington: Indian University Press, 1998), p. 73

(14.) RobertA. Hill, "Black Zionism: Marcus Garvey and the Jewish Question," pp. 40-41, 50; Edmund David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (Madison; University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p. 128; Edith Bruder, The Black Jews of Africa: History, Religion, Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 80.

(15.) David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 83; Cronon, pp. 112-13; Harry Barnard, The Forging of an American Jew: The Life and Times of Judge Julian W. Mack (New York: Herzl Press, 1974); Hasia Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935 (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), p. 125; Judith Stein, The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986), pp. 202-03; Marcus Garvey, Philosophy and Opinions, ed. Amy Jacques-Garvey (New York: Atheneum, 1969), Vol. 2, pp. 245-46.

(16.) Roi Ottley, New World A-Comin': Inside Black America (New York: Amo Press, 1968 [1943]), p. 122; Murray Friedman, What Went Wrong The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance (New York: Free Press, 1995), p. 79.

(17.) Tudor Parfitt, The Lost Tribes Of Israel: History of a Myth (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2002); Stephen Spector, Operation Solomon: the Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 10.

(18.) Tudor Parfitt and Emanuela Trevin-Semi, eds., Judaizing Movements: Studies in the Margins of Judaism (New York: Routledge-Curzon, 2002); Michael Barkun, Religion And The Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).

(19.) Elly M. Wynia, Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews (New York: Garland, 1994); James E. Landing, Black Judaism: Story of an American Movement (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2002), pp. 50-61.

(20.) Arthur Huff Fauset, Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults in the Urban North (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944), pp. 31-40; Yvonne Chireau, "Black Culture and Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism, 1790-1930, an Overview," in Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism, ed. Chireau and Nathaniel Deutsch (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 24; Bruder, Black Jews of Africa, pp. 82, 174..

(21.) Roberta S. Gold, "The Black Jews of Harlem: Representation, Identity, and Race, 1920-1939," American Quarterly, Vol. 55 (June, 2003), pp. 179-225.

(22.) Theodore G. Vincent, Black Power and the Garvey Movement (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1972), pp. 134-35; Randall K. Burkett, Garveyism as a Religious Movement: The Institutionalization of a Black Civil Religion (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978), pp. 53-55.

(23.) Wilson J. Moses, The Wings of Ethiopia: Studies in American-American Life and Letters (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990), pp. 27-41; Emanuela Trevisan-Semi, Jacques Faitlovich and the Jews of Ethiopia (London: Valentine Mitchell, 2007), p. 140; George M. Frederickson, Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 57-93; Theophus H. Smith, Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 69-70.

(24.) Ibid., 140; Trevisan-Semi, "The 'Falashisation' of the Black Jews of Harlem," in Judaising Movements, pp. 87-110.

(25.) Ibid., 88; Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso, 1998), p. 73; Chireau, "Black Culture and Black Zion," p. 23; Edwin M. Yamauchi, Africa and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 100-05; Landing, Black Judaism, pp. 129-31, 135, 198-99, 288-89.

(26.) Howard Brotz, The Black Jews of Harlem (New York: Schocken Books, 1970), p. 84; Bruder, Black Jews of Africa, p. 84; Landing, Black Judaism, pp. 137-41; Bernard J. Wolfson, "African American Jews: Dispelling Myths, Bridging the Divide," in Black Zion, pp. 44-45.

(27.) Trevisan-Semi, Jacques Faitlovich, pp. 143, 155-56; Alain Locke, ed., The New Negro (New York: Atheneum, 1975 [1925]), p. 3; Bruder, Black Jews of Africa, pp. 86-87.

(28.) "Its [sic] Them Soldiers Again, Mama," editorial, Chicago Defender, May 3, 1945, p. 13; W. E. B. Dubois, The Case for the Jews," Chicago Star, quoted in Weisbord and Kazarian, Israel in the Black American Perspective, p. 22; "The Ethics of the Problem of Palestine," Papers of W. E. B. Du Bois, microfilm, Reel 82.

(29.) Gerald Home, Black and Red: W. E. B. Du Bois and the AfroAmerican Response to the Cold War (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), p. 283;

(30.) Ralph Bunche, Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Charles E Henry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), p. 176; Brian Urquhart, Ralph Bunche: American Life (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), pp. 196-98; Walter White, A Man Called White (New York: Knopf, 1948), pp. 354-55.

(31.) J. C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), p. 319; Menachem Begin, The Revolt (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1978), pp. 387-88, 393-94; Chaim Weizmann, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, ed. Barnet Litvinoff (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1980), Vol. 23, Series A, Doc. 341, p. 295.

(32.) Weisbord and Kazarian, Israel in the Black American Perspective, pp. 23-24; Paul Robeson, Paul Robeson Speaks--Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974, ed. Philip Foner (New York: Bruner/Mazel Publishers, 1978), p. 462; Allan Keller, Marian Anderson: A Singer's Journey (New York Scribner, 2000), pp. 276-79.

(33.) George Schuyler, "Views and Reviews," Pittsburgh Courier, March 24, 1947, p. 7; December 10, 1947, p. 6; "Persecution and Double Talk," editorial, March 13, 1948; Weisbord and Kazarian, Israel in the Black American Perspective, p. 24.

(34.) Karl Evanzz, The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999), p. 157.

(35.) Claude Andrew Clegg III, An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad (New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 42-45, 106; Nathaniel Deutsch, "the Proximate Other: The Nation of Islam and Judaism," in Black Zion, pp. 91-117.

(36.) Martin J. Warmbrand, Jr., "The Black Jews of America," Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, The Hourglass (Fall, 1969), pp. 86-104; Landing, Black Judaism, pp. 268, 348, 350.

(37.) Gary E. Rubin, "African Americans and Israel," in Struggles in the Promised Land: Toward a History of Black-Jewish Relations in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 365; Hubert G. Locke.

HAROLD BRACKMAN, a historian, is a Consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance. He resides in San Diego and has written extensively for Midstream. The above essay is divided into two parts. "Part II: 1948-2008 will appear, b'ezrat ha-Shem, in the next issue.
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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