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Pan-Africanism: What It Is and Where It Came From

At the heart of every culture, there is a element that binds the people and creates community. For people of African descent, this unification and connective spirit is at the core of Pan-Africanism. It is the belief that there is resounding power in unity. Pan-Africanism was designated as a means of building an identity that allows for all people of African descent, without regard for their physical origin, to function as a whole and not a splintered collective.

The Father of Pan-Africanism

It’s very difficult to accurately find the origins of the Pan-African movement because before it was given an actual “label”, there were always people of African descent encouraging cooperative living and promoting love for their ancestry. However, many recognize  Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, whom most know as W.E.B. Du Bois, as the father of modern Pan-Africanism. He, along with the wife of US Consul William Henry Hunt, Ida Gibbs Hunt, organized the Pan-African Congress.

The First Pan-African Congress

The first two meetings of the Pan-African Congress took place in Europe and included delegates from many African countries and black people from other countries including the United States. One of the main goals of that conference was to give Africans home rule in their own countries. While politically postured in the beginning, the Pan-Africanism movement stretches far beyond that original objective now.

Today, the objective of Pan-Africanism is about more. It’s still worldwide in its scope and perspective, but the goal is broader. It is for every black person to recognize their African ancestry and for there to be greater solidarity among all people of African descent. A lofty goal, but one worth pursuing for the betterment of the entire black community across the world.

The Miseducation of the Black American

Historically, because of slavery, black people in the United States have received distorted messages and information about what means to be African. Black Americans specifically were made to feel that they should be ashamed of having African ancestry. They were told that Africans were savages, unkempt, dirty, and hedonistic. It has not been until recently that more positive images of Africa has been allowed to filter into mainstream access via the internet. These images debunk many false perceptions of Africanism that black Americans have been given.

While there have been many moments of Pan-Africanism throughout the last 100 years, including in the 60s and 70s, today, we are seeing a reemerged appreciation and acknowledgement of Pan-Africanism becoming more prevalent. A major influence on the revitalization of Pan-Africanism has come from the blockbuster movie, The Black Panther. In this movie, the beauty of Africa and all of the nations therein were put on full display in the most positive light ever. 

Pan-Africanism In Real Life

So, what can you do to be a part of the Pan-Africanism movement? You can educate yourself, your family, and your “village” about African history and Black American history. Be proud of your African roots and instill pride in your family. Connect with blacks around the world. Support businesses of those of African descent. Wear African inspired clothing unapologetically. Embrace your blackness in all facets of your life and the world will see that your life reflects your appreciation and recognition of your African roots. Do these things and you will do more than just know about Pan-Africanism. You will live it.


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