Date of Graduation

1977

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Oyotunji Village, the Yoruba movement in America, is a history of the life of Oseijeman Adefunmi, (Walter Serge King), and the Yoruba movement he founded. Although this movement concentrates mainly on cultural nationalism, it has similarities to nineteenth and early twentieth century Black Nationalist movements. These similarities include their attempts to bring about change thru the rejection of American culture, the establishment of all-Black governments within America or Africa, the acceptance of African or Asiatic culture, and the rejection of the name Negro as a means of identifying their national origin. Adefunmi, the founder of the Yoruba movement, was born in Detroit, Michigan, where he attended the public schools and studied commercial art and drama. After graduation he studied ballet, which helped prepare him for a tour of Europe he made with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe in 1950. While attending, in 1956, a play performed by Black actors in Harlem, he became disgusted with their use of materials written by Shakespeare. This led him to several New York libraries, including the Schomburg, to study African and Afro-American history and culture so that he could write plays about Africa and Black America. His. plan for writing plays did not materialize, but he became intensely interested in African religion and culture. After trips to Europe, Egypt, Cuba and Haiti, in 1956 he formed a society called the Order of Damballa Hwedo. It was named after the 161 Haitian god, Damballa, which the slaves had brought over and preserved in Haiti. He was associated with it until 1959> at which time he was introduced to Santo, the Cuban form of Yoruba worship, and initiated into the priesthood of Obatala. Upon his return from Cuba he opened the Shango Temple in Harlem, which later became the Yoruba Temple, because of his commitment to the resurrection of not only African religion, but African culture as a whole. This commitment had personal consequences for Adefunmi and the other members of the Yoruba Temple, for, in 1965, they began considering the possibility of leaving New York and returning to Africa, or going to the Caribbean, Brazil, or one of the states of the American South. After attempts to purchase land for settlement in South Carolina failed, they made a decision in the fall of 1969 that Adefunmi and his family should travel to North Carolina to teach African history and philosophy at a Black preparatory school. The move was made, but the school did not operate very long. From there he and his family traveled further South with the goal of establishing an African state which he hoped to see in existence by 1972. Their travels led them first to Savannah, where they remained until February of 1970, and then to Paiges Point, South Carolina. There they rented some land and initiated their first group of priests in April of 1970. Their next moves were to a farm house on Brays Island Road near Sheldon, South Carolina, in November of 1970, and then to a ten-acre plot of land in Sheldon in 1973- 162 It was on this plot of land in 1973, after considerable research and some modifications of traditional Yoruba culture, that Oyotunji Village was built. There they were able in a rural setting to establish a small village whose philosophical, religious, family, educational and governmental systems are based upon the customs of the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria and to a limited extent those of traditional Dahomean society.

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