The Development of Pan-Africanism


In Africa

Atorkor Drummer Incident

Approx. 1856

Group of Anlo Ewe drummers were kidnapped by American/English slavers. Being relatives of the chief, their capture shows that the slave trade did not discern the social hierarchy of African tribes.

Bailey, Anne C. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

Suez Canal


An artificial sea-level waterway running north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Originally dug roughly around the 13th century B.C.E., the canal was reconstructed in the 1850s by the French. It became a point of European involvement and exploitation of Africa and was also the focus of many international conflicts and controversies.

New World Encyclopedia. "Suez Canal." Accessed February 18, 2017.

Suez Canal Authority. "About Suez Canal." Accessed February 18, 2017.

Haile Selassie

1892 - 1975

Emperor of Ethiopia who strove to modernize his country during the mid-20th century. He also played a major role in the creation of the Organization of African Unity and was the organization's first chairperson (May 1963-July 1964, November 1966-September 1967).

Encyclopedia Brittanica. "Haile Salassie I: Emperor of Ethiopia." Accessed February 13, 2017.

Kwame Nkrumah

1909 - 1972

Nkrumah was drawn to politics at an early age, and upon moving to the United States to study at Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania he became interested in the writings of Karl Marx and Marcus Garvey. In 1945 he organized the 5th Pan-African Congress and in 1952 became the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast. He would go on to sit as the President of Ghana, the first African State to gain its independence in 1957.

Encyclopedia Britannica. "Kwame Nkrumah: President of Ghana." Accessed February 13, 2017.

Pan-African Congresses

1919 - 1945

A series of conferences held across Europe, Africa and the U.S. They sought to address the social, political, and economic issues African states faced in the wake of the slave trade and European colonization.

First Pan-African Congress: Paris (1919)
Second Pan-African Congress: Multiple sessions in London, Paris, and Brussels (1921)
Third Pan-African Congress: London and Lisbon (1923)
Fourth Pan-African Congress: New York (1927)
Fifth Pan-African Congress: Manchester (1945)

BBC. "The Story of Africa: Between World Wars (1914-1945)." Accessed February 15, 2017.

In the West

Haitian Revolution

1789 - 1804

On the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, the colony of St. Domingue was plagued with unrest amidst the slave population. A series of revolts developed into a full-blown organized rebellion, ending with the country's freedom from French rule. Haiti would be the first nation created by a successful slave revolt.

Rolph-Trouillot, Michel. Silencing the Past: Power and Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.

Slave Resistance: A Caribbean Study. "A Revolution in Haiti." Accessed February 18, 2017.

Edward Blyden

Approx. 1856 - 1912

Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, died in Freetown, Sierra Leone. One of the founders of the Pan-Afircanism movement, he wrote 4 books between the years of 1856 and 1887 in which he discussed equality and successful people with African ancestry. He emulated Zionist ideals in that he wanted Africans to return to their ancestral homelands. "Blyden, Edward Wilmot (1832-1912)." Accessed February 14, 2017.

Boston University School of Theology. "Blyden, Edward Wilmot (1832-1912)." Accessed February 14, 2017.

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

President Lincoln's executive order that abolished slavery in the U.S., but only in states not under Union control. The proclamation allowed black soldiers to fight for the Union, thus tying the issue of slavery directly to the Civil War.

PBS. "Historical Documents: Emancipation Proclamation, 1863." Accessed February 18, 2017.

W.E.B. Dubois

1868 - 1963

Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, died in Accra, Ghana. An American sociologist and one of the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Helped create the NAACP in 1909, and was a strong advocate for Pan-Africanism--he believed that all blacks had common struggles and interests and needed to work together to advance their social status.

Encyclopedia Britannica. "W. E. B. Du Bois: American Sociologist and Social Reformer." Accessed February 13, 2017.

Marcus Garvey

1887 - Approx. 1940

Born St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, died London. Founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Main goal was to resettle Africa. His aggressive nature put him at odds with other black activists. Pushed for the Greater Liberia Act of 1939, which would deport 12 million African Americans to Liberia; the act's stated purpose was to resolve unemployment issues. It ultimately failed.

Encylcopedia Britannica. "Marcus Garvey: Jamaican Black Nationalist Leader." Accessed February 13, 2017.

George Padmore

Approx. 1901 - 1959

Born in Trinidad, died in London. Head of the Comintern International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers in Moscow, and was an editor for The Negro Worker periodical. In 1936 helped C.L.R. James and Pan-Africanist intellectuals in founding the International African Service Bureau in 1937. This evolved into the Pan-African Federation in 1944. Spent his later years in Ghana as an aid to Kwame Nkrumah. "Padmore, George (1901-1959)." Accessed February 13, 2017.

Encyclopedia Britannica. "Pan-Africanism: History of Pan-Africanist Intellectuals." Accessed February 15, 2017.


Gregson v. Gilbert (the Zong Case)


Court case centered on the 1781 voyage of the slave vessel the Zong from West Africa to Jamaica. Due to a sickness that killed 60 out of 470 slaves and nearly half his crew, the ship's captain, Luke Collingwood ordered his men to throw overboard 131 African slaves over the course of three days. Not only did this save the captain water, but it also put him in a position to reap massive insurance benefits. The gruesome nature of the event led the public to side against Collingwood, thus changing the perception of insuring slave ships. While the Zong's investors initially won the trial, the ruling was later overturned.

Bailey, Anne C. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

Ban of the slave trade


In writing the Atlantic Slave Trade had ceased across Europe and North America, but crews continued to capture and bring Africans to the Western Hemisphere through Cuba until the 1850s.

Bailey, Anne C. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

Scramble for Africa/Berlin West Africa Conference

1885 - 1914

General: Competition between Western states (Portugal, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Ottoman Empire, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, and the United States) for control/colonization/annexation of African territories.

Began with the Berlin Conference in 1884-5 which declared the Congo River Basin as a neutral zone that all European states could conduct trade in.

Encyclopedia Brittanica. "Berlin West Africa Conference." Accessed February 13, 2017.