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Map of the current member states of the African Union
Marcus Garvey, important thought leader of radical Pan-Africanism
WEB Du Bois, major pioneer of moderate Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism (Greek prefix πᾶν pan 'everything') means “the unity of all African people worldwide, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality”, i. H. of the people whose ancestors were dragged from Africa by force through the Atlantic and Arab enslavement and now live in the USA, the Caribbean and Latin America and also in parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

The most important centers of Pan-Africanism were London , New York and Paris . From here, "Colonial Bulletins" were launched to African newspapers to provide information about current European, and less often American, events and laws.

Definition of terms

There is no clear and precise definition for Pan-Africanism and it is like z. B. with the term sociology , difficult and perhaps impossible to define it at all in a short form. This is mainly due to its various manifestations, which is why the whole complex of Pan-Africanism can best be mastered through a differentiated description of the historical phenomenon. This is made considerably more difficult by two factors, which are based on the complexity of the history of Pan-Africanism: On the one hand, it is the fact that the development of Pan-Africanism took place on three continents - in northern America ( USA and on the West Indies ), in Africa (especially in West Africa) and in Europe (England), sometimes with, sometimes without the mutual influence of the various currents. On the other hand, the developments in Pan-Africanism must also be viewed in the context of world history. For these reasons, the historian Imanuel Geiss , who is known in German-speaking countries, has tried to give a preliminary definition broadly. According to him, the following is understood by Pan-Africanism:

  1. "Intellectual or political currents among Africans or Afro-Americans who saw Africa, the Africans and people of African descent as belonging together. This gave rise to a feeling of racial solidarity and a new self-confidence that African-Americans thought of Africa as their real 'fatherland' referred back, without necessarily thinking about the physical return to Africa. "
  2. "All ideas that emphasized or strived for the cultural unity and political independence of Africa. In addition, there is the desire to find a connection for Africa with modern development on the basis of equality. For such endeavors, redemption is essential. Africa's one key word, 'Africa for the Africans' the other. "
  3. "Ideas or political movements that advocated the political unity of Africa or at least close political cooperation in one form or another."


After the Berlin Conference from 1884 to 1885, the most important African movement in the history of decolonization emerged: Pan-Africanism as a link between many African liberation movements. The basis for this was the resistance of black workers and soldiers of the African diaspora in Europe and overseas, who revolted against racial hierarchies and exploitation.

The goals of pan-Africanism were the decolonization of the African countries and, after the end of the colonial period, the unification of the peoples torn apart by the arbitrary borders. The model of nation states imposed by the colonial powers was to be replaced by an African continental state. In 1893, the Pan-Africanists held their first convention in Chicago . On the other hand, there was the dream of the Pan-Africanists to be able to contribute geopolitically, socially and culturally.

Non-African forerunners

As a political movement , Pan-Africanism began not in Africa but in the West Indies . Henry Sylvester Williams from Trinidad coined the term with his first pan-African conference in 1900 . E. Chinenyengozi Ejiogu from the Center for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State refers to a demand “Africa for Africans” that arose in this context at the end of the 19th century.

West Indian and American blacks played an important role in the process of "self-awareness"; it was the "Sierra Leonians" who played an active part in the early modernization process of West Africa, and were even involved in the advance of the British into the hinterland; a sizable number of African leaders studied in America.

The First World War gave pan-Africanism a new impetus. The colonial powers, especially England and France, made extensive use of the military and economic resources of their empires in this war. In the United States, many black soldiers experienced great disappointment after returning from the front lines. The American historian and civil rights activist W.EB Du Bois had asked the young Afro-Americans to volunteer for the army and fight for freedom in Europe so that they could then demand their rights more emphatically in North America.

The five Pan-African Congresses organized by WEB Du Bois since 1919 were decisive for the 20th century . For the first time, the resolutions of the international delegates for equal opportunities , against racism and imperialism found an echo in the press of the colonial countries . Many later important protagonists of later African independence movements took part in the congresses. Du Boi's initiative provided the philosophical and political breeding ground for the decolonization of Africa .

The Jamaican Marcus Garvey headed the largest pan-African association until 1928: the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), which he founded in Kingston in 1912 . " Garveyism " spread quickly in the USA. In 1914 Garvey moved his headquarters to Harlem . The most important publication was the weekly newspaper Negro World . Garvey tried with his organization in the early 1920s in Africa to build new settlements for African Americans . He even bought a passenger steamer and founded the shipping company Black Star Line to allow monthly transport quotas to Liberia and South Africa . His socially utopian plans and the establishment of a UNIA organization in Liberia were thwarted by the Liberian King government .

Pan-Africanism in Africa

On January 7, 1961, the group of states in Casablanca, leaning towards radical Pan-Africanism, decided on an “African Charter” ( Casablanca Group ). The majority of the states that have now become independent did not want to follow this path and drafted a counter-paper at a conference from May 8 to 12 in Monrovia in the same year. Finally, on May 25, 1963, at a conference in Addis Ababa, a joint “Organization for African Unity Charter” was adopted, thereby establishing the Organization for African Unity , which, however, developed little political impact. The founders of the OAU committed themselves to a number of principles: The continent should constantly improve solidarity and cooperation in all areas; he should actively support the liberation struggles in the Portuguese colonies, in South Africa, South West Africa (now Namibia) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); and he should not question the borders inherited from the colonial era "so that we do not experience the birth of black imperialism," as the Marxist-oriented President of Mali, Modibo Keita, said in Addis Ababa.

Shortly after the founding of the OAU, however, a dispute arose between radicals and so-called "gradualists" about the future political direction of the organization and the entire continent. While popular and more radical representatives of Pan-Africanism in Africa, such as Kwame Nkrumah , called for the immediate formation of the “United States of Africa”, including the integration of Arab-influenced North Africa, more moderate representatives, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser , Julius Nyerere or Cheikh Anta Diop , pleaded for a step-by-step approach to the concept of the "United States of Africa" ​​through the establishment of regional unions . The moderate Pan-Africanists focused on strengthening and consolidating internal administrative and growth structures. This should later lay the foundation for a collectivist, pan-African union. In addition, many gradualists at that time only saw the need for a cultural unity in Africa, but not a political one.

The founding of the African Union in 2002 can thus be seen as the result of the efforts of both moderate and radical Pan-Africanists. On the one hand, the continent is shaped by many, individual regional organizations that form the cornerstone of the AU; on the other hand, the establishment of the supranational organization is an important step towards the vision of the "United States of Africa". To this day there has been a lively discourse on the political and philosophical level about the ideological orientation of the African unification process.

During the apartheid period in South Africa , many organizations, groups and individuals, including the Pan Africanist Congress , fought against the oppression of non-European South Africans and South West Africans . In addition to Garvey's UNIA-ACL, there were also other pan-African organizations such as TransAfrica and The Internal Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement .

Subsequent movements

The Rastafari movement in Jamaica grew out of the Pan-African Movement: After the explanation attributed to Marcus Garvey , look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king , the Rastafari looked up to Haile Selassie . In fact, this explanation is not from Garvey; rather, Garvey criticized Selassie on many points.

The Black Athena movement emerged from the pan-African movement, whose main representatives include Cheikh Anta Diop and his “ideological son” Molefi Kete Asante . This movement is about seeing African history from a pro-African perspective as opposed to a Eurocentric perspective, a return to traditional African ideas and to African culture . It is often felt that the black African origins of Egyptian and some other civilizations should be recognized. Pan-Africanism is also associated with Black Nationalism .


Imanuel Geiss analyzed Pan-Africanism in his 1969 work . On the history of decolonization Pan-Africanism as a "belated boomerang of slavery" in the triangle of the slave trade and the anti-slavery movement (West India / America - United Kingdom - West Africa). He described Marcus Garvey's ideology as "imperial pan-Africanism". The leading figures in Pan-Africanism according to Geiss, Du Bois and Padmore, are judged critically. Because, according to him, there was a lack of knowledge about the situation in Africa, clear goals and organizational talent. Du Bois even characterizes Geiss as a "hopeless romantic" who even approved slavery in Liberia in 1930.

Pan-Africanism is often criticized for ignoring the cultural and ethnic differences between people of African origin, as well as the differences between the social and political conditions in the countries where black people live.

Pan-African colors

The pan-African colors of
green, yellow and red

Marcus Garvey gave the pan-African movement the red, black and green flag , with the red standing for the blood that people have to shed for their redemption and freedom, the green for the vegetation of the African motherland and the black for the people of African origin themselves In the pan-African movement, the Ethiopian flag with the colors green, yellow, red is also used. Green and red represent the same principles as in Garvey's flag, and yellow represent the mineral riches of Ethiopia . This flag is symbolic because Ethiopia (with the exception of Liberia ) was the only country that did not fall under European rule, as the Italians were defeated in the famous Battle of Adua . The flags of many African countries are based on Garvey's flag or on the Ethiopian one.

Pan-Africanism in Art and Culture

In the United Kingdom, early parliamentarianism allowed black citizens to enter more confidently than in other European countries. This is how the British colonies and freedom movements developed after 1900, in contrast to the French territories. It was only around 1920 that negativity began to emulate the English-speaking black movements. However, this placed far more emphasis on literature and philosophy than Anglo-Saxon Pan-Africanism.

Pan-Africanism is ubiquitous in Jamaican reggae music, making the musician Bob Marley one of the best-known Pan-Africanists; other Jamaican musicians like Peter Tosh also deal with pan-African themes in their songs. The same applies to the inventor of the Afrobeat , Fela Kuti . And the hip-hop is sometimes viewed as a pan-African product. Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford's novel Ethiopia Unbound influenced the theorist Marcus Garvey, who in turn influenced the Rastafari.

The Pan-African Film Festival has been held at irregular intervals since 1972 .


Individual evidence

  1. ^
  2. Geiss, Imanuel: Pan-Africanism: To the history of decolonization. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1968, p. 9 .
  3. Geiss, Imanuel: Pan-Africanism: To the history of decolonization. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1968, p. 9 .
  4. Geiss, Imanuel: Pan-Africanism: To the history of decolonization. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1968, p. 9 .
  5. Geiss, Imanuel: Pan-Africanism: To the history of decolonization. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1968, p. 9 .
  6. ^ Franziska Koller: Development Cooperation and Ethics. (= St. Gallen contributions to business ethics. 40). Haupt, Bern et al. 2007, ISBN 978-3-258-07149-7 , p. 38 f.
  7. ^ Franziska Koller: Development Cooperation and Ethics. (= St. Gallen contributions to business ethics. 40). P. 39.
  8. EC Ejiogu: In search of a new spirit of African unity . In: Mail & Guardian. May 24, 2012 at: (English)
  9. ^ UFS: During 2011: Appointments . on (English)
  10. ^ A b c Rudolf von Albertini: Pan-Africanism - a dream? A German wrote the history of this movement. (Review) In: Die Zeit. March 21, 1969. Retrieved September 14, 2014 .
  11. a b Andreas Eckert: Black, beautiful and proud. In: The time. 4th September 2014.
  12. Dominik A. Faust: Effective security. ISBN 978-3-531-13764-3 , p. 361, accessed on January 7, 2011.
  13. Ilan Halevi: Is the Pan-African Idea Dead? (Article) Heinrich Böll Foundation, October 11, 2010, accessed on September 14, 2014 .
  14. Eric Hugo Weinhandl: Regional Integration in Africa: An Analysis of Current Integration Dynamics within the African Union and RECs in the Sub-Saharan Area . Ed .: University of Vienna. 1st edition. Akademiker Verlag, 2015, ISBN 978-6-20220121-6 , Pan-Africanism and Decolonization.