1957 Video: Boniface Offokaja’s Contribution To The Civil Rights Struggle

Boniface Offokaja, Pan Africanist champion

When Boniface Offokaja represented Nigeria at the World Youth Forum in 1957, he was only 16 years. But his words carried the weight of an adult determined to tear down the wall of segregation in 1950s America. He used the opportunity granted to him by Herald Tribune to boldly speak out against discrimination of Afro Americans. See video below:

Speaking Truth To Millions Of Americans On Tv And Radio

It was the age of segregation against African Americans. An era when many would have laughed you to scorn if you dared suggest that, an African would one day be President of the United States. Two years before, in 1955, civil rights leader Martin Luther King had organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Law enforcement had arrested Rosa Parks, an Afro American lady. Her crime? She refused to stand up from a seat ‘not meant for’ African Americans!

Then high school student Boniface Offokaja, sat down in front of millions of American television viewers/radio listeners and courageously told them that their country was biased against its Afro Americans, but could do better.

Boniface Offokaja pricked America’s conscience by asking rhetorically, “How can you (America) be objective about African Negroes, when you are prejudiced against American Negroes?” He then went on to say he saw prospects that America would improve.

Visitor-to-America, Boniface Offokaja thus told millions of Americans a simple truth: support for self-determination of African colonies isn’t enough. America also had to clean up racist discrimination from its own backyard.

Also Read: Inspiring: The Life And Times Of The Brilliant Prince Boniface Offokaja

I Think They Heard

In the 1960s, in the age of John F. Kennedy, Americans did so much to dismantle discriminatory laws against African Americans. Who knows, the conscience-pricking question of the brilliant, fearless and selfless African student might have been ringing in their ears. It might have been urging them to do the right thing.

Leave The Black Man Alone – Frederick Douglass

“[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us.

What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. . . .

I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! . . .

And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury.”

Culled from: What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original)

The US Afro Americans Who Were Evicted For Voting

Between 1959 and 1970, many US Afro Americans in Tennessee were evicted from their homes and blacklisted from buying things for daring to exercise their rights to vote.

These people moved to a camp called Tent City or Freedom Village. Read more about their courageous life here.