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The First Major African-American Back-to-Africa Movement

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The Back-to-Africa movement was a 19th-century movement that encouraged Africans who were sold into slavery and regained their freedom to return to their African homelands. It was an attempt to solve the problems that always arise between the African-American and the whites.

However, before this proclamation, the blacks have been returning home, and the first major movement happened in the 18th century. The first major return to Africa was by 1192 Black Loyalist slaves who voluntarily returned to Africa in 1792. This occurred during the American Revolutionary War. These loyalists were among the slaves who had escaped to British lines in Nova Scotia on the promise that they will be granted freedom. Also, five years before this event, about 4000 blacks were transported from London for resettlement to the colony of Sierra Leone.

The 1192 Loyalists migrated to West Africa and settled in the new British colony of Settler Town, the place known as Sierra Leone today. In Sierra Leone, they were referred to as the Nova Scotian settlers and were part of those that created Sierra Leone as a nation.

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Our History

Prince Hall: The First African-American to Join the Freemasons

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Prince Hall, who is considered the father of African Freemasonry, is believed to be born between 1735 and 1738. His exact place of birth is not known though he mentioned in his writings that is homeland is England.

Hall developed interest in the Masonic fraternity because Freemasonry was founded upon ideals of liberty, peace and equality. At some point, he and some other blacks requested for membership

With the white Freemasonry but they were rejected. On March 6, 1775, he and 15 other blacks sought for membership and were initiated into Masonry by members of Lodge No. 441 of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. They then formed the African Lodge No. 1 and Hall was named the Grand Master. However, their mason had limited power as they could not perform some essential functions of a fully operating Lodge.

Due to this, they later applied for a charter at the Grand Lodge of England. On September 29, 1784, the Duke of Cumberland, issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1. It then became the first African Masonic lodge. Hall was made the Provincial Grand Master of the Lodge on January 27, 1791.

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In Dahomey: The First Broadway Musical Comedy Written by African Americans and the First to Star African-Americans

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In 1903, African-Americans made history when they produce the musical comedy titled “In Dahomey.” It was the first full-length comic show to be written and played by the African-Americans. It was written by Jesse Shipp, and produced by produced by Harry Seamon and McVon Hurtig.

The comedy was opened on February 18, 1903, at the New York Theatre. It starred two iconic figures at the time which include George Walker and Bert Williams. It was a remarkable accomplishment in the evolution of the African-American musical comedy and one of the most successful comics of its era.

It enjoyed recognition for a total of four years and had 53 completed performances. It had two tours in the United States and one in the United Kingdom.

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Virginia State University: First Fully State-Supported Four-Year Institution of Higher Learning for African-Americans

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Virginia State University, formerly known as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1882–1902) and Virginia State College for Negroes ((1902–1946), was established on March 6, 1882. The school was founded to serve the needs of the African-Americans that were at the time excluded from other public institutions in Virginia. It became U.S. first fully state-supported four-year institution of higher learning for black Americans.

The school was founded following a bill passed by the state legislature sponsored by a black attorney, Alfred Harris. It was not opened until October 1, 1883, due to a hostile lawsuit. John Langston was elected in 1885 as the university’s first president. Langston later became the first African-American elected to the Congress from Virginia.

In its first academic year, 1883/1884 session, the school had 126 students, seven faculties, one building, a 200-book library, 33 acres of land, and a $20,000 budget.

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