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George Padmore


George Padmore was a Pan African revolutionary born in Tacarigua. He was baptized with the name, Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse. His father James Nurse was a senior agricultural instructor and the son of a former slave. Padmore graduated from a private school in Trinidad in 1918 and began a career as a reporter for the Weekly Guardian newspaper. In 1924, he emigrated to the USA where he hoped to pursue a medical degree. In 1925 he enrolled at Fisk college, in Nashville Tennessee but could not complete his degree due to raging Klu Klux Klan activities, which included killings burnings, lynching and pillages. In 1927 he transferred to Howard University Law School, a black university, where he rapidly became a student leader and a well known orator. According to one of his professors, Metz Lochard, Padmore was immensely admired by both faculty and students and was a favourite speaker.

As a student leader Padmore organised several protest on campus including a demonstration against the visit of the British Ambassador, Sir Esma Howard to the University. In 1928 Padmore joined the Communist Party and adopted the name he is commonly called, as nom du plume or cover for his political works. One year later he accepted the invitation from the Moscow based Communist International Committee to visit Moscow. The Soviet Union then was regarded by many intellectual blacks as a safe haven and a place of racial tolerance and a positive force for the liberation of blacks world wide. Padmore received a one way ticket to Moscow, much to his surprise, since the invitation was intended for a visit, but it was apparent that the Comintern intended him to stay abroad. Padmore's dedication to the Communist cause was such that he withdrew from Howard University and emigrated to the Soviet Union and as destiny would have it, he never set foot in the USA again.

In Moscow Padmore was appointed the Secretary of the International Trade Union Congress of Negro Workers, a Soviet Union agency that was devoted to promoting revolution in the black world. Later he was transfer to Vienna from where he travelled extensively, recruiting leaders for the African liberation movement.  By 1943, with a shift in Soviet Policy towards rapprochement with Great Britain and France against the Nazi threat in  Germany, the anti-colonialist support from Moscow lost momentum as Moscow softened her stand on anti-colonialism  and consequently, Padmore was directed to discontinue his anti-colonialism work. He refused and was expelled from the Comintern and the Communist Party. He became a strong critic of Stalin, but he never lost faith in the Soviet Union. In his book published in 1947 on How Russia Transformed her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to Imperialist Powers, Padmore  claimed that national and cultural independence and political unity among multi-racial and national group is possible only along the lines of a socialised planned economy. In 1935 when Padmore moved to London, he quickly established himself as a leading spokesman and writer for anti-colonialist sentiments in Africa and around the World. He wrote numerous books and articles on the African liberation struggle for independence amongst which were How Britain Rules Africa published in 1936, Africa and World Peace published in 1937  Africa: Britain's Third Empire published in 1939 and Pan Africanism or Communism published in 1956.

In 1939 just before the outbreak of the War, Padmore established the International African Service Bureau which condemned all the European powers equating them to the Nazi invasion of Europe to colonial occupation of Africans. In an article he wrote the same year, he claimed that the British Empire was the worst racket yet invented by man. During the 1940s' Padmore moved more towards Pan Africanism and strongly advocated for the unification of Africa into a single country. He was indeed instrumental in the founding of the Pan African Federation (PAF) which in 1945 organised the first All Coloured Peoples Conference in Manchester England. This meeting was attended by many young African activists and nationalist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, and Kamuzu Hastings Banda. These leaders dedicated their lives at the Conference, to the liberation of Africans in their respective countries. It was during this period that Kwame Nkrumah developed a close relations with Padmore and when, the Gold Coast, now Ghana became independent under the leadership of Nkrumah, Padmore was invited to serve in the new government as Chief Adviser on African Affairs to Nkrumah. This drew considerable opposition from the Ghanaian elite, who disliked the special privileges conferred on Padmore. ll-health and exhaustion finally took their toll on Padmore's long life of dedication to the cause of liberation and unity of Africa. He returned to England and died in 1959. From the above brief description of Padmore's life one can conclude that he was indeed a visionary, a revolutionary, a communist anti-class advocate and a Pan African liberationist who will remain in the annals of history as one of the leading if not the most important canon of Pan Africanism as a liberation ideology.

Dr W.E.B. Dubois


Dr William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is among the founding fathers of Pan Africanism . While Henry Sylvester Williams, a Trinidad barrister, organized in London the first meeting of Africans and Africans of the diaspora under the banner of Pan-Africanism, in 1900, which officially came to be known as the London Conference,  W. E. B. Du Bois  and Alexander Walters organised the concurrent Conference in the United States. In 1919, Du Bois still used the term "African Movement" to denote "the redemption of Africa ,the centralization of race effort and the recognition of a racial fount." Later, Du Bois preferred the term "Pan-African," which he applied to a series of six conferences that he convened in the capitals of European colonial empires from 1919 to 1945.

The first congress was held in Paris in February 1919 attended by 15 countries of which nine came from Africa. The second was held in September 1921 and was divided into three sessions based in Paris, Brussels and London. The third congress was held in 1923 based on two sessions held in London and Lisbon and the fourth congress was held in 1927 in New York. These congresses were largely spearheaded by Du Bois and were mainly attended by Africans from the Diaspora and African students then studying in Europe and the US. These congresses served as a platform for these intellectuals of African descent to address the conditions of Africans in Africa and in other parts of the world and as seen in the declarations and resolutions that emanated from them, they addressed issues of equality, racism, the  issue of land ownership, right to education, end to economic exploitation, recognition of human rights and political emancipation. These concerns were contained in a letter written by Du Bois during the first Pan African Congress to the Queen of England and other rulers in Europe appealing against racism and to grant responsible government to the Black colonies in Africa and the West Indies.

Du Bois also demand political rights for Blacks in the US and in this document he asserted his famous statement that "the problem of the world is the problem of colour bar". Du Bois had never doubted Africa will be ruled by Africans one day and hoped that the continent will be united under one government. In the second congress of 1921, the London session drafted what became known as "London Manifesto" or "Declaration to the World", asserting the fundamental rights of black People. Du Bois was in deed a giant in the Pan African Movement. He was intensely involved in academic research on the social conditions of the African-American and with this primary concern, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) . To Dubois the struggle of the Black man was to attain justice. Consequently he succeeded in internationalising the struggle of the black man in Africa and those in the Americas, including those in the West Indies. When Ghana became independent  Du bois was invited to Ghana by Nkrumah to work on the project on Encyclopedia Africana. He stayed in Ghana for the rest of his life.

Marcus Garvey


Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica where he spent his early life. He is perhaps the most famous amongst the early pioneers of Pan Africanism. Having being hounded in his native land by the British colonial administrators for his radical agitation for black liberation, through his organisation, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Garvey migrated to Harlem in New York where he continued the promotion of this movement. In the 1920s, UNIA had numerous branches around the black world in the Diaspora in some forty countries, making it the most formidable Pan African movement of the time, based on a strong sense of black nationalism. Through this organisation Garvey promoted the idea of the Back to Africa Movement. This movement was distinctively mass based and was fundamentally propagated on the principles of strong commitment to black nationalism and the use of radical militancy to achieve black freedom.

As Garvey himself stated, it was Booker T. Washington's book, Up from Slavery that inspired him to be a leader for the black race. In his famous book The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, or, Africa for the Africans Garvey states that he could not find anywhere were a black man's government, or kingdom, or president, or country, or ambassador, or army, or navy, or businessmen exist. He therefore pledged to make them. At UNIA's international convention in 1920, Garvey presented the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, In the Declaration of Rights Garvey states " We believe in the freedom of Africa for the negro people of the world and by the principles of Europe for the Europeans, and Asia for the Asians, we also demand Africa for the Africans at home and abroad". Garvey promoted the idea of separatism for to him the black man can never be free or gain equality in a world dominated by the white race. By 1920, Garvey was been talked of as the Black Moses who has arrived to take his people back to the Promised Land. He established a newspaper called the Negro World which became the most widely read African paper in the world.

Garvey realised that there can be no political power without economic power. He therefore established the Negro Factories Corporation which employed some thousand people and the Black Star Line, a shipping company that carried passengers and cargo from the US to the Caribbean. His desire was to make the negro world economically independent. Of course this was regarded as sacrilegious in the white world of business and commerce. His philosophy for the liberation of the African was base on three principles namely; Race first, Self-reliance and Nationhood. This became foundation pillars of  Pan Africanism as a race and liberation ideology. Of course Garvey could not get away with such a decisive attack on white domination. He was finally persecuted by the imperialists, charged for corruption, and declared bankrupt. In 1922 the U.S. government arrested and jailed Garvey for five years and deported him from the US back to Jamaica in 1927, thus ending UNIA as an effective organisation in the US. Garvey passed away in London in 1940, having left a legacy of resistance in the Pan African movement. His radicalism did not endear him to other more moderate Pan Africanists as Du Bois who declared him a threat to the Pan African Cause and a liability to the race.  Marcus Garvey however left a legacy which inspired and continues to inspire Africans and people of African descent all over the world.


The author of this article Dr Alieu B S Taal is a  Senior Lecturer at the University of the Gambia where he lectures several subjects in Political Science and Management Studies. He holds a Ph. D degree from Massey University, in Palmerston North, in New Zealand, M.A. and B.A. Honours degrees from New England University, Armidale, New south Wales, Australia. Dr Taal held several  positions in the Government of the Republic of the Gambia including Under Secretary of State Ministry of Information and Tourism Secretary General of the UNESCO National Commission, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Permanent Secretary Office of the President. Dr Taal is a Commonwealth Fellow and had worked as a consultant for the Commonwealth Secretariat as well as a member of the Donors on African Education. Dr Taal made this paper presentation at the Roots Homecoming Festival symposium held in Banjul on Friday, February 4th, 2011.

 Dr Alieu B. S Taal B.A. (Hons) M.A. Ph.D


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