Friday, February 22, 2013

Malcolm X and A Raisin in the Sun

We did not have time to discuss Pan-Africanism in class yesterday, so I wanted to raise the topic up for discussion on our blog. The concept of Pan-Africanism represents a movement to unify people of African descent. This ideology calls for the solidarity of Africans worldwide, both in Africa and in the Diaspora, as all African people are interconnected.

In his Autobiography, Malcolm X argues that the struggle of the American black man is on an international level, an idea that he contends the “American power structure” does not want African-Americans to consider (353). He particularly emphasizes the international scope of Pan-Africanism when he says, “I said that physically we Afro-Americans might remain in America, fighting for our Constitutional rights, but that philosophically and culturally we Afro-Americans badly needed to “return” to Africa – and to develop a working unity in the framework of Pan-Africanism” (357).

Malcolm X’s call for unification here is particularly poignant and reveals his changing attitude. While he has been consistent in his emphasis on Pan-Africanism, his Autobiography illustrates the lessening of his anger. His call for a “return” to Africa, to me, raises the questions: How can one identify as both African-American and African? What are the possible positives and negatives of Pan-Africanism?


While researching Pan-Africanism, I could not help but be reminded of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun. In the play, the character Beneatha meets a Nigerian man named Joseph Asagai, who enlightens her about her African heritage, gives her gifts from Africa, and points out ways in which she is assimilating into white, American culture. Meanwhile, Beneatha’s successful boyfriend George Murchison is fully assimilated in America and denies his African heritage, which Beneatha finds sickening. Beneatha excitedly accepts Asagai’s marriage proposal and invitation to move to Nigeria with him. In the end, her future remains uncertain, but we do know that it will be something new, whether in America or not. My question is (for those of you who have read this play, or just from reading the brief description I have provided here): what do you think of Beneatha’s attitude towards assimilation in this play? This play debuted while Malcolm X was still alive, so what links are there between this play and Malcolm X’s beliefs?

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