July 20, 2019
‘Send her back!’: Trump, Ilhan Omar and the complicated history of back to AfricaBreaking News
tags: Ilhan Omar
First, President Trump told four female congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” though all four are U.S. citizens and only one was born outside the United States.
Then, as Trump railed against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia, at a rally in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday night, the crowd broke into a hostile chant: “Send her back!”
Back to Africa.
On Friday, a pregnant black Georgia state lawmaker said she was confronted by a white man at the grocery who shouted at her to “go back where I came from” because she had too many items to be in the express lane. The tweet by Erica Thomas, a Democrat from Austell, went viral.
The slogan, in one form or another, has been an undercurrent of American racial politics for almost as long as there have been blacks in the United States — from Colonial times to a 2016 Trump campaign rally when a white man yelled “Go back to Africa!” at black protesters.
“If you’re an African first,” he said in a moment captured on video that went viral, “then go back to Africa.”
The history of the phrase — and the idea — is as complex as race itself.
The Journal of Negro History traces the origins of the back-to-Africa movement to at least 1714, quoting an 1811 letter from Thomas Jefferson saying that sending free blacks to Africa was “the most desirable measure which could be adopted for gradually drawing off” the black population.
A century later, in 1817, the American Colonization Society was founded to encourage free blacks to move to Africa. Its supporters included some abolitionists and some slaveholders, and the ACS counted James Madison and Francis Scott Key as members. Their efforts led to the creation of Liberia, a colony in West Africa, in 1822. Thousands of formerly enslaved blacks settled there in the decades before and after the Civil War.
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