chapter  10
24 Pages

Kinship of the Dispossessed Du Bois, Nkrumah, and the Foundations of Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism is both an idea and a movement. A propos its status as an idea, it probably cannot be dated; though it should be clear that the idea is older than the movement. The sentiments that developed into the Pan-African idea and movement were inspired by the racist doctrines and actions that people of African descent were forced to succumb to in the New World. The experience of racist prejudice and injustice forced Africans in the diaspora to start giving serious thought to the idea of a return to the fatherland. For instance, as early as 1787, a petition was addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Massachusetts by a committee of the African Lodge, urging help toward the voluntary emigration to Africa by people of African descent.1 This interest in emigration grew stronger over the next several years, with various individuals, including Prince Hall, Paul Cuffe, and Reverend Lott Cary, leading the struggle. The American Colonization Society (ACS) was also deeply involved. But there was also a strong principled opposition, especially from African Americans who perceived a sinister motive behind the idea. In 1830, Peter Williams argued that the real objective of the ACS was to remove colored population from the coun­ try, that it was illogical to suggest that the conditions of African Americans

would be improved in Africa while at the same time acknowledging that condi­ tions of life there were worse than in America, and that if African Americans were considered “vile and degraded,” it was illogical and hypocritical to expect them to build a “virtuous and progressive Africa.”2