Mahatma Gandhi, Message to The American Negro, 1929

Let not the 12 million Negroes be ashamed of the fact that they are the grandchildren of slaves. There is no dishonour in being slaves. There is dishonour in being slave-owners. But let us not think of honour or dishonour in connection with the past. Let us realise that the future is with those who would be truthful, pure and loving. For, as the old wise men have said, truth ever is, untruth never was. Love alone binds and truth and love accrue only to the truly humble.

M. K. Gandhi


1st May, 1929

This message from Mahatma Gandhi was sent to Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, editor of The Crisis, who had requested an article from the leader of the Indian Independence after meeting two of Gandhi’s friends, one of them being Sarojini Naidu. Known as the Nightingale of India, Naidu was a poet, orator, and freedom fighter. Du Bois met Naidu at a banquet organized in her honor in New York in the autumn of 1928, the same year he would publish his great novel, Dark Princess, a political romance about the unity of Pan-Africa and Asia against Western imperialism.

Naidu was an outspoken opponent of the British Raj and was widely hailed for brilliance as a philosopher-poetess earning the nickname, the Nightingale Of India. Again, in the spring of 1929, she would speak in New York City at the Civic Club on the colonial question and the persecution of India. A letter from the International Committee Of Political Prisoners invites Du Bois to a luncheon for one hundred where Naidu would give her commentary, identifies her as “India’s most distinguished woman,” a hard-earned title won after her diligent service to the Indian National Congress.

Du Bois grew very interested in the developments accompanying Gandhi’s spiritual and political campaign of satyagraha (sacrifice for the truth) which began with a single insistence: that love of God began with a love for the soul of humanity. He writes to Charles Andrews, one of Gandhi’s friends, with a request for a message from Gandhi to be published in The Crisis in 1929. When the first Black Christian delegation traveled to India in 1935 under the leadership of Howard Thurman, Gandhi invited them to his abode. Thurman, who would publish the foundational critique of Western Christianity titled Jesus and the Disinherited, would be an important influence on King, who traveled to India as well as Ghana in support of the independence struggles in Africa and Asia. The strategy of civil disobedience would strengthen the Montgomery Bus Boycott and later led King to oppose the war in Vietnam, which he recognized as an unjust, imperial war.

Gandhi, Thurman, and King recognized that British rule—whether in Ghana, Nigeria, or India—was the antithesis of civilization, its negation, a fact he slowly came recognize over the course of his travels, political interactions, and exhaustive study. Gandhi appends his note to the American Negro, with a prefatory note announcing that it would indeed be useless to write an article, after all, and in lieu of it, enclosed what he terms a “little love message.”

Naidu Banquet Committee, Letter from The Naidu Banquet Committee to W. E. B. Du Bois, October 30, 1928

Letter from Du Bois to Gandhi requesting message to the African-American people
Gandhi’s Message
Gandhi vows that an article would be useless and opts for a “Little Love Message” in lieu of an article

The Hiroshima Declaration Of Peace

with regard to war, we must say that a war of any kind is, at its best, inhuman and destructive by nature, only disgracing humanity with the ostentatious name of patriotism. Needless to say, nothing so wastes human lives in precious materials as war while it destroys the moral life of the people whether they are belligerent or not. Such being the case we solemnly declare here that peace in the world will never come out of the bellicose spirit of people and that the development of armaments however perfect will never bring peace to the world.

James Baldwin, Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White

Ever so clarifying and edifying. Baldwin crafts a new humanistic idiom bridging social scientific and literary inquiry into the nature of truth being and freedom with a sincere and life-long search for God

“The root of anti-Semitism among Negroes is, ironically, the relationship of colored peoples–all over the globe–to the Christian world. This is a fact which may be difficult to grasp, not only for the ghetto’s most blasted and embittered inhabitants, but also for many Jews, to say nothing of many Christians. But it is a fact, and it will not ameliorated–in fact, it can only be aggravated–by the adoption, on the part of colored people now, of the most devastating of the Christian vices.”

“The root of anti-Semitism among Negroes is, ironically, the relationship of colored peoples–all over the globe–to the Christian world. This is a fact which may be difficult to grasp, not only for the ghetto’s most blasted and embittered inhabitants, but also for many Jews, to say nothing of many Christians. But it is a fact, and it will not ameliorated–in fact, it can only be aggravated–by the adoption, on the part of colored people now, of the most devastating of the Christian vices.”

The artist, backstage

release the thought like the sitar-string yielding to the warm press of human fingers; now you are known to yourself and now, another; and with the sweet injunction of song, redress all that we condemn as wrong.

herein lies the madness of art: to act or not to act; to be or not to be; to want and sate want; to seek and be sought; to wreak and to be wrought.

The Collapse Of Europe

After World War II, Western Europe collapsed and the Soviet Union decisively routed Hitler’s invading army from Russian soil in the great battle of Leningrad. The Axis powers surrendered in 1945 and the two halves of Europe were divided between capitalism and communism. In his 1946 study, The World and Africa, Du Bois characterizes Europe’s shock upon coming face to face with the calamity of its collapse as a “nervous breakdown”. In 1947, U.S officials summarily sent aid to war-torn Western Europe through the Marshall Plan; she was rapidly losing her colonial lifelines as oppressed peoples all over the world wrested control of their destiny.

Jealous of their gains, in 1949, the United States and eleven other Western powers joined forces against the liberation struggles of the darker races with the joint aim of suppressing the spread of communism. It was these efforts which led to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that year. The Soviet Union and allied socialist states responded with the Warsaw Pact in 1955. This constellation of events is significant now more than ever because they gave bitter fruit to the nightmare of war today. Moreover, the responses organized by revolutionary forebears in light of these developments ought to guide our battle for peace today in a concrete and constructive way.

W.E.B Du Bois prophesied that the confrontations between the dying capitalist order chafing against the promise of black independence, the kingdom of heaven on earth, would conflagrate into a Third World War: “Drunk with power we are leading the world to hell in a new colonialism with the same old human slavery which once ruined us; and to a Third World War which will ruin the world.” The erudite Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister of liberated Ghana, ousted at the behest of the American Empire, would call this neocolonialism, the base attempt of finance capital to renegotiate the terms of the white man’s burden, under which Africa, Asia, and the Americas were held in thrall by Western civilization in the colonial period, into the twenty-first century.

Today, as James Baldwin so memorably put it some decades ago, the central psychic challenge faced by white people is their inability to directly and decisively contend with their actual role in history and the glaring truth that a society founded on rape, greed, and theft is not society at all but its antithesis. Incapable of looking at themselves in the mirror and their family members squarely in the eye, white people recuse themselves from the common human fellowship and, as such, can never make amends for the crimes that we know they have perpetrated against humankind, in the name of spreading Christianity, democracy, and civilization to the very people who enlightened them.

In Battle For Peace

Meantime, my attitude toward the problems of peace and progress had slowly become revolutionized. Formerly I had assumed with most folk that the path of human progress lay necessarily through war, and that if the colored peoples of the world and those of America ever secured their rights as human beings, it would be through organized violence against their white oppressors. But after the First World War, I began to realize that under modern conditions such means to progress were self-defeating. With modern techniques in world war, there could be no victory. The victor was, in the end, as badly off as the vanquished. Reason, education, and scientific knowledge must replace war.

—W.E.B Du Bois, In Battle for Peace

The Influence Of Gandhian Socialism on Du Bois and King

Mohandas K. Gandhi began agitating for the independence of the Indian people from colonial rule in the early twentieth century. In 1921, he took leadership of the Indian National Congress, leading nationwide campaigns devoted to achievement of swaraj or home rule. In 1930, he opposed the tax imposed on salt by imperial Britain, leading the Dandi Satyagraha or Salt March, an act of civil disobedience aimed at overturning the colonialist economic monopoly over salt, which was a vital resource for the Indian people. In 1942, he impressed upon the British to quit India, an appeal which led to India’s liberation from colonial rule in 1947.

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930.

Continue reading “The Influence Of Gandhian Socialism on Du Bois and King”

Invitation from G. Ramachandran, Secretary of the Gandhi National Memorial Fund, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to visit India

Dear Dr. King,

We in India have watched with sympathy and admiration the non-violent movements of the Negroes in America to achieve their full equality, in law and in spirit, with all others who constitute the citizenship of the United States and the valiant and personal leadership which you have given to some of them.

We are happy to know you are willing to consider a proposal for your visit to India early.

We are writing this on behalf of the Gandhi National Memorial Fund to give you and Mrs. King a very cordial invitation to visit India and to spend three to four weeks in this country.

It would be good if you could share with the Indian people your own experiences and thoughts and, at the same time, study how Mahatma Gandhi evolved the techniques of peaceful action to solve innumerable social and national problems in India. We expect you would be particularly interested to know how Gandhiji wrestled with the problem of untouchability in India and succeeded in showing the {way} out against the heavist odds. We would wish you to visit places and institutions associated with the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi and also some of our leading Centres of academic learning. And then, certainly it would be good if you meet Acharya Vinoba Bhave and spend a little time with him quietly and find out for yourself how non-violence is being applied to solve the extremely difficult problem of the land-hunger of the poorer peasants in India.2 It will also interest you to see something of the work of the Community Projects and National Extension Service Blocks which have already covered vast areas in the country.

If you agree to accept our invitation, will you please communicate to our Embassy in Washington the precise days you can give to a visit to India and any other detail you would wish to let us know in advance.

With best wishes and prayers for the Christmas and the New Year,

Yours sincerely,

[signed] G. Ramachandran.

1. G. Ramachandran (1904-1995), born in Perumthanni, Kerala, India, graduated from the Visva-Bharati at Santiniketan in 1925. In 1947 Ramachandran, a disciple of Gandhi, founded the Gandhigram at Madurai, a rural college based on Gandhian principles.

2. Vinoba Bhave was widely considered Gandhi’s spiritual successor. During his 1959 visit to India, King met with Bhave.


MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.