European Scholar

BLYDEN, Edward Wilmot

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1832-03-19
  • Born City: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, Danish West Indies
  • Parents: Romeo & Judith B.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1912-02-07
  • Death City: Freetown
  • Death State/Country: Sierra Leone
  • Married: Sarah C. Yates, 1856; Anna Espadon Erskine (common law), 1876.
  • Education:

    Alexander High School, Monrovia, 1851-?; Liberia College; Ordained Presbyterian minister, 1858.Principal of Monrovia High School, 1858-1861; Professor of Greek and Latin, Liberia College, Sierra Leone, 1861-1871; Secretary of State, Liberia 1864-1866; Principal of Alexander High School at Harrisburg, Liberia, 1875-1877; Founder and editor of The Negro, a newspaper in Freetown; Liberian ambassador to the Court of St James, 1877-1878, 1892; President of Liberia College, Sierra Leone, 1880-1884; Minister of the Interior, 1880-1882; Agent of Native Affairs, Lagos, 1896-1897;  Private tutor, Sierra Leone, 1898-1900; Professor at Liberia College, 1900-1901; Director of Mohammedan Education Sierra Leone 1901-06; Liberian Minister Plenipotentiary to London and Paris, 1905.

     

  • Professional Experience:

    Principal of Monrovia High School, 1858-1861; Professor of Greek and Latin, Liberia College, Sierra Leone, 1861-71; Secretary of State, Liberia 1864-66; Principal of Alexander High School at Harrisburg, Liberia, 1875-77; Founder and editor of The Negro, a newspaper in Freetown; Liberian ambassador to the Court of St James, 1877-78, 1892; President of Liberia College, Sierra Leone, 1880-84; Minister of the Interior, 1880-82; Agent of Native Affairs, Lagos, 1896-97;  Private tutor, Sierra Leone, 1898-1900; Professor at Liberia College, 1900-01; Director of Mohammedan Education Sierra Leone 1901-06; Liberian Minister Plenipotentiary to London and Paris, 1905.

  • Publications:

    Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race (London: W.B. Whittingham & Co., 1888);  The Aims and Methods of a Liberal Education for Africans (Cambridge, MA: John Wilson and Son, 1882). “The Negro in Ancient History,” Methodist Quarterly Review 51(Jan. 1869): 71-93, "The Education of the Negro," Liberia Bulletin, 11(November, 1897): 68-70, “Liberia at the American Centennial", Methodist Quarterly Review, (July, 1877),“Latrobe’s ‘Maryland in Liberia,’” The African Repository63(July 1887): 65-88, “The African Problem,” North American Review 161 (September1895): 327-339, "The Negro in the United States," A.M. E. Church Review (January 1900): 308-331.

    Letters:  “The Races Must Separate,” Intelligencer (26 Dec. 1889): 2

     

  • Notes:

    Blyden was the protégé of Reverend John P. Knox (1855-1882),  pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church in St Thomas, who tried without success in 1850 to see Blyden enrolled at his alma mater, Rutgers College. With little formal training beyond Alexander High School and Liberia College he became in the words of his biographer Hollis Lynch  he was “one of a few Negroes to make a significant impact on the English-speaking literary and scholastic world in the nineteenth century” (Lynch, p.54). A prolific author  his bibliography on a wide range of topics is massive. His interest in languages went well-beyond Greek and Latin to include Arabic and African languages. He impressed or influenced many including black leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore. He admired Charles Dickens, praised Theodore Herzl,  and corresponded for many years with William Gladstone who helped him obtain reading privileges at the British Museum. He was also received by Queen Victoria to whom he presented a copy of his book, Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race in 1892. In a letter from February of 1886 he told Gladstone about  his “desire­–very ambitious for one in my circumstance I confess­– to make an edition of Terence with English notes for use in Liberia College” which if he produced it does not exist today (Lynch, p. 72 ). In 1880 he became the second black member of the American Philological Association, and from his position as president of Liberia College in January, 1882 he awarded honorary LL.D.s  to Richard Theodore Greener  (1844-1922) and William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) who were respectively the first and third black members of the APA and to Reverend Knox. That same year he declared that the “qualities which make a man succeed in mastering Latin and Mathematics are also those which qualify him for the practical work of life” (Blyden, 1882, p. 23).  He died at age 79 in Freetown. His funeral service was conducted by Reverend J.R. Frederick. of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The “youth of the “Mohammedan schools” headed a procession to his graveside” (Moore, p. 118). Blyden was buried in Freetown’s Race Course Cemetery.

  • Sources:

    Nemata Blyden, “The Search for Anna Erskine, in Stepping Forward: Black Women in Africa and the Americas, eds. Higgs, Moss, Ferguson (Athens, Ohio University Press, 2002): 31-43; Eluemuno-Chukuemeka R. Blyden, “A Virtual Museum of the Life and Work of Edward W. Blyden,” http://www.columbia.edu/~hcb8/EWB_Museum/Dedication.html; Hollis Lynch, ed., Selected Letters of Edward Wilmot Blyden (New York: KTO Press, 1978); Moses N. Moore, Jr., “Edward Wilmot Blyden: From Old School Presbyterian Missionary to ‘Minister of Truth’,” Journal of Presbyterian History 75( Summer, 1997): 103-118; Harry N.K. Odamtten, Edward W. Blyden’s Intellectual Transformations: Afropublicanism, Pan-Africanism, Islam, and the Indigenous West African Church(East Lansing, MI, Michigan State University Press, 2019); Michele Valerie Ronnick, “The Latin Quotations in the Correspondence of Edward Wilmot Blyden,” The Negro Educational Review 46 (1994): 101-106; Ronnick, Twelve African American Members of the Society for Classical Studies: The First Five Decades (1875-1925): A Special Publication for the Sesquicentennial of the Society for Classical Studies (New York, Society for Classical Studies, 2018): 11-12.

  • Author: Michele Valerie Ronnick