African Independence, Civil Rights and the history of Pan-Africa

Africans and Their Struggle for Liberation

Africans have encountered many difficulties throughout history, including colonization, discrimination, and even oligarchic governments. As a result, a number of organizations were created to aid in the liberation of people from colonial and authoritarian governments or to oppose them. This struggle for independence frequently encouraged the development of a successful organization that, in theory, would have laid the groundwork for a new government after victory. Pan-Africanism, the African Liberation Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement are a few of these groups. The Pan-Africanism, American Civil Rights, and African Liberation organizations are just a few of the movements covered in this essay. It further analyzes the impacts of the African diaspora on the African liberation struggle and the impact of the independence of African countries to the civil rights movement.


Pan-Africanism is a defined as the ideology that unifies individuals of African descent who have mutual interests. In history, Pan-Africanism has repeatedly assumed the form of a cultural or political movement. Pan-Africanism is said to have had its roots in the fight by African people against colonization, oppression, and enslavement by the European nations (Ackah, 2016). This struggle for independence can be drawn back to the very first resistances that started on slave ships against the colonial uprisings. It was manifested in a variety of ways and its lowest political appearance; its supporters projected a united African nation where all the Africans scattered in various parts of the world could live in peace. Pan-Africanism can thus be alluded as the sentimentality that individuals of African origin have a shared interest and deserve to be noticed and celebrated.

Origins of Pan-Africanism

The Pan-Africanism ideas started to spread in the middle of the 19th century in the United States, directed by some African leader who lived in the Western world. Some of the most significant and notable Pan-Africanists included Alexander Crummel, Martin Delany, both of African origin and Edward Blyden, who was of West Indian origin (Ackah, 2016). They all stressed on the cohesions between the Africans and the black people residing in the United States. Martin Delany supposed that the blacks could not live and thrive along with the whites. He backed the idea that African-Americans should move out of the United States and start their country. However, Byleden and Crummel believed that Africa was the place to establish the new country. The two also suggested that the Africans in the new nation had to go back to their native country and help in civilizing the peoples there. Although Delany, Blyden, and Crummel played a major role in establishing Pan-Africanism, the true father of Pan-Africanism was William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (Ackah, 2016). William converted the idea of Pan-Africanism into a movement that supported for self-government and the independence of the African nations. He urged that the problem that was facing the 20th century was the issue of color. He also argued the British nations give the black colonies the right to an accountable government. Though William pleads for the inclusion of the blacks in every part of the world, he explicitly urged for independence and self-governance for some African nations. Du Bois’s statement clearly showed that Africans were suffering under the colonization by the European countries. Other influential figures in the Pan African movements consisted of Marcus Garvey, C.L.R. James, George Padmore, and Jomo Kenyatta.

Influence of African Americans on Pan-Africanism

Although many of the Pan African thinkers originated from outside the United States, most of them drew their ideas from the African American culture, such Pan-Africanist thinkers drew various ideas from African-American culture. Some of them such as Padmore lived in the United States for a longer time than anticipated. The sharing of knowledge as well as ideas concerning people of African origin occurred between the intellects and the African-Americans. By 1940, the African American leaders of the Pan-African movement had receded with the African leaders who were now taking the lead. The most significant figure during this period was Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who thought that colonization could be eradicated if the Africans could unite both economically and politically. He led the movement in Ghana and helped her achieve her independence in 1957. After the independence of Ghana, Nkrumah emerged as one of the main advocates for the unity and independence of Africa. Over this period, Pan-Africanism had assumed a political approach and championed for the decolonization and unity of the whole of Africa.

Apartheid in South Africa

South Africa is one of the countries that was greatly affected by colonization. In 1948, the government introduced the apartheid regime, which emphasized on the separate development of the different racial groups in the country. On paper, the apartheid rule seemed to call for equality in development, but in the real sense, it completely prevented equality (Marais, 2011). The Apartheid regime laws required that the various racial groups live and develop distinctly. It also tried to stop all cultural exchanges or interactions between the racial groups. Furthermore, apartheid was a system, which greatly deprived the majority of the population, merely because they did not have the same skin as the rulers or those in power. In fact, the apartheid was not that different to the segregation policy that was implemented by the colonial government (Marais, 2011). The only difference is that apartheid converted segregation into law. The apartheid laws brutally and forcibly separated people and created a fearsome mechanism to discipline those who disobeyed these rules.

Rise of Resistance against Apartheid

Resistance to apartheid rule came from all corners of the world, and not just from those who were affected negatively by the discrimination experienced during apartheid. For instance, students in the United States urged the various universities to divest stocks in all the companies that were located in South Africa or were doing business with the apartheid regime (Clark & Worger, 2016). The suffering and protest by people in South Africa and even African Americans prompted the universities to divest their stocks. By 1988 more than one hundred and fifty-five universities had divested their stocks and the amount was significant. Eventually, faith organizations, states, counties, cities, and unions joined the movement.

Due to the increased protests by the African Americans and the increased violence in South Africa, the Congress passed an Anti-Apartheid rule that banned the establishment of new investments in South Africa (Clark & Worger, 2016). The act also banned the selling of police and military equipment and stopped importations of goods into the country. Major companies such as General Motors and IBM withdrew from South Africa because trading had become expensive. This isolation greatly undermined the apartheid regime and caused lots of damage to the government. Although it is true that the rise of the movement against the apartheid regime was led by the South Africans and African American activists, the move by the United States investors to withdraw from the country gave the movement both legitimacy and visibility (Clark & Worger, 2016).

According to Clark & Worger (2016), several other movements promoted the end of apartheid in South Africa. These movements include the Free South African Movement, Pan-Africanism movement, and many others. The Free South African Movement started as a strategy by the Trans Africa to draw attention to apartheid and force the United States government and corporations to act. When the request by the organization president and other civil rights activists to release the apartheid prisoners was rejected, several protests emerged out of the embassy leading to the formation of the movement. The continued protests in South African embassies, Washington D.C., and around the world prompted the Congress to pass the Anti-apartheid legislation and promoted slow divestiture by universities.

Civil Rights Movement

It is important to note that there exists an interdependent relationship between Pan-Africanism, the civil rights movement in the United States, and the African liberation movement. The Pan-African movement provided a foundation for the rise of the civil rights movement and the African liberation movement. As stated above, Pan-Africanism was initiated by African-American intellectuals who were concerned with the ill-treatment of the blacks in America (Dudziak, 2011). Likewise, the civil rights movement in the United States originated from the long-term efforts by the African slaves to struggle against discrimination and oppression. According to Dudziak (2011), the civil rights movement was a protest against apartheid and separation that was prominent in the 1950s. The objectives of both movements were to bridge the gap that existed between the Africans and the Americans. They both aimed to create a world where everyone was respected and treated equally.

Influence of African Independence on Civil Rights Movement

The Africans in the diaspora played a major role in the attainment of Africa independence. For instance, they organized conferences, conventions, and the Pan-African congresses between 1990 and 1950. During the Pan-African conference in Manchester, prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, and Julius Nyerere were inducted to the Pan-Africa ideology. After the conference, African leaders returned to their respective countries and led their people to resist against the imperial control by the European countries (Dudziak, 2011). After independence, most of these leaders served in various positions in their countries and became the major advocates for the total independence of the African continent. The independence of the African continent had various consequences. Apart from stopping discrimination and suffering of the Africans, it helped in accelerating the civil rights movement in the U.S. It reinforced the decision by the young civil rights campaigners in the U.S. to take the leadership of the movement by removing the American liberals who were restraining the rise of the movement. In order to increase the participation of the African-Americans in the United Nation Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus was formed. It was a race-based political party whose main aim was to positively influence the direction taken by the national activities and events that were relevant to the African-Americans. It also aimed to promote equality to people of African origin in designing national and international programs. The Congressional Black Caucus also played a major role in the promotion of better education systems, health and justice systems for the African-Americans.


Of note is that throughout history, Africans have been faced with numerous challenges such as colonization, discrimination, slavery, and even oligarchic governments. As a result, various movements such as Pan-Africanism, the civil rights movement, and African liberation movements were formed to help liberate or fight against the colonial and authoritarian regimes. Some of these injustices are still observed in the modern society. They are manifested through low wages in the industries, forced labor, discrimination in the workforce based on gender and color, and racist attacks. Segregation is also manifested among the rich and the poor, man and woman, and between people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. To completely eradicate this 'disease,' ideologies as well as the spirit of Pan-Africanism and the civil rights movement should be adopted. The future leaders of Africa should be inspired to lead the change toward a better Africa founded on the Pan-Africanism spirit.


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Blain, K. N., Leeds, A., & Taylor, U. Y. (2016). Women, Gender Politics, and Pan-Africanism. Women, Gender, and Families of Color, 4(2), 139-145.

Chong, D. (2014). Collective action and the civil rights movement. University of Chicago Press.

Clark, N. L., & Worger, W. H. (2016). South Africa: The rise and fall of apartheid. Routledge.

Dudziak, M. L. (2011). Cold War civil rights: Race and the image of American democracy. Princeton University Press.

Hill, R. (2015). Walter Rodney and the Restatement of Pan-Africanism in Theory and Practice. Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies, 38(3).

Marais, H. (2011). South Africa pushed to the limit. The Political Economy of Change, 62-75.

Sherwood, M. (2012). Pan-African Conferences, 1900-1953: What Did ‘Pan-Africanism’ Mean? The Journal of Pan African Studies, 4(10), 106-126.

Sherwood, M. (2012). Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora (Vol. 5). Routledge.

Tindall, G. B., & Shi, D. E. (2016). America: A narrative history. WW Norton & Company.

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