Pan-Africanism is the call for the unity of all the African peoples of the world. Pan-Africanism is simply the struggle for the unity of Africa.
Pan-Africanism started long ago during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era. It started as a reaction by the Africans, particularly the African American scholar, against the evils of the slave trade in particular and racism in general. Pan-Africanism started as the African American subset of the overall Abolitionist movement. The pioneer Pan-Africanists realized that a concerted effort of unity among all people opposed to the evils of slavery and racism were necessary for the success of the fight against the twin evils of slavery and racism, hence the movement and ideology that has become known as Pan-Afrcansism today. The horrors of slavery were so ghastly that even the White people and the free slaves could not help being part of that Abolitionist movement.
The need for the Pan-Africanist movement has always been around since when the Black man was first oppressed and exploited by the White man. And the philosophy of Pan-Africanism, that is the need for all the oppressed African peoples to unite in the fight against their oppressor have always been there right from the beginning but it was towards end of the 19th century that the plans for the formalization of Pan-Africanism became possible. Such was it that in 1900 William Sylvester, from the Caribbean, was able to convene the First Pan-African Conference in London.
The First Pan-African Conference in London was a great success for the struggle against the oppression of the Black man. At that First Pan-African Conference, and for the first time in modern history, Africans and people of African descents and also White people were able to come together at a respectable and world standard conference to discuss the plight of the Black man and the way forward.
At that First Pan-African Conference the evils of slavery and racism were extensively discussed and the need to check the evils of imperialism and colonialism were also voiced by Black and White intellectuals. Furthermore, Afrocentric scholarship, best exemplified by Reverend Edward Wilmot Blyden’s writings, was officially promoted and broadcasted to an international audience for the first time.
In any case that First Pan-African Conference in London, attended by intellectuals and activist from all parts of the world, was a great success as it for the first time informed the world about the fact that the Black people are now united in their vigorous fight for the emancipation of Africa and the Africans in all parts of the world.
That First Pan-African Conference popularized Pan-Africanism both as a movement and as a philosophy. And it also gave great momentum to the fight for the liberation and emancipation of the Black people in all parts of the world.
That First Pan-African movement also gave a new generation of Africans in all parts of the world a new worldview to imbibe and hold on to in the struggle against imperialism and racism. That was what led to emergence of W.E.B. Du Bois who became a prominent and paramount figure in the Pan-African movement.
Du Bois, and American, was the founder of the NAACP, or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and together with a group of likeminded friends and colleagues he was able to effectively fight against racism in the USA.
During the time of the First World War Du Bois and other African Americans were greatly concerned about the plight of the African soldiers who were employed in the warfronts to fight what they termed the White man’s war, It was in this regard that in 1919, that is immediately after the Great War, Du Bois convened the First Pan-African Congress in Paris.
That First Pan-African Congress convened in 1919 by W.E.B. Du Bois in Paris was another towering success story for the Pan-African movement. It was attended by a large number of influential delegates from all parts of the world.
Moreover that First Pan-African Congress in Paris was skillfully timed to take place at the same time that the Paris Peace Conference was taking place in Paris. The European Great Powers have gathered in Paris for the Paris Peace Conference in order to decide how to consolidate their colonial possessions in the aftermath of the Great War and the fact that the First Pan-African Congress was also ongoing simultaneously in Paris did had some psychological effect on the Great Powers as regards their decisions regarding their colonial possessions in Africa.
Delegates at the First Pan-African Congress spent a great part of the conference discussing the need for the Great Powers of Europe to bring their imperialism and colonialism to an end by granting self-rule or independence to their African colonies. Particularly the issue of the colonial possessions of Germany, which was defeated in the Great War, came about. Delegates to the First Pan-African Congress insisted that the colonial possessions of Germany should be handed over to the newly formed League of Nations which should work for the immediate independence of these colonies.
In any case that First Pan-African Congress was a great success and it actually led to W.E.B. Du Bois convening more and more such Pan-African Congress in the following years 1921, 1923 and 1927. Du Bois series of Pan-African Congresses gave great boost to the Pan-African movement and went a great way in popularizing the Pan-African movement in all parts of the world but particularly in Europe and North America.
But at around this same time, in the 1920s, an unprecedented boost came to the exceedingly popularize the Pan-African movement from an unexpected and unlikely source, name, from the ‘Back to Africa’ movement of Marcus Garvey.
Marcus Garvey , from Jamaica, came to the USA on the invitation of Booker T. Washington but arrived America only after the death of his great mentor. Garvey the formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association and being a gifted orator and a skillful organizer was able to almost instantaneously mobilized Black America into one of the largest and most successful civil rights movements ever in the history of America.
The success of Marcus Garvey lies greatly in the fact that his targeted audience and membership was the poorer masses of the Black Americans at the grassroots level. In contrast to the rather elitist movements of W.E.B. Du Bois and other Black intellectual activists, Marcus Garvey’s appeal was to the poor Black Americans at the grassroots level. And this grassroots Pan-Africanism immediately became a popular and massive success in contrast to the elitist Pan-Africanism that had been the born hitherto. Marcus Garvey had in effect popularized Pan-Africanism by bringing it down to the grassroots level.
But when Marcus Garvey’s brand of grassroots Pan-Africanism became too great, too large and too success for the American establishment, the FBI and other security authorities framed Marcus Garvey up and had him arrest, tried, jailed and eventually deported back to Jamaica. And with this crushing humiliation and debilitation of Marcus Garvey came about the death and end of this swooping brand of the exceedingly popular grassroots Pan-Africanism.
But by the time that Marcus Garvey was being shoved out of the way by the American authorities Marcus Garvey’s grassroots Pan-Africanism have already established Pan-Africanism as a popular movement in all parts of the world. By that time, and thanks to the efforts and populairy of Marcus Garvey, the Pan-African movement had become too well-established to be extinguished forever. Particularly by that time a number of students from West Africa and schooling in Europe, and particularly in London, have formed the West African Student Union or WASU which had begun to effectively train future African leaders in the details and complexities of Pan-Africanism both as a movement and as a philosophy.
Furthermore, Marcus Garvey’s movement had given rise to, in its wake, the Harlem Renaissance which was another major sub-movement of Pan-Africanism that saw to the emergence of a new and vigorous struggle by African Americans, particularly those in the neighbor of Harlem in New York, against the evils of American racism.
Marcus Garvey’s movement had also ramificated in Europe into the birth of the Negritude movement which is nothing but the French version of Pan-Africanism. Negritude was spearheaded by Leopold Senghor who was to become the President of Senegal later on.
But it was in the 1940s that Kwame Nkrumah, then a student in America, formed the African Students Organization… [to be continued]