Pan-Africanism : What is Pan-Africanism?


going above and beyond
I'm ignorant about Pan-Africanism and want to learn about it. I've been seeing the term used a lot here in various threads and my lack of understanding prevents me from commenting on it. So I thought I'd come here hoping to find out more about it. But I don't see anywhere that defines it and explains what it means, how the concept got started, basic principles, philosophy, etc.

I could seek and probably will, information on the web but I thought I'd start my search here.



Well-Known Member
Hey NN, now you know if you wanted an explanation of PanAfricanism, all you had to do was ask me. Here it goes:

In all honesty there is not a set definition of Pan Africanism, you can't find a definition in Webster's Dictionary. Pan Africanism is an idea. Pan Africanism grew out of 19th century efforts to end slavery and the slave trade. At this time blacks worldwide were being oppressed. Slavery existed in America, South America, and the Carribean. Also the colonization of Africa (born out of the Berlin Conference of 1884 & 85) had begun. As a result of these events black people world wide began to realize that they faced common problems (slavery, colonization, and racism), and that it would be to their benefit to work together in an effort to solve these problems. Out of this realization came the Pan African Conferences of 1900 (London), 1919 (Paris), 1921 (London, Brussels, Paris), 1923 (London), 1927 (New York), and the last official one was in 1949. Some of the most influential blacks of the time participated in these meetings: Slyvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, etc. The belief that people of African descent throughout the Diaspora (meaning spread throughout the world) share a common history, culture, and experience and should stick together. This belief is the principle idea behind Panafricanism. Bringing black people throughout the world together because of our common culture. Panafricanism can be expressed through history, literature, music, art, film, clothing, and food. I hope this helps


going above and beyond
Hey PA...*lol*...well, like I said, it really wasn't until I saw so many references being made to it in some posted messages throughout the different forums here that I realized if I wanted to respond intelligently, I'd better learn more about it.

Yes your explanation makes a lot of sense, so much so that now I'm really curious as to what has happened since the 1949 conference. With such an admirable ideology why hasn't this concept, not only been sustained, but spread throughout the African American community and embraced more widely? Is there more to it than you had time to share that has caused people to question Pan-Africanism? You've listed some of the pros, now, knowing how objective you can be PA, what are some of the cons?


Well-Known Member
I don't have much time so I'll be short with this response.

The continued progress of the PanAfrican Conferences were slowed by the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement in America (1950), and the renewed movement for Indepence in Africa (most of the countries in Africa would achieve their independence in the late 1950s & 60s). In other words the major participants of the PanAfrican conferences became consumed with changing the social structure in their own countries and ceased to work together worldwide.

So to answer your question NN, I guess a shortcoming would be that with PanAfricanism it can be difficult to decide whether to concentrate more heavily on solving the problems around you or the problems effecting blacks worldwide. Also a new Pan African group was formed in the 1990s: the New Pan-African Movement (PANAF). They hold periodic meetings by African heads of state and development officials to attempt to fix African problems. They officially meet in 1991 (Ivory Coast), and 1993 (Gabon). They are headed by the Rev. Leon Sullivan, and endorse free trade, domocratization, and an international solution to the politicial problems of blacks. However they are not that high profile (I haven't heard anything from them in quite awhile).


Lyon King Admin.
see i didn't know all dis here so i learn something today


Well-Known Member

To hip you to some of the more sublime things about Pan-Africanism as I know them and teach them.

Pan-Africanism can also be socialist or capitalist or based on communalism.

Pan-Africanist can be followers of Garvey, who believed in the idea of an African Empire, more capitalist.

Pan-Africanist can be more like Dubois and Nkrumah who believed in scientific socialism.

Pan-Africanism can also incorporate the many veins of Afrocentrism, or the Negritude movement [what Afrocentrism was called in Africa back in the 60's].

Pan-Africanism incorporates all these ideologies and more.

The main thrust of Pan-Africanism, is that you are thinking in terms of the African Diaspora [ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE WORLD] and the mother Continent[ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE WITH IN AFRICA].

Pan- just means ALL.

All-Africans or All of Africa and her children, no matter where they are in the world.

For me when I say I am Pan-African these are the things that I believe that I mean.

1. I believe that all Black Children deserve a Black Education.
2. I believe that Black Americans should plan to return to Africa.
3. I believe in economic segregation for Africa.
4. I believe in family ownership of land not private and not public.
5. I believe that we should concern ourselves with basics.
6. I believe that Black People need to be humble and unify.
7. I believe that God gave Africa to Black People.

Of course I am also a fan of the Bible. So I believe Jesus when he said "love your enemies", he did not mean PRETEND you do NOT have any enemies.

If you do not have enemies, how can you love them?

My belief of the purpose of Black Americans in America is best shown by one of my favorite Black Americans Christians. He was killed by White People.

Will the Lord suffer this people to go on much longer, taking his holy name in vain? Will he not stop them, preachers and all? O Americans! Americans!! I call God--I call angels--I call men to witness that your destruction is at hand, and will be speedily consummated unless you repent." The words of David Walker, the Bostonian son of a free mother and slave father, were as much a threat as they were a jeremiad. His 76-page pamphlet, Walker’s Appeal ... to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), marked the beginnings of a new abolitionism--and the beginnings of a rift between white and black antislavery movements. Nervous reactions "They want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us," Walker wrote of southern slaveholders. "Therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed . . . and believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty; in fact the man who will stand still and let another man murder him is worse than an infidel." Walker had never been a slave, but having been born in Wilmington, North Carolina, he knew its horrors. He had once seen a son forced to whip his mother to death. As a devout Baptist with a deep knowledge of the Bible, he believed the Old Testament God who violently freed the Israelites would free "the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived." The Boston clothier was also fluent in the rhetoric of the American Revolution, quoting Thomas Jefferson at length. For Walker, the Declaration of Independence, which affirmed the right of revolution, justified blacks’ rising against their oppressors. Thus they could act confidently: "Never make an attempt to gain our freedom or natural right, from under our cruel oppressors and murderers, until you see your way clear--when that hour arrives and you move, be not afraid or dismayed; for be you assured that Jesus Christ the king of heaven and of earth who is the God of justice and of armies, will surely go before you. And those enemies who have for hundreds of years stolen our rights and kept us ignorant of him and his divine worship, he will remove." Southern whites were horrified by "the diabolical Boston Pamphlet." They passed laws forbidding blacks to read, banned the distribution of all antislavery literature, and offered rewards of up to $10,000 for Walker’s arrest.

For me Pan-Africanism is two fold. What we are going to do to secure that Africa is never attacked again in the future. And what we are going to do, to improve our humble home and our people in Africa.


going above and beyond
Crunchy, what an amazing dissertation. Thank you for the lesson. I hope you will continue to share your knowledge and perspective with us. I have a question.

Panafrica wrote: "Also a new Pan African group was formed in the 1990s: the New Pan-African Movement (PANAF). They hold periodic meetings by African heads of state and development officials to attempt to fix African problems. They officially meet in 1991 (Ivory Coast), and 1993 (Gabon). They are headed by the Rev. Leon Sullivan, and endorse free trade, domocratization, and an international solution to the politicial problems of blacks. However they are not that high profile (I haven't heard anything from them in quite awhile)."

Do you know anymore about this that you can share?

Also, you wrote about several different ideologies Pan-Africanism can be based on. So are you saying that there are different Pan-African groups that are based on all the various ideologies? There's no single Pan-Africanists group under a single ideology, mission or purpose?


Well-Known Member
Great reply CrunchyStuff, and nice to meet you. To answer NN again:

There are different ideologies (or different approaches) to PanAfricansim. If for no other reason this is a reflection of the different cultures & economic structures of the various countries in the world where people of African Descent live. Each country, each ethnic group, each nationality (African, African American, African Carribean, African European, etc.), has a different perspective to bring. Many Pan Africanist are socialist, and the debate whether socialism or capitialism is most beneficial to the improvement of black people worldwide is one of the hottest debates among Pan Africanist. These are the types of issues that are better discussed at a Pan African Conference like those of the early 1900s, which is why I would personally like for them to continue.


Well-Known Member

The idea hasn't been allowed to propogate because largely we (Africans and the descendants of Africans world-wide) have been kept splintered and inundated with the "us" and "them" ideology. The best war stragedy has and always will be divide and conquer. As long as we are kept divided-we can and will continue to be conquered.
Also, with the post Civil Rights covertness (is that a word?) of rasicm and discrimination less and less of us see THE WHITE MAN as a common enemy. As more and more of us "move up the ladder" and "vacate the inner cities" and "master higher learning" we think about a time when it was illegal for Blacks in this country to learn how to read and mistakenly think we are farrrrrrrr removed from those days. When in actuality we own less (homes, businesses, land) but are spening more and that misused wealth blankets us in a false sense of entitlement and achievement. Don't get me wrong---we have come a long way BUT we still have a long way to go.


Well-Known Member
The Reverend Leon Sullivan is dead. The UN has worked with the ideas of the Reverend Leon Sullivan. I just got that information off the web about him.

I did not know anything about him before PanAfrica mentioned him. Let me explain why.

I am not interested in a Pan-African agency that puts pressure on GM and Ford and Citibank and Kmart to do the right thing. I think that is virtual lunacy. So I have never investigated this group.

That group is a perfect example of Capitalistic Pan-Africanism.

That said. In an effort of unity. I do not think this group harms Africa or Africans because they are more or less working from within the framework that we have been handed. As far as they are concerned the West, meaning America and Europe run the world and control the currency and money and business in Africa. Thus they pressure these groups to treat Africans better.

While all of that is true, and one has to appreciate what they are doing and give them respect for it. What they want is only a step in the right direction. Nobody should attempt to stop them but there must be among us those who dare to dream on an independent Africa. An Africa that sets the price and value of it's own currency. An Africa where GM and FORD and SHELL and CitiBank and Kmart, are community partners, not antagonistic foreign vultures, who take goods out and cash out and put nothing back, as they are now, and as they would continue to be under Rev. Sullivan's vision. Rev. Sullivan would only add a few more goodworks, In otherwords GM might help build some roads.

Of course this is frustrating to me, because I have seen what these companies do when they say they are helping the African communitys that they extract raw materials from. One company in Nigeria claimed that it had really helped the community by putting in water and roads. Unfortunately most do not understand that those were roads to and from the company so that they could extract the goods and that the water is used as a weapon against the workers, if they strike or try to get a union, the water is turned off and the community now dependent on the water is made to suffer, unless they give into the company.

So community works by these big multi-nationals is a "bandaid" on the big bloody wound but still it is something more than nothing, which Africa was previously getting. Mr. Sullivan's heart is in the right place, he was just naive or maybe he is not naive and knows the deal but decided that was all he could get.

There are many Pan-African socialist movements and by far at the grassroots level, Pan-African socialism is the most popular. You would need to look up the writings of Nkrumah, one of the best Black minds that God ever graced the Black race with. Truly one needs to read this man just to be enlightened.

However that said, Nkrumah is dead and most of the Pan-African socialist movements have grown past his thinking, while building on the sure and strong foundation that he laid.

There is a singularity of Pan-Africanism in that it is pro-Black People the world over with an overriding concern for Africa.

That "Pro-Black People" is the central and most functional ideology of Pan-Africanism and it is most important. Do keep in mind we live in a world where some Black People are not Pan-African and they write books and articles about "how blacks are racist", "thank God we were slaves, because I would hate to have been born in Africa", and "Africa is poor because it is not Christian".

When you have Blacks that hateful of their Black Roots, and Africa. Then of course the central ideology of Pan-Africanism as stated above is much more important than it might seem at first.

So yes there is a single Pan-African ideology, mission and purpose.

That said, within the bounds of Pan-Africanism, there are many different views of how we shall go about changing Africa for the better. I believe in Unity and would allow for all of them, as stepping stones if nothing else. That is why I extend respect for the Rev. Sullivans and for the Scientific Socialists. However I am of the Communalism strain of Pan-Africanism. I do not believe that Socialism nor Capitalism differ that much in that they both "do business" with the Western Powers and as such, both will be marginalized in the world whether the world is capitalist or socialist. [right now it is capitalist].

Both of those Pan-African ideology's have at their center a cental materialistic basis. As a Christian, I could careless if we sell 1 item or 10,000 items. I see a continent where we all work for everybody else. Meaning we concentrate on digging wells, and laying down road, and building houses or huts and educating our people.

I am not interested in making sure that Africans are on the internet, or have the latest gadgets from the west. I do not believe that medicines from the west have ever been that helpful to Africans. So I would not sweat the loss of those either. I do not believe that western style education and information systems have made enough of an impact in Africa to justify a continued slave/master relationship with the west.

Some people fear disconnecting from the west because they fear losing technology, medicine and education from the west, they believe that Africa needs these things. So they want to continue to do business with the west whether they are socialist of capitalist.

I trust in God and believe the Bible, when it says that I have given to each race [Nation] what it needs.

I believe in a Africa that can sustain itself but first must get the basics settled. Food, Water, Housing.

All of this is within Africa. Africa does not need anybody to obtain these things. Development under a capitalist or a socialist system proceeds in an uneven and thus far to date not very useful way because those in control of Africa do not seem to understand the very simple proverb: You must crawl before you can walk.

Sorry this was so long. Smile.