The Pan-African Congress — following on from the first Pan-African Conference of 1900 in London — was a series of height meetings, held in 1919 in Paris (1st Pan-African Congress), 1921 in London (2nd Pan-African Congress), 1923 in London (3rd Pan-African Congress), 1927 in New York City (4th Pan-African Congress), 1945 in Manchester (5th Pan-African Congress), 1974 in Dar es Salaam (6th Pan-African Congress), 1994 in Kampala (7th Pan-African Congress), and 2014 in Johannesburg (8th Pan-African Congress) that were intended to address the issues facing Africa as a result of European colonization of most of the continent.
The Pan-African Congress gained the reputation as a peace maker for decolonization in Africa and in the West Indies. It made significant advance for the Pan-African cause. One of the demands was to end colonial rule and end racial discrimination, against imperialism and it demanded human rights and equality of economic opportunity. The manifesto given by the Pan-African Congress included the political and economic demands of the Congress for a new world context of international cooperation.
Colonial powers in Africa wanted native Africans to wait patiently for limited political concessions and better career opportunities. Due to their exclusion from the negotiations of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles — the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end — black ex-servicemen and educated urban classes became disillusioned. Because colonialism had been built on the foundation of capitalism, socialist ideas of equality and global collaboration appealed to these budding revolutionaries.
|“||They had been disillusioned with the European war, they kept on having frightful clashes with English and American soldiers, besides the fact the authorities treated them completely differently from the white soldiers... I was working at that time in London in a communist group. Our group provided the club of Negro soldiers with revolutionary newspapers and literature which had nothing.||”|
1st Pan-African Congress
In February 1919, the first Pan-African Congress was organized by W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida Gibbs Hunt, wife of US Consul William Henry Hunt, who was at that time working at the American consulate in Saint-Étienne, France. There were 57 delegates representing 15 countries, a smaller number than originally intended because British and American governments refused to issue passports to their citizens who had planned on attending. Their main task was petitioning the Versailles Peace Conference held in Paris at that time. Among their demands were that:
- The Allies should be in charge of the administration of former territories in Africa as a Condominium on behalf of the Africans who were living there.
- Africa be granted home rule and Africans should take part in governing their countries as fast as their development permits until at some specified time in the future.
Among the delegates were:
- Eliezer Cadet, Universal Negro Improvement Association
- Gratien Candace, Guadeloupe
- Blaise Diagne, Senegal, and French Commissioner General of the Ministry of Colonies
- William Jernagin, Washington, United States
- Charles D. B. King, Liberia
- Richard R. Wright
- Robert Russa Moton
2nd Pan-African Congress
In 1921, the Second Pan-African Congress met in several sessions in London, Brussels and Paris, during August (28, 29, and 31) and September (2, 3, 5 and 6). As W. E. B. Du Bois reported in The Crisis in November that year, represented at this congress were "26 different groups of people of Negro descent: namely, British Nigeria, Gold Coast and Sierra Leone; the Egyptian Sudan, British East Africa, former German East Africa; French Senegal, the French Congo and Madagascar; Belgian Congo; Portuguese St. Thomé, Angola and Mozambique; Liberia; Abyssinia; Haiti; British Jamaica and Grenada; French Martinique and Guadeloupe; British Guiana; the United States of America, Negroes resident in England, France, Belgium and Portugal, and fraternal visitors from India, Morocco, the Philippines and Annam." There was an Indian revolutionary who took part, Shapurji Saklatvala, and a journalist from the Gold Coast named W. F. Hutchinson who spoke. This session of the Congress was the most focused for change of all the meetings thus far. At the London session, resolutions were adopted, later restated by Du Bois in his "Manifesto To the League of Nations":
|“||England, with all her Pax Britannic, her courts of justice, established commerce, and a certain apparent recognition of Native laws and customs, has nevertheless systematically fostered ignorance among the Natives, has enslaved them, and is still enslaving them, has usually declined even to try to train black and brown men in real self-government, to recognise civilised black folk as civilised, or to grant to coloured colonies those rights of self government which it freely gives to white men.||”|
The only dissenting voices were these of Blaise Diagne and Gratien Candace, French politicians of African and Guadeloupian descent, who represented Senegal and Guadeloupe in the French Chamber of Deputies. They soon abandoned the idea of Pan-Africanism because they advocated equal rights inside the French citizenship and thought the London Manifesto declaration too dangerously extreme.
3rd Pan-African Congress
In 1923, the Third Pan-African Congress was held in London and in Lisbon. This meeting was totally unorganized. This meeting also repeated the demands such as self-rule, the problems in the Diaspora and the African-European relationship. The following was addressed at the meeting:
- The development of Africa should be for the benefit of Africans and not merely for the profits of Europeans.
- There should be home rule and a responsible government for British West Africa and the British West Indies.
- The Abolition of the pretension of a white minority to dominate a black majority in Kenya, Rhodesia and South Africa.
- Lynching and mob law in the US should be suppressed.
Before the Congress met in London, Isaac Béton of the French Committee wrote a letter to Du Bois, telling him that the French group would not be sending delegates. However, in one of the reports he published in the Crisis, Du Bois drew on words spoken by Ida Gibbs Hunt and Rayford Logan to imply that the French Committee had sent delegates. As long-time African-American residents of France, Hunt and Logan had travelled independently to the meeting, and Hunt and Béton were perturbed that Du Bois had implied they represented France.
4th Pan-African Congress
5th Pan-African Congress
Africans again fought in World War II. After this war, many felt that they now deserved independence. This Congress is widely considered to have been the most important. Organised by the influential Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore and Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah, it was attended by 90 delegates, 26 from Africa. They included many scholars, intellectuals and political activists who would later go on to become influential leaders in various African independence movements and the American civil rights movement, including the Kenyan independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, American activist and academic W. E. B. Du Bois, Malawi's Hastings Banda, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, prominent Jamaican barrister Dudley Thompson and Obafemi Awolowo and Jaja Wachuku from Nigeria. It also led partially to the creation of the Pan-African Federation, founded in 1946 by Nkrumah and Kenyatta.
There were 33 delegates from the West Indies and 35 from various British organizations, including the West African Students Union. The presence of 77-year-old Du Bois was historic, as he had organized the First Pan-African Congress in 1919.
The British Press scarcely mentioned the conference. A number of resolutions were passed, among them the criminalization of racial discrimination and the main resolution decrying imperialism and capitalism.
The significance of the Pan-African movement and the Fifth Congress
Pan-Africanism is aimed at the economic, intellectual and political cooperation of the African countries. It demands that the riches of the continent be used for the enlistment of its people. It calls for the financial and economic unification of markets and a new political landscape for the continent. Even though Pan-Africanism as a movement began in 1776, it was the fifth Pan-African congress that advanced Pan-Africanism and applied it to decolonize the African continent.
The people in Manchester were politically conscious and that was one of the reasons why it was selected as the venue for the fifth Pan-African congress. The fifth congress was organized by people of African origin living in Manchester. According to the Mancunian historian Simon Katzenellenboggen it has a great significance as it was an important step towards the end of those imperial powers in Africa. Unlike the four earlier congresses, the fifth one involved people from the African Diaspora, including Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Americans. Manchester had a significant part to play in helping the African countries to march forward in their fight to independence.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pan-African Congress.|
- SNCC Digital Gateway: Organizing 6PAC Digital documentary website created by the SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University, telling the story of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee & grassroots organizing from the inside-out
- "Remembering the Fifth Pan-African Congress - Christian Høgsbjerg, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, 77 (2015–16).
- B. F. Bankie, "The 'Key Link' – some London notes towards the 7th Pan-African Congress", Ghana Nsem, 2001.