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Nationalism in Africa


A major advance in African nationalist movements came with the Pan-Africanist movement. Though its roots were in early abolitionist movements, Pan-Africanism, which sought to unite Africans and overcome ethnicity by stressing the similarities and connections among all Africans, blossomed in the early twentieth century. Originally led by blacks in America, Britain, and the Caribbean, the movement did not initially fully represent the needs of Africans, but blacks throughout the world came to view themselves in a position similar to those of others of African descent in Britain, the United States, and throughout Latin America.

The two most notable leaders of early Pan-Africanism were Marcus Garvey (1887–1940) and W. E. B. DuBois (1868–1963). Garvey, whose outspoken nature attracted many followers, believed that blacks would never be treated as the equals of whites in America and must return "home" to Africa if they were to be free. DuBois, who had earned a doctorate in history from Harvard in 1896, may be the greatest Pan-Africanist intellectual ever. He argued that Africa had a glorious past and that Africans had deeply influenced Western civilization. He believed that Africa had to be freed from colonial rule if African Americans were to be liberated, and his work sought to end the caricatures of blacks as the "clown of history, football of anthropology, and the slave of industry" (p. ix).

The Great Depression hurt Africa greatly. Employment, especially in rural areas, was scarce. Many migrated from the countryside to urban areas, and the populations of cities swelled. These areas became overcrowded and poverty was rampant. The European powers were ill-equipped to combat these developments because resources and attention were focused on World War II. This furthered discontent and Africans became more disorderly. Bolstered by the influx of returning soldiers, nationalist movements throughout Africa were energized. By the 1940s, nationalist movements were becoming more radical, and Africans everywhere began to protest colonial rule as they increasingly realized how wrong and oppressive it was.

As the century progressed, the nationalist movements began to attract more people and to wield more influence. Leaders who could relate to and represent more than one group or class became household names and heroes. These leaders mobilized "the people" rather than a select few or one ethnic group. Obafemi Awolowo (1909–1987; Nigeria), Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972; Ghana), Jomo Kenyatta (1889–1978; Kenya), Julius Nyerere (1922–1999; Tanzania), and Nelson Mandela (b. 1918; South Africa) belong to this new generation of leaders who successfully reached out and enlisted the support of their countries' population.

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 marked a turning point in African history. Ethiopia was Africa's only truly independent nation. The invasion radicalized African nationalist movements and caused Africans to see themselves as peers and comrades in similar struggles. In general, they felt that Ethiopia symbolized a free, proud, civil, and successful Africa. As long as Ethiopia remained free of colonial domination, many believed that their dream of freedom and independence remained alive and achievable. If Ethiopia fell, however, then the hope for an independent Africa would die with it. Africans across the continent rallied to support Ethiopia, and blacks around the world attempted to supply both military and financial support for the Ethiopian cause.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotideNationalism in Africa - Development Of African Nationalism, Pan-africanism, African Nationalism After World War Ii, Postcolonial Nationalism In Africa