The Real Price of Nation Building

The Real Price of Nation Building

“Nation building” is one of those words thrown around pretty freely in the Black community. But the fact is that we are standing on somebody else’s property and talking about “building” something on it. Just like the original founding fathers of the United States did when they decided to tear it away from Britain.

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” – American Patriot Patrick Henry

“We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776


I did a little research and found out what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Even though they were successful and are recognized as heroes today, their endings were not the kinds of endings you would expect. Think about whether or not you are ready to risk “nation building” if the following fates were waiting for you whether you are successful or not:

  • Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
  • Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.
    Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
  • Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
  • At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
  • Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Those men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. They had money, and lots of it, but gave it up to create the United States of America before there was one.

Now, let’s bring this focus back to Black:

Martin Luther King Jr didn’t die a rich or a happy man. His last days were spent in turmoil, torment, and paranoia. He saw his death coming. Same thing with El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X.


Marcus Garvey died in exile with very little money, suffering from the effects of a stroke, and read unflattering premature obituaries right before he died. His enemies were so ready for him to go that they published his obituary before he died!!

School children in Jamaica observe a statue of Marcus Garvey
School children in Jamaica observe a statue of Marcus Garvey



Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey? Both gave their lives for the Revolution (after being given up by Black informants). The original founder of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton was shot three times in the face by a Black man.

The path to nation building is slick with blood – the blood of those who take the lead. If you think you are prepared to build a new nation, be prepared to sacrifice your fortune, your family, your life, your dreams, and your peace of mind for the greater good.

So the question you must ask yourself is this: are you ready to die from exhaustion, heartsickness, exposure, exile, or assassination for what you believe?

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