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Pan-Africanism - Pan-africanism In The Early Twentieth Century

black garvey west world

World War I brought thousands of African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Africans into contact with one another. The exigencies of war also led the imperial powers of Europe—Britain, France, and Germany—to train and employ colonial subjects in crucial industries while, as colonial combatants, many others saw firsthand the depravity that a supposedly superior European civilization had produced. Colonial soldiers also pointed to the racism implicit in being asked to fight to "make the world safe for democracy" when this world would not include them, a suspicion confirmed for many when the Allies refused to include a guarantee against racial discrimination in the League of Nations charter following the war. As a result, the interwar years witnessed an unprecedented growth in a sense of racial unity and the popularity of black internationalism.

Marcus Garvey.

The most famous Pan-Africanist movement of the period was Garveyism. After struggling for some time to attract an audience in his native Jamaica, Marcus Garvey emigrated to Harlem in 1916, where he and a young, educated Jamaican woman, Amy Ashwood (who later married Garvey), relocated the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.; founded 1914) on firmer footing. The U.N.I.A. quickly became the largest African-American organization in history due, in large part, to the diligent work of black women in the movement, especially West Indian emigrants like Ashwood and Marcus Garvey's secretary and second wife, Amy Jacques (1896–1973).

The apogee of the U.N.I.A.'s success was probably its international convention in 1920, at which Garvey presented the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, demanding "self-determination for all peoples" and "the inherent right of the Negro to possess himself of Africa." Garvey's hubris—in declaring himself "the provisional president of Africa," for instance—and autocratic leadership, however, cost him important friends and supporters, and his flair for ostentatious public spectacles and inflated expectations led many leading African-American writers and scholars, for example, Alain Locke (1885–1954) and DuBois, to decry him as a liability to the race. With most of his commercial enterprises like the Black Star shipping line failing or already bankrupt, in 1922 the U.S. government arrested and jailed Garvey for five years before deporting him in 1927, effectively ending the organizational life of the U.N.I.A. in the United States. Nevertheless, Garvey's life and work left a powerful legacy around the African diaspora, and his ideas have reappeared in many guises, from the violent labor clashes in the Caribbean during the 1920s and 1930s to the more millenarian form of Garveyism that developed in South Africa.

Pan-Africanist literary and cultural movements.

The interwar period also witnessed the flowering of a number of Pan-Africanist literary and cultural movements, especially in New York, London, and Paris, and the emergence of a trans-Atlantic periodical culture. In the United States, the New Negro movement of the 1920s, better known as the Harlem Renaissance, not only drew attention to the work of African American artists but also displayed distinct Pan-Africanist sensibilities. Writers like James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) inspired others around the Atlantic, for example, the Nardal sisters from Martinique (Paulette, Jane, and Andrée, who ran a salon out of which came La Revue de Monde Noir [The Journal of the Black World] edited by Paulette Nardal and Léo Sajous) and Una Marson from Jamaica (1905–1965; the first major woman poet of the Caribbean and a playwright), to assert positive images of blackness while experimenting with stylistic innovations, often informed by black musical forms like the blues. Yet, the New Negro movement was not solely a literary or artistic movement: Pan-Africanist political organizations, including the explicitly communist African Blood Brotherhood, can also be seen as manifestations of it.

Pan-Africanists and communism.

However, it was across the Atlantic in Britain—where by the mid-1930s a key group of West Indian and African radicals had assembled—that communism and, particularly, the recent of success of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) had its greatest impact on Pan-Africanist activists and intellectuals. The Trinidadians George Padmore (1902–1959) and C. R. L. James (1901–1989) were most significant in this regard. Padmore served as head of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers and editor of its monthly newspaper, the Negro Worker, and James was an internationally known Trotskyite.

Growing awareness of Stalin's abuses in the Soviet Union and, more importantly, the apathy with which the governments of Europe and the League of Nations greeted Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Haile Selassie's pleas for intervention ultimately led them both to split from the Communist Party and foreground Pan-Africanism in their political and intellectual work. In 1938, James published two important books of Pan-African history, the Black Jacobins and A History of Negro Revolt. Both situated contemporary anti-imperialist struggles in Africa within a larger tradition of resistance stretching back to slave uprisings in the New World. As James explains in a revealing footnote that he later added to the Black Jacobins, "such observations, written in 1938, were intended to use the San Domingo revolution as a forecast of the future of colonial Africa."

James formed the International African Friends of Abyssinia in 1935 along with Padmore, Amy Ashwood Garvey, the Trinidadian musician and journalist Sam Manning, Ras Makonnen (1892–1975) from British Guiana, the Sierra Leonean trade unionist I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson (1895–1965), and the future president of postcolonial Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta (1889–1978). The group soon became the International African Service Bureau and published a series of short-lived but important journals: Africa and the World (July–September 1937), African Sentinel (October 1937–April 1938), and International African Opinion (July 1938–March 1939).

Sojourners from Africa and the Caribbean created a number of other organizations in interwar Britain, most notably the West African Student Union (WASU) and the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP). Harold Moody (1882–1947), a West Indian doctor who was outspokenly anticommunist, founded the latter as an interracial association with the intention of fostering greater understanding and cooperation across racial boundaries. A small group of law students from West Africa, led by Ladipo Solanke (1884–1958), established the WASU to challenge racial discrimination and racist representations in Britain. However, they were also encouraged by the example of the National Congress of British West Africa under the leadership of J. E. Casely Hayford (1866–1930), which envisioned the creation of an independent "United States of West Africa." The LCP and the WASU also published two significant mainstays of the black British press during the period, The Keys and Wãsù (Preach), respectively. Though initially neither was radical politically, by World War II both organizations had begun to call for an end to British colonial rule in Africa and the Caribbean, and the WASU's local hostel in particular had become an important clearinghouse for Pan-Africanist ideas. In fact, several members of WASU went on to become prominent politicians in postcolonial Africa.

Pan-Africanism in France.

Though they have received far less attention in the extant literature, students, writers, and activists from the Francophone Antilles and French West Africa also developed a distinct form of Pan-Africanism, or internationalisme noir (black internationalism), in Paris between the wars. After serving in World War I, the ambitious lawyer and philosopher Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houenou (1887–1925) from Dahomey founded the Ligue Universelle pour la Défense de la Race Noire (International League for the Defense of the Black Race), which published the first black newspaper in France, Les Continents, during the second half of 1924. The Martinican novelist René Maran (1887–1960) also played a major role in the paper as both an editor and writer.

However, the most well-known expression of black internationalism in interwar France was the literary and philosophical movement known as Negritude. The Martinican poet Aimé Césaire coined the term during 1936–1937. In addition to Césaire, the work of Léon-Gontran Damas (1912–1978) and Léopold Sedar Senghor (1906–2001) are usually credited with establishing and defining the movement. Yet, Negritude emerged within a broader spectrum of Pan-Africanist activities, from the Senegalese communist Lamine Senghor's (1889–1927) Comité de Défense de la Race Nègre (Committee for the Defense of the Black Race), which was founded in 1926 and published the short-lived journal La voix des nègres.

Women's contributions to Pan-Africanism.

The essential contributions of women to the development of both Anglophone and Francophone forms of black internationalism were overshadowed by their male contemporaries and have fared little better in scholarship on Pan-Africanism. Recently, however, the feminist-inflected Pan-Africanism of Jamaican women—Amy Ashwood Garvey, Una Marson, and Claudia Jones (1915–1964)—and West African women such as Constance Cummings-John (1918–2000) and Stella Thomas has received more attention. Likewise, the crucial role of the Martinican Nardal sisters in initiating and articulating internationalisme noir in Paris—as illustrated, for example, by La revue du monde noir—is only beginning to be acknowledged. Moreover, as Brent Hayes Edwards points out, historians have failed to recognize the ways in which various formulations of Pan-Africanism and, more specifically, the Negritude movement were implicitly gendered.

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