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Pan-africanism After World War Ii And Postcolonialism

Coming as it did immediately after the upheavals of World War II, the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester marked a watershed in black internationalist activities around the Atlantic. Though ostensibly under DuBois's guidance, it was organized primarily by socialist Pan-Africanists in Britain, especially George Padmore, and was the first Congress to include a significant number of Africans like Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972), who served as assistant secretary and joint secretary, respectively.

Following the Manchester Congress, the site of Pan-Africanist activities shifted from the United States and Europe to the colonies in the Caribbean and, particularly, Africa. In fact, many of the key figures in the movement—DuBois, Padmore, and Alphaeus Hunton—relocated to Africa during this period. In 1956, Padmore's classic Pan-Africanism or Communism? appeared, and in 1958 Nkrumah hosted the first All-Africa People's Conference at Accra in the wake of independence from British colonial rule in 1957 and the creation of an independent Ghana.

In the postcolonial era, the nature of Pan-Africanism and the problems facing Pan-Africanist projects changed dramatically. For the first time, Pan-Africanism became a broad-based mass movement in Africa and enjoyed its greatest successes as an international liberation movement in the first two decades after the war. Through his rhetoric and, most importantly, his example as president of independent Ghana, Nkrumah dominated this period in the history of Pan-Africanism. The context of the Cold War profoundly shaped the struggle for independence in Africa, as it did global politics in general, but in spite of his commitment to Marxism, Nkrumah avoided taking sides in the East-West Cold War and, instead, emphasized African unity. As some historians have noted, the All-Africa People's Conference at Accra in 1957, attended by some 250 delegates, established the basic tenets of Pan-Africanism for decades to come: the attainment of political independence, assistance to national liberation movements, diplomatic unity between independent African states at the United Nations, and nonalignment. As Nkrumah asserts in I Speak of Freedom, "a Union of African states will project more effectively the African personality."

In 1963, due primarily to the efforts of Nkrumah, President Sékou Touré (1922–1984) of Guinea, President Modibo Keita (1915–1977) of the Republic of Mali, and Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in the midst of decolonization and the euphoria of independence in West Africa. However, economic neocolonialism and the limits of political independence quickly extinguished the optimism of the immediate postcolonial period, leading Pan-Africanist scholars like the Trinidadian historian Walter Rodney (1942–1980) to reevaluate the long-term repercussions of the Atlantic slave trade and European imperialism for Africa. The 1960s also witnessed a number of intra-African disputes between newly independent states, many of which were precipitated by border issues inherited from colonialism.

Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism.

Another significant feature of the postwar period was the convergence of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism, which had hitherto remained distinct movements in North Africa. Traditionally, Pan-Arabism focused on North Africa's historical links to the east, to the Arabian Peninsula and the Fertile Crescent, while sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism looks across the Atlantic to African descendants in the Americas. Moreover, religion (Islam) enjoys pride of place in Pan-Arabism as the basis of the perceived unity of the Arab world, but loosely defined cultural similarities and "racial" solidarity or, in Nkrumah's words, a distinctive "African personality" underlie Pan-Africanism.

The flowering of anti-imperialist, nationalist movements in North African after World War II, and especially the Egyptian revolution of 1952, however, signaled the emergence of a fusion of the two movements. Initially, this resulted principally from the political vision of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970), who succeeded Muhammad Naguib (1901–1984) as Egypt's leader. He maintained that his country had historically occupied the center of three concentric circles—the Arab world, the Muslim world, and Africa—and argued on this basis that Egypt should not remain indifferent to liberation struggles in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite his exaggeration of the importance of Egypt to Africa's future, the appearance in 1959 of his book, The Philosophy of Revolution, marked an important moment in the intersection of the Pan-Arab and Pan-African movements.

The triumphant resolution of the Suez Crisis in 1956 also enhanced Nasser's international standing, making him a source of inspiration and a symbol of the larger struggle to free Africa and the Arab world from European hegemony. The pioneering works of the Senegalese historian and politician Cheikh Anta Diop (1923–1986), such as The Cultural Unity of Black Africa (1963) and The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality (1974), which resituated Egyptian history within its larger African context, represent another important intellectual manifestation of this moment in the history of Pan-Africanism.

The final, bloody years of the Algerian war of independence (1954–1962) also strengthened ties between Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism. The anticolonial war in Algeria had originally split intellectuals and politicians in Francophone Africa, due largely to the special status accorded the territory as a legal part of France. This began to change, however, after Ghana's independence in 1957 when Nkrumah, an outspoken proponent of the Algerian cause, became the new state's first president. In addition to Nkrumah's Ghana, Guinea and Mali joined the predominately Arab, pro-Algerian Casablanca Group, and Nkrumah became the first sub-Saharan African leader to support Arab nations in denouncing Israel as a "tool of neocolonialism" in Palestine when he endorsed the Casablanca declaration.

After Algeria gained its independence in 1962, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) emerged as the primary agent of Arab-African cooperation after 1963. Many then interpreted the June War of 1967 between Arabs and Israel as an attack on a member of the OAU and an occupation of African territory by Israeli forces, which only served to strengthen the importance of anti-Israeli sentiment as a basis for Arab-African solidarity. By the time of the October War of 1973 between Arab nations and Israel, politics in the Middle East and Africa were more intertwined than ever due to the nearly unanimous severing of African states' diplomatic ties to Israel.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPan-Africanism - Origins And Development Of Pan-africanism, Transnational Pan-africanism, Pan-africanism In The Early Twentieth Century