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(1895) T. Thomas Fortune, “The Nationalization of Africa”

In 1895 T. Thomas Fortune, then editor of the New York Age, and founder of the Afro-American League in 1890, was considered one of the leaders of African America.  That year he gave an address at the Congress on Africa which met in Atlanta in connection with the Cotton States Exposition.  His address appears below.

Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congress:

The map of Africa is no longer a Chinese puzzle. Its geographical mysteries have been solved. Its mighty lakes and rivers have been traced to their source, and fiction and cupidity have unlocked hordes of treasure by the side of which that of King Solomon’s mines was as the vastness of the Atlantic’s waste of waters to the smallest stream that, like a silver thread, wanders down the mountain side and sighs itself away into the sands of the desert. Railroads are spanning its immense distances, steamboats are navigating its waterways, and the electric wire has brought it into talking distance with Europe and America. Its limitless agricultural and mineral resources are being developed for the comfort and the happiness of mankind. Vast States have sprung into being, as if by magic, controlled by European colonists, so that already a South African confederacy has worked its way into the brain of Cecil Rhodes, whose empire is cemented with more human blood and tears than the East Indian empire wrenched into the British Government by the crimes of Lord Clive and Warren Hastings.

Never in the history of mankind has a continent been so rapidly subdued and its waste places made the habitation of civilized governments and its savage inhabitants brought into contact and under the control of civilization. More has been accomplished along these lines in Africa in the past quarter of a century than was accomplished by European colonists in America in the first one hundred and fifty years of their desperate struggles here to subdue the aborigines. Steam and electricity and gunpowder are responsible for this phenomenon. They are conquering forces against

National Trust for Historic Preservation