St. Eustatius

Historian Nemata Blyden visits St. Eustatius

Netema Blyden is a descendant of the famous Edward Wilmot Blyden. Photo: St. Eustatius African Burial Ground Alliance. 

ORANJESTAD – Monday, May 20, is the day that historian Prof. Dr. Nemata Blyden set foot on St. Eustatius for the first time. 

This is a special occasion for both Prof. Blyden and St. Eustatius, as she is a descendant of the famous pan-Afrikanist Edward Wilmot Blyden (St. Thomas 1832–Sierra Leone 1912), whose parents were born on the island. Prof. Blyden will stay for a week to learn about the island, meet people, and further research her family history. 

Professor Blyden is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Virginia (USA), specializing in Afrikan history of the US, the Afrikan diaspora, and Afrikan history. Among other books, she wrote “African Americans and Africa” (2022), on the complex relationship between black Americans and the African continent, and “West Indians in West Africa, 1808-1880: The African Diaspora in Reverse.” 

Like noted, Prof. Nemata Blyden is a direct descendant of the famous pan-Afrikanist, educationalist, writer, researcher, diplomat, and statesman, Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912), whose parents came from St. Eustatius. They were Romeo Blyden, a tailor, and Judith Blyden, a teacher.
The St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance (in short, Alliance) made this discovery during the family heritage project, “Remember Statia: Tracing Our Origins. The surname Blyden, or Blijden, is still common on the island. Edward Wilmot Blyden himself was born on nearby St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands) and lived and worked most of his life in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where he was a presidential candidate in 1885.


Kenneth Cuvalay, president of the Alliance: “It was purely accidental that we found out that Edward Wilmot Blyden’s parents were born on St. Eustatius. Or perhaps our Ancestors wanted it to happen that way, because we learned that Prof. Blyden herself has been researching her family history for some time. Naturally, she was eager to visit the island where her Ancestors were born, and we are thrilled and proud to welcome her here. Prof. Blyden was also one of the participants in our project, “Remember Statia: Tracing Our Origins.”

“We hope that St. Eustatius will welcome her with warmth and that it will be an unforgettable experience for her. For St. Eustatius, the fact that we are bringing home one of our Ancestors spiritually, and that we can honor Prof. Edward Wilmot Blyden as well as Prof. Nemata Blyden in our island’s Afrikan history, is truly beautiful,” according to Cuvalay.

On the occasion of Prof. Blyden’s visit to St. Eustatius, the Alliance hosts a special webinar on May 26, in which she will be one of the speakers. Her presentation will be on “Family Ties: Exploring Connections between Africa and its Diaspora.” The other two speakers are Prof. Dr. Kimani Nehusi of Temple University (USA) and Dr. Artwell Cain of Aruba. The topic of the webinar is “Preserving Endangered & Marginalized Afrikan Cultural Heritage.” 

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