Black History (our story): Pan-Afrikanist Wisdom, 1791-2013: selection from Pan-Afrikanist thinkerz since Boukman I by Chinweizu

The Husia teaches that we must emulate the excellence of our ancestors, study

their wise teachings, great works and good deeds in everyday life, and struggle to

embody and add to the legacy they’ve left. It states that the wisdom of the

ancestors are “teachings for life, instructions for well-being and flourishing, for

directing one on the path of life and causing one to flourish on earth.” And we are

to “love learning, seek after truth,” and constantly bring forth that which is useful

for the people and the future.

–[Maulana Karenga, “The Sacred Narrative Of Africans”, Los Angeles Sentinel,

11-14-13, pp.6-7 ]


No one man has the solution to the

multitude of problems that confront us as a

race of people.”

“Youth Perspective on the 7th PAC”

by NSAJIGWA ISUBHA-GWAMAKA, /b>b.1964>, (1994)

on behalf of SISI KWA SISI, Mbeya, Tanzania.



We need to study the lessons of the Pan-Africanism Movement of the last two centuries,

develop its good points and discard its mistakes. One of the most tempting mistakes for

sectarian minds is to think that any one person has the solution to the multitude of

problems that confront us as a race of people. Certainly not Du Bois, certainly not

Nkrumah; and not even Garvey the Great, was able to display that humanly impossible

omniscience. This anthology aims to help correct that mistake by showing us a sample of

the range of wise thoughts that have emerged from the many different terrains of the Pan-

African struggle for liberation from slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism.


As these selections show, much intellectual work has been done by Pan-Africanist

thinkers in the two centuries since 1791. However, their work has not been collected and

made available for tackling the many tasks of Pan-Africanism.

As these selections show, useful insights have been supplied into such nitty-gritty

issues as mental independence; “Independence or death”; criticism and self-criticism; the

(Black) Race First principle; racial honor, racial self-reliance, racial unity, racial

solidarity, racial privacy; our implacable white enemies—Arab and European; economic

decolonization; cultural liberation; Afrocentric education; Black power; leadership and

followership; war; charity; propaganda; polygyny; racism/Negrophobia; Marxism and

blacks; re-Africanization; Afrocentrism; people’s democracy; Black African weaknesses;

the Pan-African Congress; the national army; collective security; cultural renaissance; the

lure of Marxism; integrating ancestral African values into contemporary African life; race

and class; the one-drop-rule; justified prejudice; the extermination of the Black race;

Negrocentricity; scientific socialism; communalism; socialism and racism; ethnofederalism,

ethnic autonomy and African unity; Kwanzaa and unity; Diaspora-Homeland

relations; and much else.

These are some of the nitty-gritty issues we must grapple with, the engineering

details we must think through, if we are to move beyond the affirmation of lofty

sentiments and vague ambitions, and actually get down to building the structures for

attaining the objectives of Pan-Africanism.

I urge other Black African scholars to contribute to this effort by searching through the

Pan-Africanist literature and compiling anthologies of the wisdom they find therein.

Then, the next generation of Pan-Africanists will have anthologies to educate them on the

tenets and ideas and best practices of Pan-Africanism, and so be spared the misfortune of

intellectual orphans who start out in a vacuum of ideas, as if they have no heritage to

draw from.

Please Note: This is a work in progress. I shall continue to add to it as I find more words

of Pan-Africanist wisdom. So, treat this as a preliminary report.

The dates in the format < 19xy-19xz > are the dates, if known, of the person quoted; the

date in the format (19yy) is the date, if known, of the statement just quoted.

Chinweizu’s commentaries are in red bold italics. They are comments or bald statements

or summaries of positions that, when the anthology is completed, will be argued and

demonstrated in mini essays. Some of these comments elaborate on, and some amend, the

quoted statement.



Section A

Examples of ideas (principles, doctrines and tasks) formulated by Black thinkers as

the lessons from the rich experience of Black struggles against imperialism, slavery,

colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism, both in Black Africa and the diaspora.


In the last two centuries of Black peoples’ struggles against imperialism, racism,

enslavement, colonialism and neo-colonialism, many doctrines and principles have

been formulated and various tasks have been set that capture the lessons of the

liberation experience. Since they are derived from the practice of Black African

liberation, and are guides to the practice of Black African liberation, these ideas

belong among the resources of a Pan-Africanism whose project is the liberation of

black Africans, whether or not their articulators were avowed Pan-Africanists. They

should be harvested and used to equip the minds of Pan-Africanists. Below are a few:

A1] Boukman’s call:

Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused

us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of

us all.”

–[Boukman, , (1791), quoted in C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins,

p. 87]


A2] “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the


–[Steve Biko, <1946-1977> (ca. 1971), “I Write What I Like” p. 68]


A3] “Black people reject this [Bantustan idea fundamentally because] . . .it is a

solution given to us by the same [white] people who have created the

problem. . . and [Blacks] are beginning to rid their minds of imprisoning

notions which are the legacy of the control of their attitudes by whites.”

–[ Biko, <1946-1977>, (ca. 1971), “I Write What I Like” pp. 82, 68]


A4] “in order to feature well in this game of power politics, [we Blacks] have

to use the concept of group power and build a strong foundation for this”

–[ Biko, <1946-1977>, (1971), “I Write What I Like” p.68]


A5] On our racial privacy:

a) “We demand complete control of our social institutions without

interference by any alien race or races.”

–[UNIA, “Declaration of Rights of the Negro peoples of the world”, 1920,

P&O, II: 140]


b) “. . . give the Negro race of Africa a chance to develop unhindered by other


–[Resolution of the 1st Pan-African Congress, (1919)]



A6] On practice of racial privacy by firmly excluding all whites from our group:

As Dessalines put it

What have we in common with that bloody-minded people? Their

cruelties compared to our moderation –their color to ours—the extension

of the seas which separate us—our avenging climate—all plainly tell us

they are not our brethren; that they will never become such. And if they

find asylum among us, they will still be the instigators of our troubles and

our divisions.”

–[Dessalines, <d.1806>, (1804), quoted in Jacob Carruthers, Irritated

Genie, p. 124]


A7] Black/Sub-Sahara Africa as the Africa of Pan-Africanism:

a) Garvey’s United States of Black Africa.

It is for you to decide; it is for the British government to decide; it is for

the French government to decide, it is for the governments of Belgium

also and of Portugal and of Spain, all in conference with us, to decide what

part of Africa they will place at the disposal of the natives so that they can

live in peace in their own native land. . . . There are certain parts of Africa

in which you cannot live at all; now it is for you to come together and give

us a United States of Black Africa.

[Marcus Garvey, <1887-1940>, (1928), “Speech at Royal Albert Hall” ,

London, June 6, 1928. See John Henrik Clarke, ed. Marcus Garvey and

the Vision of Africa, p. 297]

b) Sub-Sahara/Black Pan-Africanism–Du Bois’ advice to Nkrumah:

Ghana must on the contrary be the representative of Africa, and not only

that, but of Africa below the Sahara desert. . . . Ghana should lead a

movement of black men for Pan-Africanism, including periodic

conferences and personal contacts of black men from the Sahara to the

Indian Ocean. . . . a new series of Pan-African Congresses should be held;

. . . The new series of Pan-African Congresses would seek common aims

of progress for Black Africa. . . . I pray you, my dear Mr. Nkrumah, to use

all your power to put a Pan-Africa along these lines into working order at

the earliest possible date”

—[Du Bois, <1868-1963>, (1957), in “Letter to Nkrumah”, (March 1957),

in The World and Africa, pp. 295, 296, 297]


Du Bois was being historically correct in urging a Black or Sub-Sahara Pan-

Africanism. The captives transported from Africa to the Americas were Negroes, and


they had been procured from Sub-Sahara Africa. The Trans-Atlantic slave ships called

only at the Sub-Sahara coasts of Africa. They did not call at the Mediterranean coast

of North Africa or at the Atlantic coast of Morocco. They did not procure and transport

any whites—Arabs or Europeans– only Negroes. Hence the ancestors of the African-

American Diaspora did not include Arabs, but were only Negroes from Sub-Sahara

Africa. Hence the homeland of the diaspora Africans is not the

whole continent but only Sub-Sahara Africa. And that is the

correct Africa of Pan-Africanism.

But, for reasons best known to himself, (possibly the strong blancophilia—

aspiration to whiteness–that also manifested in his choice of white Arab and very light

octoroon-type African mothers for his children, and in his marked preference for close

white advisers and white personal assistants when he could have had Ghanaians or

other black Africans in those intimate positions) Nkrumah disregarded this historically

sound advice from the founder of the Pan-African Congress, and proceeded to

inaugurate a multi-racial, Afro-Arab, whole-Continent brand of Pan-Africanism. In

fact, but for their refusal to attend his 1958 Conference of Independent African States

(CIAS), even the European whites of Apartheid South Africa would have been

included in Nkrumah’s strange brand of anti-colonialist Pan-Africanism. Many

confusions have been spawned by this multiracial Continentalism: such as Black

Diasporans defending our white Arab enemies (such as Gadafi and his Libyan Arabs)

who are white settlers occupying North Africa, on the ground that they live in Africa

and therefore are Africans and of legitimate concern to Pan-Africanism. Which is like

Pan-Africanism defending the Boers—the European settler-colonialists who occupy

South Africa.


c) Nyerere on Sub-Sahara Pan-Africanism:

[emphases, in bold italics added by Chinweizu]

And the new leadership of Africa will have to concern itself with the

situation in which it finds itself in the world of tomorrow —in the world of

the 21st century. And the Africa I’m going to be talking about, is Africa

south of the Sahara, Sub-Sahara Africa. I’ll explain later the reason why

I chose to concentrate on Africa south of the Sahara. . . . Europe, Western

Europe, is very wealthy. It has two Mexicos. One is Eastern Europe. . . .

Europe has a second Mexico. And Europe’s Second Mexico is North

Africa. North Africa is to Europe what Mexico is to the United States.

North Africans who have no jobs will not go to Nigeria, they’ll be thinking

of Europe or the Middle East, because of the imperatives of geography


and history and religion and language. North Africa is part of Europe and

the Middle East.

Nasser was a great leader and a great African leader. I got on

extremely well with him. Once he sent me a Minister, and I had a long

discussion with his Minister at State House here [Dar-es-Salaam], and in

the course of the discussion, the Minister says to me, “Mr. President this is

my first visit to Africa”. North Africa, because of the pull of the

Mediterranean and I say history and culture, and religion, North Africa is

pulled towards the North. When North Africans look for jobs they go to

Western Europe and Southern Western Europe, or they go to the Middle

East. . . .

Africa, South of the Sahara is different, totally different. . . . Africa

South of the Sahara is isolated. That is the first point I want to make.

Africa South of the Sahara is totally isolated in terms of that configuration

of developing power in the world of the 21st Century — on its own. There

is no centre of power in whose self-interest it’s important to develop

Africa, no centre. Not North America, not Japan, not Western Europe.

There’s no self-interest to bother about Africa South of the Sahara. Africa

South of the Sahara is on its own. Na sijambo baya. Those of you who

don’t know Swahili, I just whispered, “Not necessarily bad”. That’s the

first thing I wanted to say about Africa South of the Sahara. African

leadership, the coming African leadership, will have to bear that in mind.

You are on your own . . .

The second point about Africa and again I am talking about Africa

South of the Sahara; it is fragmented, fragmented. . . . Africa south of the

Sahara is isolated. Therefore, to develop, it will have to depend upon its

own resources basically. Internal resources, nationally; and Africa will

have to depend upon Africa. The leadership of the future will have to

devise, try to carry out policies of maximum national self-reliance and

maximum collective self-reliance. They have no other choice. . . .The

small countries in Africa . . .should come together. . . . If we can’t move


towards bigger nation-states, at least let’s move towards greater cooperation.

This is beginning to happen. And the new leadership in Africa

should encourage it.”

—[Nyerere, <1922-1999>, (1997), excerpt from his 75th Birthday

Celebration speech, Dec 1997. In Reflections on Leadership in Africa –

Forty Years After Independence, ed. by Haroub Othman, Brussels: VUB

University Press, 2000, pp. 17-24]


As we can see, Garvey and Du Bois were both agreed on Sub-Sahara/Black Africa as

the Africa of Pan-Africanism. But Nkrumah, for reasons still undetermined, went his

own way and inaugurated his multi-racial, African and Arab, continentalist Pan-

Africanism. In fact, had Strijdom and Vorster accepted his invitation to his CIAS in

1958, Nkrumah would have included Apartheid South Africa in his peculiar brand of

Pan-Africanism. Nyerere, like the other Black African leaders who founded the OAU

in 1963, went along with the multi-racial, continental Pan-Africanism that Nkrumah

had already set in motion in 1958. But shortly before he died, Nyerere made a case for

Sub-Sahara Pan-Africanism. Thus we have three of the four greatest leaders of 20th

century Pan-Africanism in agreement, leaving Nkrumah isolated in his peculiar

version which, unfortunately, became institutionalized in the OAU.–Chinweizu


A8] Black is beautiful:

a) When you say “black is beautiful” what in fact you are saying to him is:

man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human


[Steve Biko, <1946-1977>, I Write What I Like, p.104]


b) I am a Negro. I make absolutely no apology for being a Negro because my

God created me to be what I am, and as I am so will I return to my God,

for He knows just why He created me as He did.

[Marcus Garvey, <1887-1940>, (1923), P&O, II: 212-213]


A9] On the practice of Black Unity by upholding the “one-drop rule”:

a) I have seen two classes of men, born to cherish, assist, and succour one

another—mixed in a world, and blended together . . .Blacks and Yellows

[mulattos], whom the refined duplicity of Europe for a long time

endeavored to divide: you, who are now consolidated, and make but one

family. . . [shall be] known under the general name of Blacks…..CONTINUE




Pan-Africanist Wisdom since Boukman- I (Dec 2013)

Pan-Africanist Wisdom, 1791-2013: selection from Pan-Africanist thinkers

since Boukman–I

Selected, edited and with commentary by Chinweizu

December 2013

Copyright © by Chinweizu, 2013



7 thoughts on “Black History (our story): Pan-Afrikanist Wisdom, 1791-2013: selection from Pan-Afrikanist thinkerz since Boukman I by Chinweizu

    • Panther Love. I have a 6 yr old grand daughter who sayz she will grow and be a freedom fighter like pa pa. She openz my black history class 4 me on Saturday morning and makes that all children have eaten. And helpz me to make lunch 4 the children and she iz the youngest of tha bunch and they nick named her Lil moma,

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