- Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: The origin and meaning behind Bob Marley’s Redemption song.
We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”
“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley
Those words are widely associated with the lyrics in “Redemption Song” by Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley:
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds.
The Work That Has Been Done, Marcus Garvey, October 31, 1937, Sydney Nova Scotia
Few know those sentences and thereby the song’s true meaning. Those words can be traced to Marcus Garvey. In fact though Garvey’s movement was disparaged as being a “Back to Africa” movement, Garvey and his supporters refer to it as a movement for “African Redemption,” which has a reference in the song’s title. The earliest known reference to the concept of “African Redemption” can be found in a letter written by Benjamin Lundy on May 28th, 1833. The letter was addressed to the Annual Convention of Free People of Color Convention due to meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lundy’s words to that effect are as follows:
A new era has opened upon the world! The “dark age” of African oppression is drawing to its close; and the happy “millennium” of African redemption is near at hand! Let the inhabitants of that ill-fated continent rejoice, and her children wherever scattered, sing praises to the Most High, on the “banks of deliverance.”
In Garvey’s only work that can be considered an actual book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” Volume 1 is “Dedicated to the true and loyal members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the cause of African redemption.”
Thereby it can be claimed Bob Marley paraphrased Marcus Garvey’s speech “The Work That Has Been Done” for not only that key lyric, but the song’s title as well. The speech is presented in its entirety below.
Marcus Garvey with quote on emancipation from mental slavery, the next stage of human development.
Emancipation from mental slavery
Scientists said once that the Negro was the missing link, but now they realize that the Negro is the oldest man in creation. He is so old that he is black, and everything darkens by age, therefore he could not be the missing link. Something must be missing from his link. That the Negro is old and that accounts for his colour there is a lot behind it. Because once upon a time we were a great people. We built the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When history is written in truth you will find that the first civilization was projected from the Nile on the Congo Basin. In the earliest dawn of civilization you found the Negro in Benin, in Timbuktoo, in Alexandria. Anthropologists will tell you that the Pharoahs were black men. When they dug up the mummy of Tutankamen and saw he was a black man they would not tell you the truth. Civilization went across the north to Europe to India, to China, all the way down and proved that the black man had circumnavigated the world. The North American Indian, the Australian Aboriginal, the Aztecs of South America were all people who became what they were through the contact of Africans who had travelled across the continents when they were carrying their civilization, just as how the great white man is travelling around the world to-day and planting the evidence of his race, but before modern history was written and produced in the different continents there were different shades of colour, each had their original civilization. Like all great people we fell. The present civilization is not the only one that existed, but before this we had Roman civilization, Greek Civilization, Persian civilization, Babylonian civilization, and even medieval Egyptian civilization, but the Negro civilization anti-dated that.
The African went down with his blundering civilization, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman all went down and we do not know how long this civilization will stand with its Mussolinis and its Hitlers. Civilization is a cycle. It changes. I should like to see black and white get on so well toghether that the black man will remember how kind he was. It is the only way we are going to get along because man is man for that.
The white man is no missing link, nor the black man, nor the yellow man either. Surely no animal could achieve what Marconi did, what Edison did, what the great engineers did, what the great scientists did. Surely no man could do what the Japanese are doing, no missing link could do what Carver is doing at Tuskegee. He is the greatest chemist to-day, who can bring out of one product so many chemicals.
No monkey could do what the brown bomber did to the Welshman. If man will let a monkey beat him then he is lower than a monkey. We are men whether we are white, yellow or black, because we have one origin. We came from the same place and we are going back to the same place. The Negro went to sleep for a long while, resting from his labours, but he slept too long, so everybody stole a march on him and therefore he is the only man without a country; and so the U.N.I.A. seeks to restore the Negro to his own vine and fig tree. Economically, for his own interest, the white man will not like it, but deep down in his heart he will say that the Negro is right.
I would like to see Canada for the Canadians, England for the English, America for the Americans and in the same way I want to see Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad, so that when we are sick and tired and weary we may lay our heads in the lap of our mother and ask her to comfort us, bless us before we die. Every people should have a flag, a land of their own, and the U.N.I.A. points you to achieve something. A large number of you were and are members and I bring you the greetings of those in the other parts of the world.
We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign.
The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind, because man is related to man under all circumstances for good or for ill. If man is not able to protect himself from the other man he should use his mind to good advantage.
The fool will always carry the heavy burden. The fool will always be crushed without a tear from God or man because God Almight never made a fool.
God is all wise. When God Almight made man in His own image and likeness, it wasn’t the physical, it was the mind that was like God. Every man represents God in his unitary intelligence.
When man abuses that intelligence he lowers himself. God has given you intelligence to take care of you. He hasn’t repeated Himself yet. God was so thoughtful of man and his progeny that he made a variety of things so as to pander to the taste of the Adams that would come after the first.
When God made you He made you the masters of the world, not serfs and slaves, but your mind must be developed intelligently. It is your mind that rules the body. You cannot go further than that mind to seek truth and to know truth and to re-act to truth.
That is the only way you will be able to protect your group. The white man is still doing research work with his mind. It has taken him to the bowels of the earth to extract what nature placed there for him. On that same intelligence he has gone into Heaven. What you see in Sydney, in Nova Scotia is only the fringe of the white man’s intelligence. Everything that you see that is methodical is the product of the white man’s mind. He visualizes nations and kingdoms and he has them. There is nothing spiritual around his materialism.
They are all objective things realized, dreamt and thought out. Sydney is only what men have visualized to a greater extent. The British Empire was the visualization of men like Raleigh, and Drake, who seeing things of value, attached them to the mother country. If places are not well protected then men take them and add them to their Empires.
The U.N.I.A. is dreaming of a day when the Negro will possess himself of a homeland, when he will build for himself. The man who cannot build for himself is not only a poor fish in the sea, but ultimately will be a dead fish, plodding for himself.
Nobody wants to die except the fool, because life is a worth-while thing. It is only people who are together can survive now-a-days. It is only by organising that we can get anywhere, as the Mayor told you. We are looking for the redemption and the freedom of our homeland. (We hope, sir, to invite you to Sydney, in Africa, because there we shall have different things than you have in Canada.)
Our obsession is like that of the Jews. They are working for Palestine. We are working for Africa, like the Irishman, he is working for Ireland, and the Canadian is working for a grand and noble Canada. We are helping to send on the great force of power of Canadian industry when the Canadians will realize that they too can help us to do some good as we have been helping them to do some good. We have been helping to build and up to now we are not dead, we have not fallen. The Negro has the power of resistance. He can do the job. I feel sure, as you have done in the past, you will continue in the future, whether I come here or not. Remember the primary purpose that has brought me here — goodwill, co-operation, unity from the rest of your fellows in the United States, Africa and the West Indies. We have celebrated the happiness, the glory of our Organization’s accomplishments. We have had our ups and downs and failures, but that was only a drop in the bucket. If the Mayor were to tell you of the failures of his race, you would wonder at their patience. When the Liberals fail they go out of office and let the Conservatives go in, and the Government goes on. If you Negroes have a penny bank and it fails, you swear that you will never put another penny in it again. You should kick out the first dishonest man and put in an honest one. That is why you will have to it swim to Barbados, Trinidad and Demerara. You know how many times the Canadian Pacific failed until they now have their wonderful system? The only way you can be happy is to lay the foundation in one generation for the succeeding generation. If you do not build ships for the next generation you will always be walking.
Take the white race, sometimes you see an old man president of the bank, knowing well that their grandchildren are coming after them and they are storing up for their generations to come after. Our disposition is to eat everything and let the boy work for his. We cannot treat our children as our fathers treated us, so do not eat up everything you get, for God’s sake. Remember that the boy who is coming up is to carry on until God comes. Do not be here as serfs and slaves because God never made you anything else but men.
Whatever that has happened to the man it is his own mind that puts him there. He has abused the force of power of that mind. Men can create the environment to suit himself. When you do not use your intelligence you fall and will be submerged. It is because we do not live up to the state of our intelligence why we suffer so much.
Before I close, I want to appeal to you to use your intelligence to work out the real things of life. You have to apply that intelligence to the management of your own individual and collective racial affairs. Every race has to lok after its own affairs. You have formulated no legal or moral claim. That is why people are taking away Africa today, just how Mussolini took away Ethiopia because he thought the Ethiopians had no use for it. One man used his intelligence and knocked out while the other tried to pray.
The time you waste in levity, in non-essentials, if you use it properly you will be able to guarantee to your posterity a condition better than you inherited from your forefathers. The U.N.I.A. is carrying throughout the world the message of goodwill. The message is going on. It has reached you. It will go to others, so that we may have one outlook, one purpose in life. I do hope the friendship will continue, sir, economically, politically and that you will never have cause to believe that we are not what we seem. (Cheers.)
The Chairman, Rev. Ford: Speaking on behalf of the peoples of this community permit me to say that hey have enjoyed this message of goodwill immensely. Please take back for us the message that we, in Cape Breton, shall stretch out the curtains of our habitation with this in view — one God, one aim, one destiny. I have spent over six years in college learning the various ologies, but to-night you have taught me one ology and that is Negro ology. The hon. Marcus Garvey told you to-night that the man who doesn’t love his people cannot love his God. This is an epoch-making event. Let us bind ourselves together, not only when he is here, but when he is gone, so that we may be lifted up with wings as he goes.
- I can’t Breathe” is the expression of the Crisis of the modern world.
“I can’t breathe“ is sure the slogan associated with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The phrase is derived from the words of Eric Garner and George Floyd, two African-American men who died of asphyxiation during their arrests in 2014 and 2020, respectively, as a result of excessive force by primarily white police officers. The phrase is used in protest against police brutality in the United States.
But this protest, this Cry show us the real problem of the Modern man:
Modern man is a human without Soul, without the “Living Breath”.
The protest is the expression of his deep spiritual Crisis in the times of deep ignorance.. Read more here