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  • 1. Africa and Its Descendants A History of Blood, Oppression, Reliance, Vision and Blackness S. Scott & Paul Andrew Bourne 9/30/2013
  • 2. Scott & Bourne Pan-Africanism implied a struggle for human dignity as well as national freedom, recognition of the community of interests and necessity for mutual assistance and co- operation between men of African descent wherever they may be found over the world. Ultimately, it is a vision of the united struggle of all the world’s improvised oppressed peoples of the world, expanding in scope to cover the peasants of Asia and Latin America as well as the blacks of the Caribbean and North America. Gibson, 1972 Only a united Africa can redeem its past glory, renew and reinforce its strength for the realisation of its destiny. Nkrumah, The construct of Pan-Africanism is more than a legacy of people recognizing their place in societies, charting a path to reclaim equality and braving the tides to see its materialism. It is an ideological formation or socio political view that sees Africans and their descendants abroad (primarily those located in the West Indies and the United States) as a single body or entity fighting or struggling for a universal good. According to Kadalie (2000) the concept of Pan- Africanism came into prominence as a part of the anti-colonial struggle that had its roots within political activism that spans more than a century. The entire history of Pan-Africanism since 1900 reflects the endeavor of Africans to establish some form of unity as a bulwark or fort against the inroads which persons of European origins had made into their lives. Shepperson (1969) maintains that Pan -Africanism sought to restore the status of Africans as well as those in the Diaspora who have sought to rise from centuries of the degradation that begun with the transatlantic slave trade continued with colonialism and heightened with racism and race consciousness. Pan Africanism, even in its embryonic stage, was international in its character. According to Lewis et al (1994) this was a movement that was brought into being by 2
  • 3. Scott & Bourne Africans in the western world long before it would have any deep roots into the African continent itself. For this reason it was described by Thompson (1969) as a “gift of the New World of America to the old world of Africa”. Thompson maintains that Africans in the Diaspora nurtured the idea until Africans at home were prepared to install it in their hearts and later on their continent. Mathurin (1976) asserts that this idea of uniting all Africa had its greatest development early in the 20th century. The Pan-Africanism became popularized by the West Indian barrister Henry William Sylvester. Its permanency however was achieved when Williams lent it to his Pan-African conference held in London in 1900. This meeting attracted attention and put the word “Pan-African” in the international dictionary for the first time. Williams saw it necessary to give black people across the world an opportunity to discuss the issues they faced. He saw the need for “a body of Africans in England representing native opinion in national matters affecting the destiny of the African race” To fulfill this need, Williams founded the African Association on September 24, 1897. According to Mathurin the stated purposes of the association were to encourage a feeling of unity and to facilitate friendly intercourse among Africans in general, to promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part, in British colonies and other places, especially in Africa, by circulating accurate information on all subjects affecting their rights and privileges as subjects of the British Empire, by direct appeal to the Imperial and social government. Mathurin states that as a result of the activities of the African Association and under its aegis a call was issued as early as 1898 for the 1900 conference in London that currency to the concept of Pan-Africanism. In fact, Williams had conceived of the idea of 3
  • 4. Scott & Bourne a world conference of black people long before the formation of the African Association. There was apparently a steadfast campaign by humanitarian interests against the conditions of Africans around the world. Williams reasoned that if the English man could be so interested in protecting those who were neither their kith nor kin, why should not they, young men and women of African descent from the West Indies and the United States form an organization or movement to speak for those who were unable to speak for themselves. In essence Williams encouraged that Africans unite to do for themselves what he believed no “others” could do for them, no matter how noble their intentions may be. Thompson maintains that as a forum of protest, the conference showed that Africa had begun jointly, through some of hers sons, to make her voice heard against the excess of Western European rule. Mathurin states that the meeting of these men of African descent, of varying backgrounds and from scattered lands indicated their common interest in the destiny of their oppressed brethren and their readiness to make common cause in an effort to protect and uplift them. Through the Pan African congresses, Afro- Americans, Afro Caribbean’s and Africans were brought into close touch with one another and endeavored to hammer out common policies and give a picture of unanimity to the world. The first conference assembled between 23 and 25 July 1900 and saw 30 delegates, most of who were from America and the West Indies. The aims of the conference included first, to act as a forum of protest against the aggression of the white colonizers. Second, to appeal to the missionary and the abolitionist tradition of the British people to protect the Africans from the depredations of Empire Buildings. Third, to bring 4
  • 5. Scott & Bourne people of African descent throughout the world into closer touch with each other and to establish more friendly relations between the Caucasian and African races and finally to start a movement looking forward to the securing to all African races living in civilized countries, their full rights and to promote their business interests. Mathurin asserts that the conference originally had been designed to combat “the widespread ignorance prevalent in England about the treatment of the native races under European and American rule” and specifically those in South Africa, West Africa, the West Indies and the United States. Williams’s 1900 conference remained essentially the model for the latter Pan-African conferences organized by the distinguished African American scholar W.E.B Du Bois co founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and later by George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah. Du Bois convened his first Pan-African Congress in Paris in 1919. The congress was held at the same time as the Paris Peace Conference, at which European powers negotiated the aftermath of the war. The agenda of the first Pan-African Congress resembled that of the 1900 conference in its concern for the plight of Africans and people of African descent. Significant emphasis was placed on the provision of education for Africans and the need for greater African participation in the affairs of the colonies. Lewis et al (1994) asserts that the Pan African movement caught the imagination of Africans because of the socio-politico psychological climate that existed there. By 1920, the whole African continent except Ethiopia and Liberia had been parceled out among European colonial power (sanctioned by the Berlin Conferences of 1884 & 1885). Africans had been bought to the reality of colonization with its racial intolerance, economic exploitation, and social injustice. Thompson notes that the notion of the “dark 5
  • 6. Scott & Bourne continent” was a European concept that first emerged from sheer ignorance and later from European Imperial ascendancy in Africa. As a result, the African became the “white man’s burden”, just as the African of the Diaspora. The “Negro” after emancipation in the western world became a “problem”. As such they were therefore receptive to any movement which sought to emancipate them from European subjugation. African race consciousness thus generated became one of the early manifestations of Pan-African ideology at its inception (Thompson 1969). The general African attitude to European Colonialism and Imperialism was resentment against some of its ugliest socio-political features which included forced labour, double standards of justice, denial of opportunities, taxation without representation, racism, social segregation, the pass law (a hated symbol of servitude) and land alienation (Thompson 1969). These issues were rampant not only amongst native Africans but also amongst those born and living in the United States and the Caribbean. Segregation amongst races had become even more pronounced in the United States than ever before. This was especially so after the US Supreme Court established the doctrine “separate but equal” after the case of Plessey vs. Ferguson in 1896. These new laws (often referred to as Jim Crow laws) essentially maintained that Afro-Americans were to have equal facilities as the whites because they were also “human” however these facilities should, at all times, be separate so as to not upset the status quo. Davis (1977) maintains that the laws were an attempt by Southern American states to systematically codify in law and state constitution the subordinate position of African Americans in the society. The most important laws required that facilities like public schools, seating on buses and trains, parks, waiting rooms and lavatories be kept separated. In reality, this led 6
  • 7. Scott & Bourne to treatment and accommodation that were almost always inferior to those provided to white Americans. Significantly the laws gave rise to organizations like the Klu Klux Klan (comprising of racist whites) seeking to control the political and social welfare of African Americans. Klan terrorism, lynching and voting restrictions made a mockery of the Afro- American rights granted by the 13th 14th and 15th amendments passed after the civil war. The general sentiment was that American law betrayed its white citizens by attempting to place these non- white servants on equal footing with them. Though the level of discrimination in the Caribbean was not as devastating as in the United States (because of limited white population that resided there) Afro- Caribbeans faced socio- political conditions of oppression, depression and subjugation of their own. The consequences of World War 1 (1914-1918) raised serious concerns among blacks in the United States and the Caribbean. The main issues were the well-being of African American and African soldiers who had served in the war and the status of former German colonial territories in Africa that had been captured during the war by Britain, France, and other Allied powers. According to Lewis et al, the post World War I years found the Caribbean colony of Jamaica in crisis. There were strikes in a number of parishes primarily among dock workers, railways employees and labourers on sugar and banana estates, who were protesting working conditions and calling for more wages. Large numbers of oppressed black people in Trinidad and Tobago participated in a series of violent challenges against British colonialism. The disturbances were precipitated by a strike of dock workers in Port-Of-Spain however racial tensions had been simmering for some time. Black 7
  • 8. Scott & Bourne members of the British West Indian Regime (BWIR) were most eager to fight at the beginning of the World War 1 however maintains Martin (1983), black soldiers suffered massive blows to their dignity and their physical well-being. They were confined for most of the war to fatigue duty, menial labour, carrying ammunition under heavy fire and garrison duty. Back soldiers saw some of their comrade’s die from neglect in white run hospitals. After the war, promised remuneration and benefits was either inferior to those of white troops or non existent. It was the years following World War 1 that witnessed the great expansion of the Garvey movement in the United States, the Caribbean and parts of Africa, the basis of which was to be found in these severe conditions of exploitation and oppression to which the African people were subjected (Martin 1983). Du Bois 1919 conference placed specific interest in the African territories belonging to the conquered German colonial empire. It was proposed that these territories be held in trust by the newly founded League of Nations (known today as the United Nations) with the goal of granting the territories self-determination as soon as possible. Nevertheless, the territories were placed under the nominal supervision of the league, which distributed the territories to other European colonial powers without demanding that the new colonial rulers move the territories toward self-determination. The next Pan-African congresses sponsored by Du Bois were held in 1921 (in London, Paris, and Brussels, Belgium), 1923 (in London and Lisbon, Portugal), and 1927 (in New York City). These congresses were attended by increasing numbers of representatives from the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. These Congresses created the context for black intellectuals, political leaders and reformers to continue challenging the prerogatives and power of white colonialism. 8
  • 9. Scott & Bourne In conclusion, the Pan African idea- the concept of black race pride solidarity and initiatives in the face of white exploitations and domination- long predates Williams, going back atleast to the nineteenth century. Thompson holds that its earliest exponents were frustrated and race proud members of the westernized black elites in the Americas and later in the West Indies. Amongst his predecessors are the Afro-Americans Paul Cuffee, Martin Delaney and West Indian Edward W. Blyden and the African Dr. J.B. Africanus Horton, just to name a few. Williams was the first Pan- Africanist as not only did he invent the term but also because more than any of his predecessors he strove to give organizational form to the Pan-African idea. Indeed in the history of Pan Africanism, Williams’s concern for establishment of local branches of Pan-African Association throughout the black world was emulated and surpassed only by Marcus Garvey and his United Negro Improvement Association. Martin maintains that Garvey founded and led the largest Pan-African movement in history. After combining the best qualities of the men before him, Garvey used his vision, his organizing ability and his staying power to spread the greatest African message of unity ever. Today Pan-Africanism remains an essential democratic vision, to deconstruct and uproot the inequalities of racism; to challenge the capitalist "New World Order" represented by the International monetary fund (IMF), the World Bank, and more recently by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and their effect on developing third world countries like those in Africa and the Caribbean. Pan-Africanism remains vital as a political framework bringing together the collective perspectives of people of African descent in our eternal struggle to assert and to affirm all humanity. Our struggle for the empowerment of the African world is, as W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, "the last 9
  • 10. Scott & Bourne great battle of the West." (Manning,1995). Despite DuBois vision of Blackness, Oppression, Equality of the Races and a place for the Marginalized, he did not see Garvey as critical to the struggle, movement, vision and protection of the legacy of Africa and the Africans. Both men disagreed on the path to travel to for the equality of the Blacked skin, which expressed the divisiveness between these two influential Black men. The Blackness, Equality, Vision, Oppression, and Reliance of the Africans are still challenged daily, while some slumber because of complacency the crosses are different but many and vision of the predecessors must be rekindled among those who sleep as them are lost in the ‘Ideas’ of the masters, the imperialists and colonizers. 10