Pan Africanism once represented the high aspirations of negro intellectualism and black self-determination philosophy. It began as a thought experiment, during a violently unpredictable time in history, when a black man with an idea, was more feared than a black man with a gun.
Pan Africanism began almost like an organised party of union workers, coming together to ask their colonial masters for more rights like education, voting and property ownership. As it evolved, Pan Africanism sought freedom, self determination and leadership status for Blacks in African and West Indian colonised states.
1900 – FIRST PAN AFRICAN CONFERENCE HELD IN LONDON AS AFRICANS WERE STILL REFERRED TO AS SAVAGES IN AFRICA
(The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, 17 June 1900)
People of African descent had been searching for a collective identity ever since the first slave ship landed in the New World. Prolonged captivity, customary violence, impoverishment and over three hundred years of forced separation had taken its toll. After emancipation, the search for place and purpose took many twists and turns. There were many false starts, abrupt halts and unexpected betrayals.
And then came Pan Africanism. Suddenly the imagination of the negro was ignited with a new purpose. Unite or perish.
(The Observer, London, Sunday, 27 May 1962)
W. E. Dubois sails to attend Pan African Congress to be held in London, Paris and Brussels in 1921.
(The Voice of the People, Alabama, Saturday, 13 August, 1921)
1963 – Asking What Is Pan-Africanism?
(The Herald News, Monday, 18 March 1963)
Pan Africanism promoted a previously unconsidered ideal of sameness, based on one simple element – skin colour. The movement soon rose to its greatest heights, as it cultivated the ideals of negro collectivism, grounded in socialist and communist political principles. Ideals of negro collectivism were the only weapon to be had, in response to the widespread brutality and discrimination, meted out to blacks, across the world, based on one simple circumstance – skin colour.
However, as the decades moved on, these same collectivist ideals, seemingly stuck in bygone era, would ultimately result in the demise of Pan Africanism. As it declined, some of the greatest negro minds and their philosophies went with it.
SOUTH AFRICAN PETER ABRAHAMS WAS ONE OF THE LAST VOICES THAT ONCE HERALDED PAN AFRICAN PRINCIPLES
Peter Abrahams, was born on March 3, 1919, in a settlement, just outside the city of Johannesburg to an Ethiopian father and South African mixed race mother. He hastily left apartheid South Africa for England in 1939 to escape a politically contrived charge of treason levied by whites in the country.
In 2017, his brutal murder in Jamaica brought Pan Africanism back into the media spotlight, albeit, for a brief moment.
Peter Abrahams fell into relative obscurity in the decades before his death, as negro solidarity ideas, fell out of fashion. His murder at 97-years-old, his sad end, reminds of the ignominious end of Pan Africanism.
“If I am ever liberated from this bondage of racialism, there are some things much more exciting to me, objectively, to write about. But this world has such a social orientation, and I am involved in this world and I can’t cut myself off.”
PATRICE LUMUMBA WAS ONCE OF THE MOST ICONIC PERSONALITIES OF THE PAN AFRICAN MOVEMENT
A Pan-Africanist and iconic revolutionary, Patrice Lumumba, founder and leader of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) party was Congo’s independence leader and the first democratically elected leader of the country. He dedicated his life to fighting colonialism, exploitation and injustices. Lumumba played a critical role in Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium.
Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was assassinated on 17 January, 1961. This crime was an assassination plot by American and Belgian governments, who used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out this heinous crime against Black humanity.
POET AMIRI BARAKA SUMS UP THE ETHOS OF PAN AFRICANISM
The ethos of Pan Africanism can be encapsulated in four telling words by poet Amri Baraka, when he said, in 1962 that “Black Is A Country”
Amiri Baraka contended that in the vast global diaspora in which Blackness had found itself, thanks to slavery, Home was wherever Black was with other Blacks. Place of origin no longer mattered. Collective ideals of solidarity, economic progress and social advancement should be promulgated primarily in skin colour because place, because of slavery, was made arbitrary. And when one found themselves in such an environment, the environment of black collective thought and action, then this was home; this was a country. Black is a Country.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PAN AFRICAN NEGRO INTELLECTUALISM?
Arguably, negro intellectualism, that brand of scorched earth realism, which tore at the gold plated gates of colonialism and oppression is all but gone.
Some reckon that negro intellectualism drowned under the waves of nationalist independence movements. Independence movements saw predominantly black, former European colonies, become legally free, but unwittingly economically dependent on former European colonial governments.
Then others proffer that negro intellectualism died at the end of the civil rights movements, which ushered in the eras of men likened to a Black Moses. These were iconic leaders destined to usher negro masses to the promised land of post colonial freedom.
Yet more others contend that it was Pan Africanism’s misplaced foundations in the ideals of Communism. And far worse, its failure to intellectualise the death of Communist ideals under the forceful weight of capitalism.
Equally persuasive is the argument that as the faces of negro intellectualism died, the newly assimilated Black person, in the wider White commercialised world, needed only his wits and not a movement to propel him forward. Black social movements became embarrassing, even seemingly counterproductive, to the black person, in a new modern liberal environment.
Voices like Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, freedom fighters like Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah, hauntingly unforgettable works and words of poets like Amri Baraka were all once representatives of negro intellectualism.
As Pan Africanism declined in social significance, so did our regard for its voices, its freedom fighters, its message.
As the old guardians of black thought and philosophy moved on to the ancestral plain, so did our regard for Pan Africanism, which, if truth be told, laid them foundation for the smoother path many Black liberals walk today.
PETER ABRAHAMS ONE OF THE LAST VOICES OF PAN AFRICANISM BEATEN TO DEATH IN HIS HOME IN JAMAICA
The senseless murder of a fragile 97-year-old man, in Jamaica, in 2017, abruptly ended an important link the world had with a significant black social movement. Pan Africanism, from its beginnings in the year 1900, had inspired some of the most notable negro intellectuals of the 20th century.
“The man who was last year charged for the killing of noted retired journalist and public commentator, Peter Abrahams, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime.
The man – 61-year-old Norman Tomlinson – pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month, after having been charged with murder in February of last year.
Abrahams, 97, was found dead with multiple injuries at his home in Red Hill, St Andrew on January 18, 2017.
Reports were that Tomlinson, the spouse of Abrahams’ household helper, visited the now deceased man and a dispute developed between the two men.
In a fit of rage, Tomlinson reportedly beat Abrahams to death.”
Peter Henry Abrahams Deras, known also as Peter Abrahams, was a South African-born novelist, journalist and political commentator. He settled in Jamaica in 1956, where he lived for the rest of his life. His death at the age of 97 is considered to have been murder.
Born in March 3, 1919, in Vrededorp, a coloured and Asian slum near Johannesburg, South Africa, Abrahams was beaten to death on January 18, 2017 in Kingston, Jamaica.
The South African-born writer wrote several powerful novels about the injustices and complexities of racial politics.
His father, James Henry Abrahams Deras (sometimes spelled De Ras), was an Ethiopian who settled in Johannesburg to work in the gold mines. His mother, the former Angelina DuPlessis, was colored, the daughter of a black father and a white French mother.
Abrahams’ early work, Mine Boy (1946), was his first work which illustrated the dehumanizing existence fir black and mixed-race people under violent racism in South Africa. Mine Boy is considered to be the first South African book written in English to win international literary praise.
In the mid-1950s Abrahams was commissioned to write a history of Jamaica (Jamaica: An Island Mosaic ). Soon after completing the book, he moved his family to the island.
Abrahams became editor of the West Indian Economist and worked for Radio Jamaica, until 1964. From the mid 1960s, Abrahams decided to commit himself to full-time to writing.
“It seems to me that all the happenings in the plural society is so far are just storm warnings. The storm itself is still to come. The Blacks of the plural societies are determined to be free. And time and history are on their side. Is democracy against them?￼
Peter Abrahams, The Observer (London) Sunday, June 31, 1953)