Black nationalism (BN) advocates a racial definition (or redefinition) of black national identity, as opposed to multiculturalism. There are different black nationalist philosophies but the principles of all black nationalist ideologies are black unity, and black self-determination or independence from white society. Martin Delany is considered to be the grandfather of black nationalism.
Inspired by the apparent success of the Haitian Revolution, the origins of black nationalism in political thought lie in the 19th century with people like Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Henry McNeal Turner, Martin Delany, Henry Highland Garnet, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Paul Cuffe, etc. The repatriation of black American slaves to Liberia or Sierra Leone was a common black nationalist theme in the 19th century. Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association of the 1910s and 1920s was the most powerful black nationalist movement to date, claiming 11 million members. Although the future of Africa is seen as being central to black nationalist ambitions, some adherents to black nationalism are intent on the eventual creation of a separate black American nation in the U.S. or Western hemisphere.
According to Wilson Jeremiah Moses in his famous work Classical Black Nationalism, black nationalism as a philosophy can be examined from three different periods giving rise to various ideological perspectives for what we can today consider what black nationalism really is.
The first being pre-Classical black nationalism beginning from the time the Africans were brought ashore in the Americas to the Revolutionary period. After the Revolutionary War, a sizable number of Africans in the colonies, particularly in New England and Pennsylvania, were literate and had become disgusted with their social conditions that had spawned from Enlightenment ideas. We find in such historical personalities as Prince Hall, Richard Allen, and Absalom Jones a need to found certain organizations as the Free African Society, African Masonic lodges and Church Institutions. These institutions would serve as early foundations to developing independent and separate organizations. By the time of Post-Reconstruction Era a new form of black nationalism was emerging among various African-American clergy circles. Separate circles had already been established and were accepted by African-Americans because of the overt oppression that had been in existence since the inception of the United States. This phenomenon led to the birth of modern black nationalism which stressed the need to separate and build separate communities that promote strong racial pride and also to collectivize resources. This ideology had become the philosophy of groups like the Moorish Science Temple and the Nation of Islam. Although, the Sixties brought on a heightened period of religious, cultural and political nationalism, black nationalism would later influence afrocentricity.