UVI's Heath Lecture Series Presents a Blyden Symposium
Edward Wilmot Blyden, largely regarded as the "father of
Pan-Africanism," will be the focus of the University of the Virgin
Islands 2012 Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series. Blyden
was born a free man in 1832 on the island of St. Thomas in the
pre-emancipation Danish West Indies, which later became the U.S.
Virgin Islands. Denied entry into Rutgers University, in 1850
Blyden repatriated to Liberia, in West Africa, where he challenged
the universal notion of White supremacy, asserted the equality of
African people, aimed to eliminate the Black inferiority complex
and was a life-long champion of the race.
In recognition of the centennial of Blyden's death, UVI's Alfred O.
Heath Distinguished Lecture Series presents "A Symposium on the
Life and Accomplishments of Edward Wilmot Blyden." The symposium
will be held at UVI's St. Thomas campus Reichhold Center for the
Arts on Thursday, March 22, and at the St. Croix Albert A. Sheen
Campus' Great Hall on Friday, March 23. Both events are free and
begin at 6 p.m.
Dr. Hollis R. Lynch, a professor emeritus at Columbia University
and one of the world's leading experts on the life and times of
Edward Wilmot Blyden, will be the keynote speaker. Dr. Lynch has
written several books about Blyden, including "Edward Wilmot
Blyden: Pan Negro Patriot, 1832-1912," "Black Spokesman: Selected
Published Writings of Edward Wilmot Blyden" and "Selected Letters
of Edward Wilmot Blyden." Presentations will be made by Blyden's
great-granddaughter Isa Blyden and granddaughter Dr. Nemata Blyden.
Cultural activist and local historian Myron Jackson will also give
"Dr. Blyden was the most brilliant Black intellectual at the time
and was a champion and defender of the Black race," said Dr. Lynch.
"He set out from very early to prove the charge of Black
inferiority false. No other Pan-African intellectual was so focused
on this mission," Dr. Lynch said. "His entire life, from a youth,
was focused on this mission to bring pride and respect to the Black
Some of Blyden's writings include "Islam, Christianity and the
Negro Race," "A Voice From Bleeding Africa," "The Negro in Ancient
History," "West Africa Before Europe," and "The Jewish Question."
Through the mid-20th centry, Blyden's works were the only
widespread materials that addressed African issues, and laid a
blueprint for African race consciousness.
Now 100 years after Blyden's death, Dr. Lynch asserts that Blyden's
life can be used as a model for everyone, especially young people.
"The problems may not be the same, but the way he went about it,
his total dedication to the task, can be emulated," Dr. Lynch
Jackson said Blyden was a diplomat, ambassador and emissary who met
with kings, queens and heads of state. "He returned to America and
the Caribbean, over a dozen times, to encourage African-Americans
and Afro-West Indians to use their talents and resources to uplift
and build their ancestral homeland and the Negro race," Jackson
added. "He was part of the early political developments of Liberia
and Freetown, Sierra Leone."
"When you understand that this was a man who, against all odds,
challenged the notion of White supremacy," Jackson said, recounting
Blyden's numerous accomplishments, "that's a remarkable story."
Jackson said that while Virgin Islands students are often taught
about other Pan-Africanists who came after Blyden, many don't know
of the contributions of Blyden, who started it all. Dr. Lynch
agreed that Blyden is a Virgin Islands hero. "Every Virgin Islander
should know about Blyden because he has been, in a sense, the most
distinct Virgin Islander."
The Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series offers the public
a setting in which to hear nationally and internationally
recognized individuals discuss issues related to the challenges and
opportunities faced by the global community. The series is the
University's way of recognizing and celebrating the outstanding
person and accomplished citizen that is Dr. Alfred O. Heath. As a
UVI trustee emeritus and chair of the Foundation for the University
of the Virgin Islands, Dr. Heath is an ardent, longtime supporter
of the mission of the University.
Past presenters of the Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecture Series
were magazine publishing legend Susan L. Taylor, educator and
author Dr. Steve Perry, physician and humanitarian Dr. David
Walton, renowned poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, award-winning
veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author and activist
Randall Robinson, Caribbean Development Bank President Dr. Compton
Bourne and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives the
Hon. Ronald Dellums.
For more information about the Alfred O. Heath Distinguished
Lecture Series call UVI's Special Events Coordinator Liza Margolis
at (340) 693-1053.