In 1887, T. Thomas Fortune published an editorial, “The Negro's Peculiar Work,” in the black newspaper the New York Freeman, wherein he reflected on a recent keynote speech delivered by Reverend J. C. Price on 3 January in Columbia, South Carolina, to commemorate Emancipation Day. Price, a member of the Zion Wesley Institute of the AME Zion Church, hailed from North Carolina and his denomination considered him to be “the most popular and eloquent Negro of the present generation.” On the occasion meant to reflect on the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation (which went into effect on 1 January 1863) for present-day African Americans, Price turned his gaze away from the US towards Africa. In his speech “The American Negro, His Future, and His Peculiar Work” Price declared that African Americans had a duty to redeem Africans and help them take back their continent from the Europeans who had partitioned it in 1884–85. He railed,
The whites found gold, diamonds, and other riches in Africa. Why should not the Negro? Africa is their country. They should claim it: they should go to Africa, civilize those Negroes, raise them morally, and by education show them how to obtain wealth which is in their own country, and take the grand continent as their own.
Price's “Black Man's Burden” projected American blacks as agents of capitalism, civilization, and Christianity in Africa. Moreover, Price suggested that African American suffering under slavery, failed Reconstruction, and Jim Crow placed them in a unique position to combat imperialism. He was not alone in seeing parallels between the conditions of “Negroes” on both sides of the Atlantic. Many African Americans, Afro-Canadians, and West Indians saw imperialism in Africa as operating according to Jim Crow logic: white Europeans would subordinate and segregate Africans, while economically exploiting their labor to bring wealth to Europe.