Along with sharing featured songs from its “A Soundtrack for the Revolution (ASFTR)” playlist, Black Like Vanilla is also sharing Quotes to Live By (QTLB) from prominent Black people from our past to our present, located in the “Featured Post” section of this website. These quotes are words of wisdom, caution, inspiration, and so on, that we can collectively use to motivate, unite, and educate us as a people as we continue this journey, fighting for the basic civil and human rights afforded to us in this country.
Today’s Featured Quote is:
“A Race without the knowledge of its history is like a tree without roots”
This quote is often attributed to Pan-African, Black Nationalist, and Civil Rights Leader Marcus Garvey, but is actually found in Charles Seifert’s 1938 pamphlet, The Negro’s or Ethiopian’s Contribution to Art.
Charles C. Seifert was a Black historian, born in Barbados in 1871. His father was a plantation overseer and had a collection of books about Africa, which fascinated Seifert leading him to devote his life to Black history. He began collecting books, manuscripts, maps, and African art related to Africa’s cultures and diaspora, eventually amassing such a collection that he established the Ethiopian School of Research History in Harlem.
It is reported that Marcus Garvey lived in Seifert’s home in order to have access to his resources, which is probably how the quote ended up getting incorrectly attributed to Garvey.
Seifert understood the importance of true African history and heritage to Black Americans, in how we see ourselves, and how we approach the world, knowing full and well this information was purposefully omitted. Seifert was a frequent speaker at the Harlem YMCA. Siefert was focused on getting “black artists and young people such as myself who were interested in art … to select as our content black history.” Seifert died in 1948.
Seifert should be a household name. I hope his massive collection of Black history and African artifacts have been preserved. He was truly a gatekeeper of our culture during such a crucial period in American history. Black Like Vanilla intends to continue following in the footstep of Seifert, along with those who came before and after him, making sure our history is preserved, documented, and shared so that we, black people can never be uprooted again.