Friday, August 3, 2007 begins three days of celebrations, launched in Liberia by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 7TH February, marking the 175th Anniversary of the Birth of Edward Wilmot Blyden, the distinguished statesman, diplomat, scholar, linguist, journalist and social activist whose unique contributions have given rise, as his second biographer rightly notes, to¬† ďascendancy of ideasĒ far beyond the West African shores where he most laboured.
Dr.Edward Wilmot Blyden
In Liberia, on August 3rd celebrations will lead to the launching of a drive by Liberian children to collect folktales in the national languages of the country. This drive celebrates Blydenís ideas on language and national homogeneity. On the August 4th, a one-day journalist workshop that includes a forum will take place. Activities will culminate in the launching of an Annual Edward Wilmot Blyden West African Journalist Award. A service to celebrate the life of Dr. Blyden will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Liberia formerly known as the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, congregated in 1833 in Monrovia.
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Blydenís only surviving Grandson, Ambassador Edward Wilmot Blyden III of Sierra Leone will attend celebrations in the Foulah Town Moslem community. Prayers will be recited for Dr. Blyden, followed by a community fest. Dr. Blyden contributed to the development of education for Moslems in Sierra Leone towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
In Washington DC, at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church founded in 1841 by African Americans, where Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden read one of his memorable discourses: Elements of Permanent Influence in 1890, a special service to celebrate the anniversary will be held on Sunday, August 5th.¬†¬†
Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on August 3, 1832.¬† Denied admission to Rutgers Theological Seminary in 1850 on grounds of colour, he emigrated to Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society in December of the same year.¬†¬† Here he completed high school.¬† He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1860.¬† Availing himself of opportunities that presented themselves in the new Republic of Liberia, Blyden rose to become one of the singular most enlightened men of the nineteenth century, contributing his original observations to religious thought, governance, diplomacy, national unity, and the development of race consciousness. His ideas would influence Africans and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and America to develop concepts of Negritude, Pan Africanist thought, nationalist movement of West African clergy and educators, and Garveyís back to Africa movement. Edward Blydenís magnum opus, Christianity Islam and the Negro Race published in 1887 was considered the most singular work of the 19th Century.
Blyden worked in Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.¬† He twice represented Liberia as Ambassador to France and England where he dined with Queen Victoria, and was a guest of Lord Gladstone and Lord Derby.¬†¬†¬† He died in Freetown, Sierra Leone in February 1912 where he is buried.¬† A bust erected to his memory by his British admirers stands on Wallace Johnson Street Freetown. His West African admirers erected his tombstone at Race Course Cemetery where he is buried. Much acclaimed for his vindication of the African race, in his day, Blyden received many awards in recognition of his service.¬†¬†¬†¬†
Tel: 231-66-914-638 Wilmotina24@yahoo.com
Isa Espadon Blyden, Coordinator
EWB 175th Anniversary Committee, Monrovia, Liberia
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.