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 European Union 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 that 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 around 1887 by Henry Sylvester-Williams, 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.
Political parties and organizations
- Organisation of African Unity succeeded by the African Union
- African Unification Front
- African Democratic Rally
- All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party (Ghana)
- Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa)
- Ubuntu Republics of Africa
- The Pan-African Affairs Commission for Pan-African Affairs, a unit within the Office of the Prime Minister of Barbados
- The Council on African Affairs - founded in 1937, by Max Yergan and Paul Robeson, the (CAA), was the first major U.S. organization whose focus was on providing pertinent and up-to-date information about Pan-Africanism across the U.S., particularly to African Americans. Probably the most successful campaign of the Council was for South African famine relief in 1946. The CAA was hopeful that, following World War II, there would be a move towards Third World independence under the trusteeship of the United Nations. To the CAA's dismay, the proposals introduced by the U.S. government to the conference in April/May 1945 set no clear limits on the duration of colonialism and no motions towards allowing territorial possessions to move towards self-government. Liberal supporters abandoned the CAA, and the federal government cracked down on its operations. In 1953 the CAA was charged with subversion under the McCarran Act. Its principal leaders, including Robeson, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alphaeus Hunton (1903–70), were subjected to harassment, indictments, and in the case of Hunton, imprisonment. Under the weight of internal disputes, government repression, and financial hardships, the Council on African Affairs disbanded in 1955.
- The Us organization was founded in 1965 by Dr Maulana Karenga, following the Watts riots. It is based on the synthetic African philosophy of kawaida and the Nguzo Saba. In the words of its founder and chair, Dr. Karanga, "the essential task of our organization Us has been and remains to provide a philosophy, a set of principles and a program which inspires a personal and social practice that not only satisfies human need but transforms people in the process, making them self-conscious agents of their own life and liberation." Us is perhaps best known for creating Kwaanza and the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles.
Pan-African concepts and philosophies
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.
- Pan-African Congress
- List of topics related to Black and African people
- African Diaspora
- African American
- Africana womanism
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- The History of Pan Africanism, PADEAP (Pan African Development Education and Advocacy Programme).
- See e.g. Ronald W. Walters, Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora: An Analysis of Modern Afrocentric Political Movements, African American Life Series, Wayne State University Press, 1997.
- "Sculpting a Pan-African Culture in the Art of Négritude: A Model for African Artist".
- Oxford University African Society Conference, Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, 5 May 2012.
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- Tate, Greg. “Hip-hop Turns 30: Whatcha Celebratin’ For?” Village Voice. 4 January 2005.
- Clay, Andreana. “Keepin’ it Real: Black Youth, Hip-Hop Culture, and Black Identity.” In American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 46.10 (2003): 1346-1358.
- African Union
- African Code Unity Through Diversity
- A-APRP Website
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- Pan-Africanism and the Politics of Liberation by Hakim Adi