Thursday, February 13, 2014

Essay: Pan-Africanist Wisdom, 1791-2013: selection from Pan-Africanist thinkers since Boukman I by Chinweizu]

  The Husia teaches that we must emulate the excellence of our ancestors, study
their wise teachings, great works and good deeds in everyday life, and struggle to
embody and add to the legacy they've left. It states that the wisdom of the
ancestors are "teachings for life, instructions for well-being and flourishing, for
directing one on the path of life and causing one to flourish on earth." And we are
to "love learning, seek after truth," and constantly bring forth that which is useful
for the people and the future.
--[Maulana Karenga, "The Sacred Narrative Of Africans", Los Angeles Sentinel,
11-14-13, pp.6-7 ]
"No one man has the solution to the
multitude of problems that confront us as a
race of people."
--"Youth Perspective on the 7th PAC"
by NSAJIGWA ISUBHA-GWAMAKA, <b.1964>, (1994)
on behalf of SISI KWA SISI, Mbeya, Tanzania.
We need to study the lessons of the Pan-Africanism Movement of the last two centuries,
develop its good points and discard its mistakes. One of the most tempting mistakes for
sectarian minds is to think that any one person has the solution to the multitude of
problems that confront us as a race of people. Certainly not Du Bois, certainly not
Nkrumah; and not even Garvey the Great, was able to display that humanly impossible
omniscience. This anthology aims to help correct that mistake by showing us a sample of
the range of wise thoughts that have emerged from the many different terrains of the Pan-
African struggle for liberation from slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism.
As these selections show, much intellectual work has been done by Pan-Africanist
thinkers in the two centuries since 1791. However, their work has not been collected and
made available for tackling the many tasks of Pan-Africanism.
As these selections show, useful insights have been supplied into such nitty-gritty
issues as mental independence; "Independence or death"; criticism and self-criticism; the
(Black) Race First principle; racial honor, racial self-reliance, racial unity, racial
solidarity, racial privacy; our implacable white enemies—Arab and European; economic
decolonization; cultural liberation; Afrocentric education; Black power; leadership and
followership; war; charity; propaganda; polygyny; racism/Negrophobia; Marxism and
blacks; re-Africanization; Afrocentrism; people's democracy; Black African weaknesses;
the Pan-African Congress; the national army; collective security; cultural renaissance; the
lure of Marxism; integrating ancestral African values into contemporary African life; race
and class; the one-drop-rule; justified prejudice; the extermination of the Black race;
Negrocentricity; scientific socialism; communalism; socialism and racism; ethnofederalism,
ethnic autonomy and African unity; Kwanzaa and unity; Diaspora-Homeland
relations; and much else.
These are some of the nitty-gritty issues we must grapple with, the engineering
details we must think through, if we are to move beyond the affirmation of lofty
sentiments and vague ambitions, and actually get down to building the structures for
attaining the objectives of Pan-Africanism.
I urge other Black African scholars to contribute to this effort by searching through the
Pan-Africanist literature and compiling anthologies of the wisdom they find therein.
Then, the next generation of Pan-Africanists will have anthologies to educate them on the
tenets and ideas and best practices of Pan-Africanism, and so be spared the misfortune of
intellectual orphans who start out in a vacuum of ideas, as if they have no heritage to
draw from.
Please Note: This is a work in progress. I shall continue to add to it as I find more words
of Pan-Africanist wisdom. So, treat this as a preliminary report.
The dates in the format < 19xy-19xz > are the dates, if known, of the person quoted; the
date in the format (19yy) is the date, if known, of the statement just quoted.
Chinweizu's commentaries are in red bold italics. They are comments or bald statements
or summaries of positions that, when the anthology is completed, will be argued and
demonstrated in mini essays. Some of these comments elaborate on, and some amend, the
quoted statement.
Section A
Examples of ideas (principles, doctrines and tasks) formulated by Black thinkers as
the lessons from the rich experience of Black struggles against imperialism, slavery,
colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism, both in Black Africa and the diaspora.
In the last two centuries of Black peoples' struggles against imperialism, racism,
enslavement, colonialism and neo-colonialism, many doctrines and principles have
been formulated and various tasks have been set that capture the lessons of the
liberation experience. Since they are derived from the practice of Black African
liberation, and are guides to the practice of Black African liberation, these ideas
belong among the resources of a Pan-Africanism whose project is the liberation of
black Africans, whether or not their articulators were avowed Pan-Africanists. They
should be harvested and used to equip the minds of Pan-Africanists. Below are a few:
A1] Boukman's call:
"Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused
us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of
us all."
--[Boukman, <d. 1791>, (1791), quoted in C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins,
p. 87]
A2] "the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the
--[Steve Biko, <1946-1977> (ca. 1971), "I Write What I Like" p. 68]
A3] "Black people reject this [Bantustan idea fundamentally because] . . .it is a
solution given to us by the same [white] people who have created the
problem. . . and [Blacks] are beginning to rid their minds of imprisoning
notions which are the legacy of the control of their attitudes by whites."
--[ Biko, <1946-1977>, (ca. 1971), "I Write What I Like" pp. 82, 68]
A4] "in order to feature well in this game of power politics, [we Blacks] have
to use the concept of group power and build a strong foundation for this"
--[ Biko, <1946-1977>, (1971), "I Write What I Like" p.68]
A5] On our racial privacy:
a) "We demand complete control of our social institutions without
interference by any alien race or races."
--[UNIA, "Declaration of Rights of the Negro peoples of the world", 1920,
P&O, II: 140]
b) ". . . give the Negro race of Africa a chance to develop unhindered by other
--[Resolution of the 1st Pan-African Congress, (1919)]
A6] On practice of racial privacy by firmly excluding all whites from our group:
As Dessalines put it
"What have we in common with that bloody-minded people? Their
cruelties compared to our moderation –their color to ours—the extension
of the seas which separate us—our avenging climate—all plainly tell us
they are not our brethren; that they will never become such. And if they
find asylum among us, they will still be the instigators of our troubles and
our divisions."
--[Dessalines, <d.1806>, (1804), quoted in Jacob Carruthers, Irritated
Genie, p. 124]
A7] Black/Sub-Sahara Africa as the Africa of Pan-Africanism:
a) Garvey's United States of Black Africa.
It is for you to decide; it is for the British government to decide; it is for
the French government to decide, it is for the governments of Belgium
also and of Portugal and of Spain, all in conference with us, to decide what
part of Africa they will place at the disposal of the natives so that they can
live in peace in their own native land. . . . There are certain parts of Africa
in which you cannot live at all; now it is for you to come together and give
us a United States of Black Africa.
[Marcus Garvey, <1887-1940>, (1928), "Speech at Royal Albert Hall" ,
London, June 6, 1928. See John Henrik Clarke, ed. Marcus Garvey and
the Vision of Africa, p. 297]
b) Sub-Sahara/Black Pan-Africanism--Du Bois' advice to Nkrumah:
" Ghana must on the contrary be the representative of Africa, and not only
that, but of Africa below the Sahara desert. . . . Ghana should lead a
movement of black men for Pan-Africanism, including periodic
conferences and personal contacts of black men from the Sahara to the
Indian Ocean. . . . a new series of Pan-African Congresses should be held;
. . . The new series of Pan-African Congresses would seek common aims
of progress for Black Africa. . . . I pray you, my dear Mr. Nkrumah, to use
all your power to put a Pan-Africa along these lines into working order at
the earliest possible date"
---[Du Bois, <1868-1963>, (1957), in "Letter to Nkrumah", (March 1957),
in The World and Africa, pp. 295, 296, 297]
Du Bois was being historically correct in urging a Black or Sub-Sahara Pan-
Africanism. The captives transported from Africa to the Americas were Negroes, and
they had been procured from Sub-Sahara Africa. The Trans-Atlantic slave ships called
only at the Sub-Sahara coasts of Africa. They did not call at the Mediterranean coast
of North Africa or at the Atlantic coast of Morocco. They did not procure and transport
any whites—Arabs or Europeans-- only Negroes. Hence the ancestors of the African-
American Diaspora did not include Arabs, but were only Negroes from Sub-Sahara
Africa. Hence the homeland of the diaspora Africans is not the
whole continent but only Sub-Sahara Africa. And that is the
correct Africa of Pan-Africanism.
But, for reasons best known to himself, (possibly the strong blancophilia—
aspiration to whiteness--that also manifested in his choice of white Arab and very light
octoroon-type African mothers for his children, and in his marked preference for close
white advisers and white personal assistants when he could have had Ghanaians or
other black Africans in those intimate positions) Nkrumah disregarded this historically
sound advice from the founder of the Pan-African Congress, and proceeded to
inaugurate a multi-racial, Afro-Arab, whole-Continent brand of Pan-Africanism. In
fact, but for their refusal to attend his 1958 Conference of Independent African States
(CIAS), even the European whites of Apartheid South Africa would have been
included in Nkrumah's strange brand of anti-colonialist Pan-Africanism. Many
confusions have been spawned by this multiracial Continentalism: such as Black
Diasporans defending our white Arab enemies (such as Gadafi and his Libyan Arabs)
who are white settlers occupying North Africa, on the ground that they live in Africa
and therefore are Africans and of legitimate concern to Pan-Africanism. Which is like
Pan-Africanism defending the Boers—the European settler-colonialists who occupy
South Africa.
c) Nyerere on Sub-Sahara Pan-Africanism:
[emphases, in bold italics added by Chinweizu]
And the new leadership of Africa will have to concern itself with the
situation in which it finds itself in the world of tomorrow —in the world of
the 21st century. And the Africa I'm going to be talking about, is Africa
south of the Sahara, Sub-Sahara Africa. I'll explain later the reason why
I chose to concentrate on Africa south of the Sahara. . . . Europe, Western
Europe, is very wealthy. It has two Mexicos. One is Eastern Europe. . . .
Europe has a second Mexico. And Europe's Second Mexico is North
Africa. North Africa is to Europe what Mexico is to the United States.
North Africans who have no jobs will not go to Nigeria, they'll be thinking
of Europe or the Middle East, because of the imperatives of geography
and history and religion and language. North Africa is part of Europe and
the Middle East.
Nasser was a great leader and a great African leader. I got on
extremely well with him. Once he sent me a Minister, and I had a long
discussion with his Minister at State House here [Dar-es-Salaam], and in
the course of the discussion, the Minister says to me, "Mr. President this is
my first visit to Africa". North Africa, because of the pull of the
Mediterranean and I say history and culture, and religion, North Africa is
pulled towards the North. When North Africans look for jobs they go to
Western Europe and Southern Western Europe, or they go to the Middle
East. . . .
Africa, South of the Sahara is different, totally different. . . . Africa
South of the Sahara is isolated. That is the first point I want to make.
Africa South of the Sahara is totally isolated in terms of that configuration
of developing power in the world of the 21st Century — on its own. There
is no centre of power in whose self-interest it's important to develop
Africa, no centre. Not North America, not Japan, not Western Europe.
There's no self-interest to bother about Africa South of the Sahara. Africa
South of the Sahara is on its own. Na sijambo baya. Those of you who
don't know Swahili, I just whispered, "Not necessarily bad". That's the
first thing I wanted to say about Africa South of the Sahara. African
leadership, the coming African leadership, will have to bear that in mind.
You are on your own . . .
The second point about Africa and again I am talking about Africa
South of the Sahara; it is fragmented, fragmented. . . . Africa south of the
Sahara is isolated. Therefore, to develop, it will have to depend upon its
own resources basically. Internal resources, nationally; and Africa will
have to depend upon Africa. The leadership of the future will have to
devise, try to carry out policies of maximum national self-reliance and
maximum collective self-reliance. They have no other choice. . . .The
small countries in Africa . . .should come together. . . . If we can't move
towards bigger nation-states, at least let's move towards greater cooperation.
This is beginning to happen. And the new leadership in Africa
should encourage it."
---[Nyerere, <1922-1999>, (1997), excerpt from his 75th Birthday
Celebration speech, Dec 1997. In Reflections on Leadership in Africa –
Forty Years After Independence, ed. by Haroub Othman, Brussels: VUB
University Press, 2000, pp. 17-24]
As we can see, Garvey and Du Bois were both agreed on Sub-Sahara/Black Africa as
the Africa of Pan-Africanism. But Nkrumah, for reasons still undetermined, went his
own way and inaugurated his multi-racial, African and Arab, continentalist Pan-
Africanism. In fact, had Strijdom and Vorster accepted his invitation to his CIAS in
1958, Nkrumah would have included Apartheid South Africa in his peculiar brand of
Pan-Africanism. Nyerere, like the other Black African leaders who founded the OAU
in 1963, went along with the multi-racial, continental Pan-Africanism that Nkrumah
had already set in motion in 1958. But shortly before he died, Nyerere made a case for
Sub-Sahara Pan-Africanism. Thus we have three of the four greatest leaders of 20th
century Pan-Africanism in agreement, leaving Nkrumah isolated in his peculiar
version which, unfortunately, became institutionalized in the OAU.--Chinweizu
A8] Black is beautiful:
a) When you say "black is beautiful" what in fact you are saying to him is:
man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human
[Steve Biko, <1946-1977>, I Write What I Like, p.104]
b) I am a Negro. I make absolutely no apology for being a Negro because my
God created me to be what I am, and as I am so will I return to my God,
for He knows just why He created me as He did.
[Marcus Garvey, <1887-1940>, (1923), P&O, II: 212-213]
A9] On the practice of Black Unity by upholding the "one-drop rule":
a) I have seen two classes of men, born to cherish, assist, and succour one
another—mixed in a world, and blended together . . .Blacks and Yellows
[mulattos], whom the refined duplicity of Europe for a long time
endeavored to divide: you, who are now consolidated, and make but one
family. . . [shall be] known under the general name of Blacks.....CONTINUE

Pan-Africanist Wisdom since Boukman- I (Dec 2013)
Pan-Africanist Wisdom, 1791-2013: selection from Pan-Africanist thinkers
since Boukman--I
Selected, edited and with commentary by Chinweizu
December 2013
Copyright © by Chinweizu, 2013

Kwasi Akyeampong
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