Pan Africanism

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Pan-Africanism and the Organization of African Unity


 Pan Africanism Definition

Pan-Africanism is a sociopolitical worldview, and philosophy, as well as a movement, which seeks to unify both native Africans and those of the African Diaspora, as part of a "global African community".

            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 struggles against slavery, racism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism.

Pan-Africanism is usually seen as a product of the European slave trade, rather than as something arising in the continent of Africa itself.  George Shepperson described it best by saying, "Pan-Africanism was the gift of the New World of America to the Old World of Africa".  Enslaved Africans of diverse origins and their descendants found themselves embedded in a system of exploitation where their African origin became a sign of their servile status. Pan-Africanism set aside cultural differences, asserting the principality of these shared experiences to foster solidarity and resistance to exploitation. In reality, African American and Afro-Caribbean Pan-Africanists often adopted contradictory positions that belied their universalist Pan-Africanist aspirations.

The idea and notion of Pan-Africanism was floating around for many years and could be seen and expressed in poems before 1900 called the Negro Spirituals.  This dream gradually morphed into a dynamic ideology for social political action.  Author S.O Arifalo credits Henry Sylvester Williams a man of West Indian heritage whose contact and meetings with a large number of West Africans during his undergraduate studies in Britain with coining the phrase 'Pan-Africanism" 

W.E.B. Du Bois

One of the most celebrated and popular advocates for Pan Africanism in the United Sates was W.E.B. Du Bois, whom played a pivotal role in the Pan-African Conference of 1900.  Du Bois a very articulate and renowned prolific writer had the vision of educating blacks about the hopeless conditions of the black world and to protest against white exploitation of the black people. DuBois objected to the return of African-Americans to Africa. DuBois believed that African-Americans had too large a stake in the United States, having made what he considered to be remarkable contributions to American society in the sciences, in the arts, and in business. Despite supporting the independence of African states DuBois believed that African-Americans were better off living in the United States. Perhaps he saved us from a conflict like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. DuBois felt that the major problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color line and what better place to learn to deal with it than in a racist United States of America. He believed that the only way to deal with whites was to learn how to compete with them on a level playing field by developing a “talented tenth” of African-Americans who went to the best schools and could hold their own against any race. With this very talented leadership Blacks would gain respect from whites that they deserved reasoned DuBois. DuBois wanted to delay full independence for Africans until they were “fully modernized.” DuBois felt that this talented tenth could also help Africa to modernize and develop. DuBois believed firmly in racial integration not racial separation. To him the future of African-Americans depended upon their ability to integrate into mainstream American life and culture. His double consciousness made him want to integrate into American culture and support African independence at the same time. DuBois envisioned a “unity of mankind” growing out of a “unity of the Negro race

Marcus Garvey

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