Pan-Africanism (Part I): Meaning and Origins of the worldwide Black emancipation movement

Destiny of Africa should lay in the hands of its children


 UNIA Flag

Pan-Africanism is the belief that the destiny of Africa should lay in the hands of its children. The movement preaches unity and solidarity between black people and descendants of slaves worldwide. It states that all people from the African diaspora should go back to the motherland to help develop it and chase colonial powers and their influence out of Africa. It is an answer to the centuries of struggle and suffering African people had to bear, a response to colonialism and enslavement.

The main idea of the movement is that solidarity between Africans leads to social, economic and political progress of the continent, raising us above the inner conflicts we know and have known to achieve unity and progress. Unity and solidarity is the condition sine qua non for Africa to finally get its complete independence and make real use of its potential without serving the interests of the white world, which impose another type of servitude on our continent. Self-reliance between Africans worldwide would give us the opportunity to fully exploit ourselves the potential of Africa and provide for each of our people.

This idea naturally gave birth to the project of the creation of all-African united nations to finally have the power to compete on the world scale against the oppressing powers, like European Union or the United States. The meaning of Pan-Africanism is to find the strength within ourselves to raise above the divisions of our countries, origins or communities so we can unite around Africa and take our destiny in our hands and compete against the white world!

Origins of the movement

 Henry Silvester williams

The concept of Pan-Africanism was originally defined in the beginning of the 20th century by the Trinadarian author Henry Sylvester-Williams as the necessity of an African unity on all the continent and a fight to end the stealing of lands of the colonies by the colonial powers and to get independence for the oppressed black nations. In 1919, the first Pan-African conference was organized by the Afro-American writer Dr W.E.B Du Bois in Paris, France to publically ask again for African countries’ independence. It gave birth to several Pan-African congresses all over Europe and in the United States. Another side of the Pan-African ideas raised under the name of the Back to Africa movement. Initiated by the great Jamaican journalist Marcus Garvey, it conveyed the idea that the African descendants should go back to their ancestral lands to gain emancipation. Marcus Garvey created the UNIA movement to promote his ideas and it drew followers from everywhere in the world, becoming the most successful African-American movement in history.

Pan-African congress of Paris, 1919

After the Second World War, the 5th Pan-African congress was held in Manchester. It had so much success and brought so many Africans from the continent that it helped fuel the numerous independence movements that raised all over Africa. The 1st President of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, gathered the leaders of all the African independent nations in Accra in 1958 to state that they support independence of all the other countries of the continent, even if force must be used. In 1963, the first Pan-African League was created under the name Organization of African Unity to finally give the occasion to the voice of the continent to be heard worldwide.


While waiting for the Part 2 of the Pan-Africanism articles series, check our Pan-African T-shirts collection to learn more about great Pan-African leaders and pay them tribute!



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