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African Nationalism

By claudski80 Jun 03, 2013 1289 Words
Essay 2: Critically discuss and analyze the different influences on, and the expressions of, African nationalism between the two world wars.

There were various types of influences on Africa, which encouraged nationalism. The uniting of the continent brought on a movement called Pan- Africanism, although never succeeding in uniting all of Africa, it also brought up some of the most violent outbreaks against each other’s tribes and problems. Besides these devastating events, there have been some accomplishments where nationalism has played a positive role. Thomas Hodgkin states that African nationalism is “a process of profound social, economic and political change” (1957:216). What can be derived from this statement is that it is a state of continual transformation and struggle to gain the position of a free and independent country.

The movement for political freedom went through various stages and struggles, which were directly affected by colonialism. Africans sought to overthrow European governments, gaining access to all resources which belonged to that nation. Africans also wanted to gain independence from these governments, building new nation states which belonged to the people of that country, initially struggling for many years to resist the pressure of colonialist invasion. African nations tried to gain power and regain their nation as new independent nation states, fighting for freedom. This was partly a product of the global prevalence of “nation–states as the dominant political forms of the time” (Falola, 2002). Restoring old political order was not the agenda for the freedom movement, instead it was to win independence from colonialism and transform them into postcolonial nation-states. African nationalism was internally generated, internally organized and directly aimed at achieving success in the movement for freedom. Leaders of the freedom movements, some of which later went on to become leaders of the independent nation- states, were known as the ingelligentsia. They were responsible for bringing together and mobilizing various nationalist groups, spearheading formation of political pressure groups and broad nationalist parties. Many of these leaders were educated in western countries and had an upper hand in understanding the way a government was ruled, for example in Europe. Although they did not demand an end to colonial rule after WWI, they were still part of forming African Nationalism. The role they played in government was minimal due to the ratio of white to black seats, despite of this; they had a vision for their nation to be as modernized as any other European country (class notes, 3/04/2013).

Africa, as a continent played an important role in WWI. Africans were used as troops, as well as carriers, they filled in anywhere and everywhere they were needed. Africans were very much part of the war as every other European colonialist that was fighting for their country. The insurance of African involvement was secured through recruiting, paying the recruited attractive wages and active recruitment by the Europeans (Class Notes, 3/04/2013). Africans felt dominated by the colonialists through exploitation of their resources, forced labour, low wages and social segregation (Falola, 2002), yet opportunities were endless for Africans. For example government seats that were left open due to Europeans joining the army, were taken over and occupied by Africans, this lead to Africans becoming directly critical of how colonialist ruled their nations and in turn, demanded participation in their government. Thus also lead to the need for independence, inspired by President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, striving for self- determination and the creation of a League of Nations to ensure democracy. WWI laid the foundations for African Nationalism, which would lead to movements such as negritude and Pan – Africanism (Class notes, 3/04/2013).

For movements to form, such as Negritude, its leaders felt it necessary to take pride in “blackness” and embrace their traditional African values and culture, mixed with undercurrent Marxist ideas. Formed in Paris, led by intellectuals and poets by who marked its rejection of European colonization and its role in the African Diaspora. “Negritude”, meaning “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture” coined by Cesaire (1939).Negritude encourages pride in black identity and culture, resisting French racism (Class notes, 3/04/2013). Thus it is the movement that has remained influential throughout the twentieth century and present to this day (Kesteloot, 1991). Pan –Africanism is the movement in which one sets aside cultural, religious and ethnic differences in the liberation of advancing to achieve a common goal. African intellectuals such as Edward Blyden had an aim to build ‘Black Africa’, encouraging Pan – African unity and developing a nation for all Africans to be united. The idea that one black man is oppressed, whilst the other is free, came across as the universal view of Pan- Africanists in America and the Caribbean, relating to Africans on the African continent. Du Bois, an organiser of several Pan-African congresses. Resolutions to African equality and African democracy should take place, was decided at congresses, such as Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the second in 1921 which lead to the formation of the Pan- African Association. These conferences brought intellectuals and Africans who wanted to see equality flow throughout nations (Class notes, 3/04/2013).

Garvey’s “Universal Negro Improvement Association” (2005:9), spread in the 1920’s due to militant Pan- Africanism (Falola, 2002). Garvey was a forerunner in promoting ‘Africa for Africans.’ Garveyism played a crucial part in the development of African nationalism (Class notes, 3/04/2013). He described himself as the ‘Provisional President of Africa’ (Okoth, 2006). He was successful in spreading the idea of independent African churches as an instrument of African liberation, thus negro-churches grew bigger and became famous for their ideas and views of unity and equality, spreading quickly and interweaving their ideas with Pan- Africanism. Their mindsets became stronger as their unity grew stronger about religion, for example Africans felt that their values were different to the western values, which were forced upon them in the colonies. Polygamy is not practiced in Europe and thus caused even more separation between Europeans and Africans, in understanding the African culture, as a Nigerian pamphleteer argues “In England (polygamy) is regarded as an offence against the state. I dare suggest reasons for this. The English woman is very jealous of love and does not like to share her husband’s love with another. Our women are not like this” (Okoth, 2006).

Finally, their purpose in working together was to overthrow European colonial domination, gain independence and build new nations, which compromised of communities that stood for unity , as well as forming international community’s which evolved into movements in which these communities growing need for equality. The product of African nationalism was the product of the imaginative conceptions and practical struggles of Africans for freedom (Falola, 2002). African unity and independence of Africans, is the movement of which African nationalism was formed and how it came to being. Thus being an ideological basis on which the African movement could build a foundation for their struggle against colonial rule (Class notes, 3/04/2013).

Bibliography
Falola, T. (red.). 2002. Africa: Volumes 3-5. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press. GES 210 class notes [Powerpoint slides]. 3 April 2013.
Hodgkin, T. (1957). The Analysis of African Nationalism. Quarterly journal of political science, 10(3), 216. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2009501?uid=3739368&uid=2134&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102077566857 . Kesteloot, L. 1991. Black Writers in French: a Literary History of Negritude. Washington D.C.: Howards University Press. Okoth, A. 2006. A History of Africa. Kenya: East African Educational Publishers Ltd.

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