A movement, founded around 1900, to secure equal rights, self-government, independence, and unity for African peoples. Inspired by Marcus Garvey, it encouraged self-awareness on the part of Africans by encouraging the study of their history and culture. Leadership came from the Americas until the Sixth Pan-African Congress, in Manchester, UK, in 1945, which saw the emergence of African nationalist figures, notably Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, with a programme of African ‘autonomy and independence’. With independence, however, the concept of a politically united Africa was soon replaced by the assertion—within colonial frontiers—of competing national interests.
— Ian Campbell
Although the term "Pan-Africanism" has occasionally been applied to the struggle for the political unification of the continent of Africa, the concept has more to do with race than with geography. In its eighteenth-century origins, it overlapped the concept of black nationalism, the idea that a modern nation-state with distinct geographical boundaries should be established in Africa as a center of racial unity and identity. Because it ignored or sought to override political, cultural, and economic differences in the heritages of a broadly defined "racial group," the movement always flourished more successfully in the realms of ideological romanticism and ethnic sentimentalism than in the domain of practical politics.
Pan-Africanism, which is as much a passion as a way of thinking, is more successfully defined in terms of its rhetorical manifestations than by its nominal characteristics. The term has always communicated various, sometimes contradictory ideas to the diverse individuals who professed to be Pan-Africanists. Some scholars refer to Pan-Africanism as a "macronationalism," a term applied to ideologies or movements among widely dispersed peoples who claim a common ancestry—in this case "black African," although Pan-Africanists often reject that term, insisting that Africans are by definition black, or, as they prefer to say, "Africoid." Like all nationalistic and macronationalistic movements, Pan-Africanism possesses a fundamentally religious quality.
Origins and Early Developments
The roots of Pan-Africanism are traceable to the late eighteenth-century writings of westernized Africans expressing the pain and resentment of humiliating encounters with slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy. In 1787 a group of twelve Africans living in England drafted a letter of appreciation to the British philanthropist Granville Sharp for his efforts toward abolition of the international slave trade. One of the drafters, Olaudah Equiano, had traveled widely in Britain's Atlantic empire as a ship's steward, and eventually published his Interesting Narrative, revealing emotional commitments to the universal improvement of the African condition. Ottobah Cugoano, one of Equiano's associates, also issued a pamphlet denouncing slavery, significantly "addressed to the sons of Africa," in 1791.
A group of enslaved Africans petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts at the onset of the American Revolution for the right to the same treatment as white indentured servants, who were able to work their way out of bondage. They were aware that their counterparts in Spanish colonies sometimes had that right, and they expressed the hope of eventual repatriation in Africa once free. In the late eighteenth century, a few African Americans pledged themselves to the universalistic doctrines of Freemasonry, but did so in segregated institutions, thus illustrating Pan-Africanism's ideological paradox—a commitment to the universal solidarity of all humanity, but a special solidarity with African populations in Africa and the Caribbean. This sense of solidarity was animated by the Haitian revolution, which, like the American and French Revolutions, enlisted Enlightenment ideals in support of its bloody nationalistic objectives.
In the early 1800s, two free African entrepreneurs in the maritime professions, Paul Cuffe, a sea captain, and James Forten, a sail maker, took steps to establish a West African trading company, and actually settled a few people in the British colony of Sierra Leone. In 1820 the slave conspiracy planned in South Carolina by Denmark Vesey, putatively a native of the Danish West Indies, aimed at creating an empire of emancipated Africans throughout the American South and the Caribbean. Vesey's conspiracy influenced another South Carolinian, David Walker, who published his Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble, to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), an example of Pan-African sentiment, as its title declares. The Convention of the Free People of Color, meeting in 1831, likewise demonstrated a hemispheric Pan-Africanism as it considered a plan for a college in New Haven, Connecticut, arguing that a seaport location would facilitate communication with the West Indies.
Early Pan-Africanism disassociated itself from the West African colony of Liberia, established by the white-controlled American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color. Some African Americans were willing to cooperate with the liberal abolitionist wing of that group by the mid–nineteenth century, however. By that time, the term "African Movement" was used by a black organization known as the African Civilization Society, established in 1858 and dedicated to "the civilization and christianization of Africa, and of the descendants of African ancestors in any portion of the earth, wherever dispersed." The organization's leader, Henry Highland Garnet, resuscitated the idea of a Caribbean empire, reminiscent of that envisioned by Denmark Vesey thirty years earlier. He also encouraged selective and voluntary migration to Africa, where, he believed, a new nation-state was destined to emerge as "a grand center of Negro nationality."
In 1859, Martin Delany, one of Garnet's associates, published a serialized work of fiction, Blake, or the Huts of America, presenting his dreams for an African nation, a Caribbean empire, and global unity among all African peoples. Under the nominal auspices of the African Civilization Society, Delany made a tour of West Africa and negotiated a treaty with the king of Abbeokuta. In the course of this pilgrimage he visited the missionary Alexander Crummell, the son of a West African father and an African American mother, born in New York and educated at Cambridge University in England. Crummell had migrated to Liberia in 1853 and published his first book, The Future of Africa (1862), an extensive contemporary defense of Liberian nationalism, calling on African Americans to accept responsibility for uplift of the entire continent. His associate Edward Wilmot Blyden, a native of the Danish West Indies, became the most prominent advocate of Pan-Africanism until his death in 1912. Blyden's publications included occasional reflections on what he called "the African personality," an amorphous expression of racial romanticism that was recycled more than once in the twentieth century. After the Civil War, Blyden, Crummell, Delany, and younger African Americans cooperated intermittently with the Civilization Society.
Pan-Africanism in the Twentieth Century
In 1900, Henry Sylvester Williams, a Trinidad barrister, organized in London the first meeting of Africans and Africans of the diaspora under the banner of Pan-Africanism, a term that appeared in related correspondence, although the meeting officially came to be known as the London Conference. Williams was apparently the first person to apply the term "Pan-Africanism" to what had earlier been called "the African movement." Alexander Walters and W. E. B. Du Bois were among the principal promoters of the conference in the United States. In 1919, Du Bois still used the term "African Movement" to denote "the redemption of Africa …,the centralization of race effort and the recognition of a racial fount." Later, Du Bois preferred the term "Pan-African," which he applied to a series of six conferences that he convened in the capitals of European colonial empires from 1919 to 1945.
African intellectuals meanwhile became increasingly prominent in the movement for black world solidarity. The Gold Coast intellectual Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford cooperated with Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, to organize a series of conferences on Africa. Heartened by the victory of Ethiopian troops over an Italian army at Adowa in 1896, Hayford published the novel Ethiopia Unbound in 1911, dedicated "to the sons of Ethiopia the world wide over." That same year, Mojola Agbebe, a Yoruba from Lagos, addressed the First Universal Races Conference in London, which was attended by Blyden and Du Bois.
The Pan-African sentiment of highly literate intellectuals was not disassociated from the consciousness of the masses. The historian Edwin S. Redeye found evidence that black peasants in the South were aware of such leadership figures as Blyden. The cultural historian Miles Mark Fisher has insisted that folk songs and folklore gave evidence of a continuing identification with Africa among the masses. Working people in the Midwest subscribed to an emigration project led by the Barbadian Orishatukeh Faduma and the Gold Coast chief Alfred C. Sam during World War I, although most of the migrants soon returned to the United States. In 1916, the year following the exodus led by Sam and Faduma, Marcus Garvey arrived in the United States from Jamaica to organize an immensely popular international movement for "Universal Negro Improvement." Garvey denied, with indignation, any linkage or continuity between Sam's movement and his own, and although his program contained a back-to-Africa component, his goal was to develop the international commercial and political interests of African peoples everywhere.
William H. Ferris, a collaborator with Garvey and an associate of Faduma, drew on his broad knowledge of African leadership on four continents to produce his magnum opus, The African Abroad or His Evolution in Western Civilization, Tracing His Development Under Caucasian Milieu (1913). Ferris was a member of the American Negro Academy, an organization with Pan-African membership, presided over by Alexander Crummell and including among its active and corresponding members Du Bois, Casely Hayford, Faduma, Edward W. Blyden, and other African and Caribbean intellectuals. Ferris and the formerly enslaved autodidact John Edward Bruce were a bridge between the American Negro Academy and the Garvey movement.
The Pan-African conferences, including that of 1900 and those organized by Du Bois in 1919, 1921, 1923, and 1927, were the forerunners of another, held in Manchester, England, in 1945, which focused on the promotion of African independence from European colonialism. The Pan-African Congress that met in Ghana in 1958 was no longer dominated by Americans and West Indians. African independence had been achieved in most of the former European colonies, and the movement focused on the political unification of the continent.
Although many of Pan-Africanism's twenty-first-century American adherents still thought of a movement for achievable economic and political goals, the ideology, for better or for worse, was not dominated by such concerns. Pan-Africanism had merged with "Afrocentrism," a semireligious movement, existing mainly on the sentiment level, among the many people who identified emotionally with black Africa and believed their own interests to be tied inextricably to its fortunes.
Geiss, Imanuel. The Pan-African Movement. Translated by Ann Keep. London: Methuen, 1974.
Langley, J. Ayodele. Pan-Africanism and Nationalists in West Africa, 1900–1945: A Study in Ideology and Social Classes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.
Makonnen, Ras. Pan-Africanism from Within. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford, 1973.
Mazrui, Ali A. The African Condition. London: Oxford, 1980.
Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism or Communism? The Coming Struggle for Africa. London: Dennis Dobson, 1956.
One catalyst for the rapid and widespread development of Pan-Africanism was the colonization of the continent by European powers in the late 19th cent. The First Pan-African Congress, convened in London in 1900, was followed by others in Paris (1919), London and Brussels (1921), London and Lisbon (1923), and New York City (1927). These congresses, organized chiefly by W. E. B. Du Bois and attended by the North American and West Indian black intelligentsia, did not propose immediate African independence; they favored gradual self-government and interracialism. In 1944, several African organizations in London joined to form the Pan-African Federation, which for the first time demanded African autonomy and independence. The Federation convened (1945) in Manchester the Sixth Pan-African Congress, which included such future political figures as Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah from the Gold Coast, S. L. Akintola from Nigeria, Wallace Johnson from Sierra Leone, and Ralph Armattoe from Togo. While at the Manchester congress, Nkrumah founded the West African National Secretariat to promote a so-called United States of Africa.
Pan-Africanism as an intergovernmental movement was launched in 1958 with the First Conference of Independent African States in Accra, Ghana. Ghana and Liberia were the only sub-Saharan countries represented; the remainder were Arab and Muslim. Thereafter, as independence was achieved by more African states, other interpretations of Pan-Africanism emerged, including: the Union of African States (1960), the African States of the Casablanca Charter (1961), the African and Malagasy Union (1961), the Organization of Inter-African and Malagasy States (1962), and the African-Malagasy-Mauritius Common Organization (1964).
In 1963 the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded to promote unity and cooperation among all African states and to bring an end to colonialism; it had 53 members by 1995. The OAU struggled with border disputes, aggression or subversion against one member by another, separatist movements, and the collapse of order in member states. One of its longest commitments and greatest victories was the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule in South Africa. Efforts to promote even greater African economic, social, and political integration led to the establishment in 2001 of the African Union (AU), a successor organization to the OAU modeled on the European Union. The AU fully superseded the OAU in 2002, after a transitional period.
See C. Legum, Pan-Africanism (rev. ed. 1965); R. H. Green and K. G. V. Krishna, Economic Cooperation in Africa (1967); J. Woronoff, Organizing African Unity (1970); I. Geiss, The Pan-African Movement (1974); P. O. Esedebe, Pan-Africanism (1982); C. O. Amate, Inside the OAU; Pan-Africanism in Practice (1987).
Pan-Africanism is an ideology and movement that encourages the solidarity of Africans worldwide. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent.
The ideology asserts that the fates of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core Pan-Africanism is “a belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny”.
Pan-Africanism stresses the need for “collective self-reliance”. Pan-Africanism exists as a governmental and grassroots objective. Pan-African advocates include leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar Gaddafi, grassroots organizers such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, academics such as W. E. B. Du Bois, and others in the diaspora. Solidarity will enable self-reliance, allowing the continent’s potential to independently provide for its people to be fulfilled. Crucially, an all-African alliance will empower African peoples globally. The realization of the Pan-African objective would lead to “power consolidation in Africa”, which “would compel a reallocation of global resources, as well as unleashing a fiercer psychological energy and political assertion ... that would unsettle social and political (power) structures ... in the Americas". United, African nations will have the economic, political and social clout to act and compete on the world stage as do other large entities, such as the EU and the USA.
Advocates of Pan-Africanism – i.e. “Pan-Africans” or “Pan-Africanists” - often champion socialist principles and tend to be opposed to external political and economic involvement on the continent. Critics accuse the ideology of homogenizing the experience of people of African descent. They also point to the difficulties of reconciling current divisions within countries on the continent and within communities in the diaspora.
As a philosophy, Pan-Africanism represents the aggregation of the historical, cultural, spiritual, artistic, scientific and philosophical legacies of Africans from past times to the present. Pan-Africanism as an ethical system traces its origins from ancient times, and promotes values that are the product of the African civilization and the struggles against slavery, racism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism.
Alongside a large number of slave insurrections, by the end of the eighteenth century a political movement developed across the Americas, Europe and Africa which sought to weld these disparate movements into a network of solidarity putting an end to this oppression. In London, the Sons of Africa was a political group addressed by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano in the 1791 edition of his book Thoughts and sentiments on the evil of slavery. The group addressed meetings and organised letter-writing campaigns, published campaigning material and visited parliament. They wrote to figures such as Granville Sharp, William Pitt and other members of the white abolition movement, as well as King George III and the Prince of Wales, the future George IV.
Modern Pan-Africanism began around the beginning of the twentieth century. The African Association, later renamed the Pan-African Association, was established by Henry Sylvester-Williams around 1887, who organized the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900.
During apartheid South Africa there was a Pan Africanist Congress that dealt with the oppression of Africans in South Africa under Apartheid rule. Other pan-Africanist organizations include Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League, TransAfrica and the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement.
Additionally, Pan-Africanism is seen as an endeavour to return to "traditional" African concepts about culture, society, and values. Examples of this include Léopold Sédar Senghor's Négritude movement, and Mobutu Sese Seko's view of Authenticité.
An important theme running through much pan-Africanist literature concerns the historical links between different countries on the continent, and the benefits of cooperation as a way of resisting imperialism and colonialism.
In the 21st century, some Pan-Africans aim to address globalisation and the problems of environmental justice. For instance, at the conference "Pan-Africanism for a New Generation" held at the University of Oxford, June 2011, Ledum Mittee, the current president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) argues that environmental justice movements across the African continent should create horizontal linkages in order to better protect the interests of threatened peoples and the ecological systems in which they are embedded, and upon which their survival depends.
Some universities have gone as far as creating "Departments of Pan-African Studies" in the late 1960s. This includes the California State University, where that department was founded in 1969 as a direct reaction to the civil rights movement, and is today dedicated to "teaching students about the African World Experience", to "demonstrate to the campus and the community the richness, vibrance, diversity, and vitality of African, African American, and Caribbean cultures" and to "presenting students and the community with an Afrocentric analysis" of anti-black racism. Syracuse University also offers a masters degree in "Pan African Studies".
The Pan-African flag was designed by Marcus Garvey and is known as "The Red, Black, and Green". This flag symbolizes the struggle for the unification and liberation of African people. The "red" stands for the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, "black" represents the color of the skin of the people of Africa, and "green" stands for the rich land of Africa.
Sometimes the green, gold, and red of the Ethiopian flag are used as the colors of the Pan-African movement. According to some sources, this is because Ethiopia was not colonized during the Scramble for Africa and has maintained a sovereign state for over 2,000 years. Ethiopia is the headquarters of the African Union and several institutions concentrated on the African continent. Sebujja Katende, ambassador of Uganda to the AU said Ethiopia is considered as "the grand father of Africa."
The four Pan-African colors—red, black, green, and gold—have inspired the flags of many nations, both within and outside of Africa.
Maafa is an aspect of Pan-African studies. The term collectively refers to 500 years of suffering (including the present) of people of African heritage through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression. In this area of study, both the actual history and the legacy of that history are studied as a single discourse. The emphasis in the historical narrative is on African agents, as opposed to non-African agents.
Afrocentric Pan-Africanism, as espoused by Kwabena Faheem Ashanti, in his book The Psychotechnology of Brainwashing: Crucifying Willie Lynch. Another newer movement that has evolved from the early Afrocentric school is the Afrisecal movement or Afrisecaism of Francis Ohanyido a Nigerian Philosopher- Poet. Black Nationalism is sometimes associated with this form of pan-Africanism; a representative of Afrocentric Pan-Africanism in the Spanish-speaking world is Professor Antumi Toasijé.
During the past three decades hip hop has emerged as a powerful force shaping black and African identities worldwide. In his article “Hip-hop Turns 30: Whatcha Celebratin’ For?,” Greg Tate describes hip hop culture as the product of a Pan-African state of mind. It is an “ethnic enclave/ empowerment zone that has served as a foothold for the poorest among us to get a grip on the land of the prosperous,”. Hip-hop unifies those of African descent globally in its movement towards greater economic, social and political power. Andreana Clay in her article “Keepin’ it Real: Black Youth, Hip-Hop Culture, and Black Identity” states that hip hop provides the world with “vivid illustrations of Black lived experience” creating bonds of black identity across the globe. Hip hop authenticates a black identity, and in doing so, creates a unifying uplifting force among Africans as Pan-Africanism sets out to achieve.
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