In his discussion of black nationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, the historian Wilson Jeremiah Moses observes that "black separatism, or self-containment, which in its extreme form advocated the perpetual physical separation of the races, usually referred only to a simple institutional separatism, or the desire to see black people making independent efforts to sustain themselves in a proven hostile environment."
Scholars Tallmadge Anderson and James Stewart further make a distinction between the "classical version of Black separatism advocated by Booker T. Washington" and "modern separatist ideology." They observe that "Washington's accommodations advice" at the end of the nineteenth century "was for Blacks not to agitate for social, intellectual, and professional equality with Whites." By contrast, they observe, "contemporary separatists exhort Blacks not only to equal Whites but to surpass them as a tribute to and redemption of their African heritage." Anderson and Stewart add, moreover, that in general "modern black separatism is difficult to define because of its similarity to Black Nationalism."
Indeed, black separatism's specific goals were historically in flux and varied from group to group. Martin Delany in the 19th century and Marcus Garvey in the 1920s outspokenly called for African Americans to return to Africa, by moving to Liberia. Benjamin "Pap" Singleton looked to form separatist colonies in the American West. The Nation of Islam calls for several independent black states on American soil. More mainstream views within black separatism hold that black people would be better served by schools and businesses exclusively for black people, and by local black politicians and police.
Some individual mainstream black separatists supported anti segregationists and integrationists within the African American community. They generally hold that black people can and should advance within the larger American society and call on them to work to achieve that through personal improvement, educational achievement, business involvement, and political action. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a key speaker and leader in the political effort to overthrow segregation in the 1960s, and Malcolm X, who until May 21, 1964 was known as a black separatist from the Nation of Islam, may personify the opposition between the two views.
Due to some commonly held separatist ideologies, some black supremacist organizations have found limited common cause with…