“The parallel between the situation of the Jews at the time of the coming of Theodore Herzl and the present situation of black people in America is fascinating. The Jews had no homeland and were dispersed around the world, cooped up in the ghettos of Europe. Functionally, a return to Israel seemed as impractical as obtaining a homeland for Afro-American now seems. Renowned Jewish leaders were seriously considering transporting Jews to Argentina, en masse, and developing a homeland there. Others seriously considered obtaining from England the territory of Uganda in East Africa for the same purpose.
The gravitational center of the Jewish population at that time was in Eastern Europe. With the outbreak of the massive pogroms in that area near the end of the nineteenth century, the Jewish people were prepared psychologically to take desperate and unprecedented action. They saw themselves faced with an immediate disastrous situation. Genocide was staring them in the face and this common threat galvanized them into common action.
Psychologically, black people in America have precisely the same outlook as Jews had then, and they are therefore prepared to take common action for the solution to a common problem. Oppressed because of the color of their skin, black people are reacting on that basis. A nationalist consciousness has at last awakened among the black masses of Afro-America.
The facts of history show that the Jews were able to do precisely the same thing that Afro-Americans must now do. When Theodore Herzl founded the Jewish National Congress, he virtually founded a government in exile. They would build their organization, their government, and then later on they would get some land and set the government and the people down on the land, like placing one’s hat on top of one’s head. The Jews did it. It worked. So now African-Americans must do the same thing.
In fact, when he moved to found the organization of Afro-American Unity, this is precisely what Malcolm X was doing, founding a government in exile for a people in exile. Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown are now speaking in the name of that sovereignty, in the name of a nation.”
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Eldridge Cleaver in Post-Prison Writings and Speeches, edited by Robert Scheer (NY: Ramparts/Vintage, 1969), pages 67–69. Essay is dated April/May 1968.