Friday, March 01, 2024

Pan-Africanism and Palestine Solidarity, Then and Now (Part II)

Genocidal policies towards Gaza and other West Asian states have substantially increased solidarity efforts with the Palestinian people

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Thursday February 29, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 10

When the Al-Aqsa Storm began on October 7, 2023, the corporate and government-controlled media in the United States and European countries utilized their resources to justify the Israeli genocidal assaults on the Gaza Strip and the Occupied West Bank.

Israeli governmental and military spokespersons were given free reign by the television, radio and newspaper platforms to denounce the Hamas Resistance Movement and the Palestinian people as a whole.

Palestinians were referred to as “animals, sub-humans, murderers and rapists.” These comments made by the Zionist officials did not receive any rebuttal by the western media outlets. 

However, despite the demonization of Palestinians and their allies in the region by numerous news agencies such as the British Broadcasting Corporations (BBC), Cable News Network (CNN), MSNBC and many others, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the blanket bombing and later ground invasion into the Gaza Strip. From New York City to the West Coast, protest actions were organized on college campuses, in business districts along with vigils outside the homes of leading Congressional figures such as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Although the majority of African American elected officials for both the Democratic and Republican parties tripped over themselves to express support for Tel Aviv, many rank-and-file activists issued statements and joined demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians. President Joe Biden was quickly labeled as “Genocide Joe” for his unconditional support for the Zionist state.

In an article published by the Black Agenda Report written by radio host Jacqueline Luqman, she emphasized:

“It shouldn't need to be said at this late date, but imperialism and settler colonialism are the pertinent issues to address in any discussion of Zionism. The foundational issue in the ongoing and existential conflict between Israeli settlers and indigenous Palestinians, not a continued and historical hatred of Jews, as many Zionists claim. But why do we make the distinction that opposition to Zionism is not automatically opposition to Jewish people? I believe that to understand this is to understand what Zionism is and the contradictions therein. First, Zionism itself is not entirely synonymous with Judaism. Although it is true that the Zionist movement was ‘officially’ organized by Theodor Hertzl in Austria in 1896 to establish a Jewish homeland in response to the bigotry and repression against Jews, it is important to understand that Hertzl was not himself an Orthodox, or ‘observant’ Jew; he was more secular than religious.” (https://blackagendareport.org/news/1659/33/Its-the-Zionism-Stupid)

Biden who has described himself as a “Zionist” traveled to Tel Aviv just hours after a hospital was bombed in Gaza City killing hundreds of patients and civilians. Biden in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apportioned blame for the Al-Ahli Hospital massacre on the Palestinian resistance absent of any investigation by any outside entity. He quoted former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as saying that the Jewish people had nowhere else to go other than Palestine. Biden has expressed no sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people who have been dislocated from their traditional homeland. 

Weapons were immediately sent to Israel while the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean to bolster the military onslaught in the Gaza Strip. U.S. military drones enhanced their surveillance over Palestine while it was revealed that the White House would bolster its already existent military base in the Negev.

Black Clergy Begins to Break with White House Calling for Ceasefire in Gaza

During late January after the annual federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and on the eve of African American History Month, one thousand African American members of the clergy issued a statement indicating that the White House under President Biden was jeopardizing its possibility of reelection by its unconditional support for the Israeli war against the Palestinians in Gaza. This clear message sent to Biden and the Democratic Party in general has been ignored by the administration and many within the U.S. Congress.

In a report published by the Root, a news website which is geared towards the African American community, it says in relations to these political developments:

“Black faith leaders from around the country are calling for an end to the Israel-Gaza war with an urgent message to President Joe Biden and Democratic leadership that inaction could cost them Black voters. According to The New York Times, a coalition of 1,000 Black pastors has launched a multi-tiered effort on behalf of their congregations, calling for a cease-fire and the release of Palestinian hostages in Gaza. In a letters, ads and meetings with the White House, the pastors reportedly put Democrats in Washington on notice about where they stand on the issue. The Black faith leaders said their congregations feel a connection between the Palestinians’ struggle in the region and their fight for civil rights in the United States, and they are growing impatient with the president’s support for Israel. According to NBC News, an overwhelming 70 percent of all voters ages 18 to 34, disapprove of the way Biden is handling the war.” (https://www.theroot.com/1000-black-pastors-warn-president-biden-that-israel-gaz-1851208993)

The following month of February, yet another blow to the Biden administration took place when the Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ), two of the oldest Black congregations in the U.S. which can trace their origins to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, made its opposition to the genocidal war in Gaza public. These two denominations combined represents 4.9 million members located across the U.S. and internationally. 

The official statement issued by the AMEZ Church emphasized:

“Our faith and our heritage demand a consistent stand for the value of all life. Whenever we witness acts of violence and human suffering, we have no choice but to raise our collective voices in prayer but also in protest. It is in this spirit that the Board of Bishops of the A.M.E. Zion Church joins with other Faith Leaders, including Bishops of the A.M.E. Church, our sister denomination, to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate release of all remaining hostages…. We call upon President Biden and the members of Congress to issue a call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all remaining hostages, and reviving efforts towards a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians can live with security, prosperity, and peace…. The International Court of Justice has issued a ruling calling on Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide and ensure access to humanitarian aid. We believe that the line has been crossed. According to UN human rights experts, much of the population in Gaza is starving and struggling to find food, drinkable water, healthcare, and fuel. Women and children are the disproportionate victims of this humanitarian crisis. It must be ended immediately. (https://www.starofzion.org/stories/official-statement-from-the-board-of-bishops-of-the-ame-zion-church-calling-for-a-ceasefire-in,50401)

Undoubtedly, the bulk of the AME and AMEZ members along with other clergy in opposition to the Biden policy on Palestine are participants in electoral politics as consistent voters. These events and other policy decisions of the Biden White House could easily lead to the Democratic Party losing control of the executive branch as well as the Senate.

The lawsuit filed by the African National Congress (ANC) government in the Republic of South Africa against the Israeli regime at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has drawn support worldwide. Former ANC leader and the first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) stated repeatedly that the people of South Africa cannot be completely liberated until the Palestinians are freed.

As the struggle against apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s was an issue which mobilized millions around the globe, the same situation is developing in regard to the Free Palestine movement. African Americans and peoples of African descent will continue to play a critical role in these efforts.

Electoral Challenge Through the Uncommitted Primary Vote

In the state of Michigan, activists led by young people within the Arab American community launched the “Abandon Biden” and “Listen to Michigan” campaigns. This protest action operating in the electoral arena encouraged voters in the primary to mark “uncommitted” as a rebuke of the White House policy on Palestine.

The call resulted in 101,000 voters casting their ballots as “uncommitted” sending a powerful message to the Democratic Party and the Biden administration. Michigan is considered a “swing state” where, as in 2016, its loss due to the negligence of the Hillary Clinton for president campaign, resulted in the victory of Donald Trump.

A mass rally held at the Dearborn Manor on February 25 by the Michigan Task Force for Palestine featured a panel composed of Maureen Taylor of the Welfare Rights Organization in the state as the chair; Nina Turner, former State Senator from Ohio; Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud; Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib; Gabriela Santiago-Romero of the Detroit City Council; Atty. Julie Hurwitz of Jewish Voice for Peace and the National Lawyers Guild; Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor Emeritus of the Central United Methodist Church; Rev. Robert Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor of the Historic New Bethel Baptist Church; and Jay Makled, Financial Secretary of the UAW Local 600. Such an alliance of diverse forces is reflective of the growing support for not only a ceasefire in Gaza it represents a repudiation of the longstanding U.S. policy towards Palestine.

Biden’s poor showing in recent polls indicates that his reelection is by no means certain. African Americans and their progressive leaders will continue to play an important role in the Palestine solidarity movement both inside the U.S. and around the world. 

Pan-Africanism and Palestine Solidarity, Then and Now (Part I)

From the era of Malcolm X to the present, progressive forces have supported the Palestinian and Arab struggles against Zionism and Imperialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Thursday February 29, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 9

19th century theorist and educator Edward Wilmont Blyden (1832-1912) viewed the struggle for African redemption as being comparable to the Zionist movement, then in its infancy.

As the founders of the World Zionist Movement allied themselves with the imperialist powers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Blyden, who was born in the Caribbean during the period of African enslavement, became a staunch advocate of migration to the African continent.

During his formative years in the Danish West Indies, now known as the American Virgin Islands, Blyden under the mentorship of Protestant Minister John Knox was brought to the United States in 1850 seeking admission to three theological colleges. He was rejected by these institutions of higher learning due to his race. 

Knox then encouraged Blyden to migrate to Liberia, a nation created by the American Colonization Society (ACS) for the repatriation free or manumitted Africans in the United States. The ACS had been controversial among many Africans living in the U.S. whose primary objective was the abolition of slavery and the securing of equal rights. 

Blyden wrote extensively on African history and culture as a journalist and academic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. While in Liberia, he worked as a school principal, college professor and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Between the 1860s and the 1880s, he served in several Liberian governmental positions as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Interior and even unsuccessfully contested for the presidency in 1885.

Later Blyden published his most well-known book entitled “Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race” (1887) where he suggested that Islam was a religion more suitable to the people of Africa. However, during the life of Blyden, the exploitative systems of slavery and later colonialism were at their heights of influence. It would take the emergence of two imperialist wars in the 20th century for the African independence struggles to fully emerge seeking the liberation of nation-states and continental unity during the mid-to-late 20th century.

Scholar Michael Williams in his article entitled “Pan-Africanism and Zionism: The Delusion of Comparability”, chronicles the role of Zionist thought and its influence on thinkers and activists seeking identification and repatriation to the continent. He concludes the report by emphasizing:

“It would be remiss to conclude this review without noting that not all persons today, or in the past, who have in some way been associated with either or both of these movements, have shared this delusion of comparability. There are a few notable exceptions. For example, Pan-Africanist Malcolm X viewed Zionism with utter disgust, albeit through an Islamic prism.” (https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Pan-Africanism-and-Zionism-Williams/a1f8beb23be6fac7eb5be038971dada25cd8b7b5)

While in Egypt during September 1964, Malcolm published an article in the Gazette on the question of Zionism. He refutes the notion of a religious basis for the occupation of Palestine while placing the struggle against Zionism within the context of the movements against colonialism and imperialism.

Malcolm X says in this article that:

“The Israeli Zionists are convinced they have successfully camouflaged their new kind of colonialism. Their colonialism appears to be more ‘benevolent,’ more ‘philanthropic,’ a system with which they rule simply by getting their potential victims to accept their friendly offers of economic ‘aid,’ and other tempting gifts, that they dangle in front of the newly independent African nations, whose economies are experiencing great difficulties. During the 19th century, when the masses here in Africa were largely illiterate it was easy for European imperialists to rule them with ‘force and fear,’ but in this present era of enlightenment the African masses are awakening, and it is impossible to hold them in check now with the antiquated methods of the 19th century. The imperialists, therefore, have been compelled to devise new methods. Since they can no longer force or frighten the masses into submission, they must devise modern methods that will enable them to maneuver the African masses into willing submission.’ (https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/socialist-viewpoint-us/mayjun_05/mayjun_05_21.htm)

Malcolm foresaw an alliance between African and Arab states in opposition to imperialism. Initially he made reference to his rejection of Zionism on the basis of religious affinity with other Muslims who were of dark complexions. After leaving the Nation of Islam in March 1964, Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) took on a more secular approach to the Zionist question.

In a recent article published by the Middle East Eye, it reports:

“Malcolm travelled from Egypt to Gaza on 5 September 1964. At the time, the Gaza Strip was under the control of Egypt (which took over the enclave in 1948) and therefore travel between the two territories was relatively smooth. According to his travel diaries, Malcolm visited the Khan Younis refugee camp, which was created in 1949 following the Nakba to house people displaced from other parts of Palestine. He also visited a local hospital and dined with religious leaders in Gaza. Later in the evening, the American preacher met renowned Palestinian poet Harun Hashem Rashid, who described to him how he narrowly escaped the Khan Younis massacre of 1956…. On 15 September, in Cairo's Shepheard's Hotel, Malcolm met with members of the newly formed Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), including Ahmad al-Shukeiri, the group's first chairman.” (https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/when-malcolm-x-visited-gaza-september- 1964#:~:text=On%2015%20September%2C%20in%20Cairo's,Shukeiri%2C%20the%20group's%20first%20chairman.)

After the assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, new forces would emerge in the solidarity efforts between African Americans, Palestinians and other progressive forces within North Africa and West Asia. The rebellion in Los Angeles during August 1965 revealed the rising frustrations and political consciousness among the Black population in the U.S. 

SNCC, the Six Day War and Palestinian Solidarity

After the nationalist and Pan-Africanist shift within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with the ascendancy of Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) in the Summer of 1966, a greater emphasis was placed upon international solidarity. In the following year, 1967, H. Rap Brown (now known as Imam Abdullah al-Amin, was elected Chair of SNCC. 

James Forman, then the International Affairs Director for SNCC, described 1967 as the “High Tide of Black Resistance.” Forman and SNCC lawyer Howard Moore, traveled to Kitwe, Zambia to participate in the UN-sponsored conference on the struggle against white-minority rule in Southern Africa held in July 1967. (https://snccdigital.org/inside-sncc/international-connections/international-bureau/)

When war erupted in early June 1967 between Egypt, Jordan, Syria against the State of Israel, SNCC sided with Cairo, Amman and Damascus. The organization came under fire from the ruling class and its Zionist operatives when their newsletter published an article written by Ethel Minor on the Palestinian question. 

Minor had been a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) in the early 1960s. When Malcolm X broke with the NOI, she left in solidarity with the former national spokesperson of the organization. After the martyrdom of Malcolm X, she joined SNCC and later became Communications Secretary for the group.

In the June-July Newsletter of SNCC, Minor wrote an article entitled “The Palestine Problem: Test Your Knowledge” which consisted of a series of questions about the history of the region. Initially it was not considered a formal position of the organization. Nonetheless, on August 15, 1967, SNCC issued a statement entitled “The Middle East Crisis” articulating their position on the Palestinian question and the recent fighting labeled as the “six-day war.” (https://www.crmvet.org/docs/sv/6707_sncc_news-r.pdf) (https://www.crmvet.org/docs/670815_sncc_palestine.pdf)

The views of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and Muslim Mosque, Inc. set the course for the burgeoning anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian sentiments in the African American community. Solidarity with Palestine was reflective of the positions of progressive and socialist oriented states on the African continent. 

Forman noted that in June 1967, he and other SNCC leaders were summoned by the UN Mission of Guinea-Conakry which spelled out its views on the six-day war and the importance of solidarity with the Palestinians. Between 1948 and 1967, millions of Palestinians were forced from their historical homeland. Thousands of others were killed due to Israeli aggression backed by U.S. imperialism and its allies.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the issues related to the status of Palestinians became more pronounced. Under the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the veteran civil rights leader Andrew Young was dismissed from his position as UN Ambassador for the U.S. for merely holding a meeting with a representative of the PLO. This action by a Democratic White House illustrated the strategic significance of the State of Israel to the overall role of imperialism in the 20th century.

Before and Beyond Vietnam

From an appeal to the United Nations and opposition to imperialist war, the movements for civil rights and peace proved costly to the African American people

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Thursday February 29, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 8

Even though the United States government in its propaganda during World War II suggested that there would be greater freedoms for African Americans in the wake of the defeat of European fascism and imperial Japan, in reality a very different social situation prevailed.

There was an immediate upsurge in both mob and police violence directed at Black communities across the country, particularly in the South. 

During 1946 and 1947, three horrendous incidents occurred. African American Army Sargeant Isaac Woodard after being honorably discharged in February 1946, was traveling from Georgia to South Carolina on a Greyhound bus when the driver summoned the police to arrest the soldier due to an argument over a bathroom stop. Woodard was arrested by Batesburg, South Carolina Police Chief Linwood Shull and severely beaten resulting in permanent blindness. The case gained national attention and was taken up by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by demanding action from the federal government. Although Chief Shull was put on trial in the federal courts, a jury acquitted him after deliberating for 30 minutes. (https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/woodard-isaac-1919-1992/)

Later that same year on July 25, 1946, two African Americans couples were lynched at the Moore’s Ford Bridge just 60 miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The lynching occurred after one of the Black men was bailed out of jail being accused of stabbing a white man at a plantation owned by whites. 

One source on the incident said that:

“George W. Dorsey (a veteran of WWII), Mae Murray Dorsey, Roger, and Dorothy Malcom (seven months pregnant) were accosted by a mob of white men as they headed to their home. As documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp explains, ‘Roger Malcom had been imprisoned in Walton County for stabbing his white employer. After a week in jail, Malcom’s wife, his brother-in-law, and his wife accompanied a prominent white farmer, Loy Harrison, to bail him out. What they didn’t realize was that this was a set-up to lynch Malcom. At the funeral, an African American man told a journalist from The Chicago Defender, ‘They’re exterminating us. They’re killing Negro veterans, and we don’t have nothing to fight back with except our bare hands.’” (https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/moores-bridge-lynching/)

Nothing was ever done to bring the assailants to justice for the lynching. NAACP leaders met with then President Harry S. Truman who, although condemned the racial terror, the White House responded with meager measures such as issuing a report and imposing an executive order to desegregate the military.

Just one year later, on June 29, 1947, in Covington, Tennessee, police officials lynched Jimmy Wade, Sr. who was 36 years old. Wade worked at the Naval base in neighboring Shelby County while he and his wife were building a house for their family of eight children. Wade was picked up on his porch by police officials on Sunday evening while he and his son listened to the church services being held across the street. He was taken to a home right outside the town and accused of attempting to rape a white woman connected with a local grocer. Wade was shot, genitally mutilated, tied to the police sedan and drug through Covington. After arriving back at the location of the shooting, the police, the grocer and the woman who made the false allegations, noticed that Wade was still breathing. He was then pumped with another 20 bullets. 

In an evidentiary hearing several days later in the Tipton County Chancery Court, the police claimed that Wade had pulled a knife on four armed white men. Wade’s brother in an interview conducted later said that Jimmy was killed because he argued with the grocer after he attempted to sell him rotten products, which he refused to pay for. The Court declared Wade’s death justifiable homicide. (https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/downloads/neu:m043h288k?datastream_id=content) (https://honors.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/6733)

These three incidents represent not even a small fraction of the racial terror meted out to African Americans after the conclusion of World War II. The situation was so dangerous that the NAACP submitted a 100-page document to the United Nations entitled “An Appeal to the World: A Statement on the Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of Citizens of Negro Descent in the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress.” The document was written and published under the editorial supervision of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, then the Director for Special Research with the Association. (https://www.crmvet.org/info/470000_naacp_appeal_un-r.pdf)

The appeal to the UN was an important development in the African American struggle in the post-war period. However, within a brief period of time such efforts requesting the intervention of international bodies bypassing the U.S. government clashed with the exigencies of the rapidly developing Cold War. 

We Charge Genocide

By 1948, within the African American community and broader progressive movements in the U.S., there was much dissatisfaction with the Truman administration’s response to the escalation in lynchings and unjustifiable police killings. Many people feared the initiation of another imperialist war. 

The Progressive Party was formed to counter the reactionary trends dominating U.S. politics and nominated Henry A. Wallace to run for president in 1948. Wallace had served as Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was a supporter of the New Deal and drew the ire of conservative elements within the Democratic Party. In 1944 he was removed from the last Roosevelt ticket and replaced by Harry S. Truman of Missouri. (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/progressive-party-platform-1948)

Du Bois and others in the civil rights movement chose to back Wallace. His position and open criticism of the Truman bid for the presidency resulted in his dismissal from the NAACP, an organization which he co-founded. 

In 1951, Paul Robeson, Eslanda Goode Robeson, Du Bois, Claudia Jones, William Patterson, Dorothy Hunton and many others filed another petition with the UN characterizing the plight of African Americans as genocide. The document further split the civil rights movement with Eleanor Roosevelt threatening to leave the NAACP board if the organization signed on to the document entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People.” (https://depts.washington.edu/moves/images/cp/WeChargeGenocide.pdf) (https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydoc.cfm?_y=1951&_f=md002103)

The evidence presented in We Charge Genocide was a damning indictment of the Truman administration and its failure to address institutional racism. Of course, the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), which issued the document was accused of being a front for the Communist Party. Over 100 people associated with the CRC and other fraternal groups were criminally charged, prosecuted, imprisoned and deported during the course of the 1950s. 

Beyond Vietnam: The Persecution and Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Dr. King, Rosa L. Parks and others inherited the mantle of the mass civil rights movement in the mid-1950s, they too were accused of being communists. The NAACP was banned in several southern states during the 1950s despite its reliance on filing lawsuits in the federal courts.

Therefore, when King delivered his well-publicized speech in opposition to the war in Vietnam at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, he was met with a torrent of press editorials condemning him for his position. Communications between the Johnson White House and the SCLC were severed. SCLC joined SNCC and dozens of other antiwar organizations in a mass demonstration to the United Nations on April 15, 1967. A petition was delivered to U-Thant, the then Secretary-General of the UN, demanding his assistance to end the U.S. occupation and blanket bombing of Vietnam. 

The King Institute at Stanford University says of the Beyond Vietnam speech by King that:

“The immediate response to King’s speech was largely negative. Both the Washington Post and New York Times published editorials criticizing the speech, with the Post noting that King’s speech had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people’ through a simplistic and flawed view of the situation (‘A Tragedy,’ 6 April 1967). Similarly, both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Ralph Bunche accused King of linking two disparate issues, Vietnam and civil rights. Despite public criticism, King continued to attack the Vietnam War on both moral and economic grounds.” (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/beyond-vietnam)

SCLC, SNCC and other progressive groups were a part of a movement of millions calling for the immediate end to the war. Muhammad Ali, a member of the Nation of Islam in 1967, refused induction after being drafted into the military saying that “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me a N word”. Youth burned draft cards, participated in actions to shutdown recruitment and induction centers, went into exile in Canada and other countries to avoid being sent to Vietnam. 

King was assassinated one year to the date of his Beyond Vietnam speech on April 4, 1968. He was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee while supporting a sanitation workers strike demanding recognition as a bargaining unit within the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). His assassination occurred as he prepared to lead a Poor People’s Campaign to occupy Washington, D.C., demanding unprecedented White House and Congressional action aimed at eliminating poverty.

More than five decades since the martyrdom of King, the U.S. is still engaged in imperialistic warmongering in West Asia, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and on the African continent. Those who speak out against interventionism continue to be labelled as leftists and opposed to the interests of the federal government and the capitalist system.

Some individuals and organizations purportedly following the legacy of King and other progressive and revolutionary leaders, refrain from challenging the Pentagon. Perhaps from fear of being characterized as subversives, there are those who even serve as apologists for U.S. military interventions. 

Nonetheless, military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Syria, Ukraine, Libya, among others, have been met with formidable opposition. These destabilization campaigns, bombings, invasions and occupations have further eroded the political status of the U.S. internationally. 

African American Liberation and the Vietnamese Revolution

With the escalation of United States involvement in Southeast Asia, a mass movement arose against the genocidal war

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Tuesday February 27, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 7

“Up in French Indochina, those little peasants, rice-growers, took on the might of the French army and ran all the Frenchmen, you remember Dien Bien Phu! The same thing happened in Algeria, in Africa. They didn't have anything but a rifle. The French had all these highly mechanized instruments of warfare. But they put some guerilla action on. And a white man can't fight a guerilla warfare. Guerilla action takes heart, takes nerve, and he doesn't have that. [cheering] He's brave when he's got tanks. He's brave when he's got planes. He's brave when he's got bombs. He's brave when he's got a whole lot of company along with him. But you take that little man from Africa and Asia; turn him loose in the woods with a blade. A blade. [cheering] That's all he needs. All he needs is a blade. And when the sun comes down – goes down and it's dark, it's even-Stephen. [cheering]”

Malcolm X speech entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet” delivered in Detroit on April 12, 1964 (https://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/mx.html)

These words were spoken by Malcolm X at the King Solomon Baptist Church on the westside of Detroit. The address was made just prior to the departure of Malcolm X to Africa and West Asia where he made the Hajj in Saudi Arabia and visited numerous African states.

African American opposition to the Vietnam War was a logical response to the national oppression suffered by Black people after a century since the conclusion of the Civil War. The failure of Federal Reconstruction between 1865-1877 had resulted in the era of Jim Crow and what is described as “the Nadir”, an historical period of super-exploitation, national oppression and the failure of local, state and the federal governments to implement the Constitutional Amendments and Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1860s and 1870s.

The following year on April 17, 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) joined with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) for the largest demonstration against the Vietnam War up until that time. It is reported that 15,000-20,000 people participated in the demonstration in Washington, D.C. Bob Moses, a leading organizer in SNCC represented the organization and spoke at the rally. (https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/largest-antiwar-protest/)

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had just begun his full term of office after inheriting the position in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in March 1965 ordered the deployment of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops into South Vietnam under the guise of halting the spread of communism. Similar claims were made in 1950 when the administration of President Harry S. Truman, under the rubric of the United Nations, invaded Korea. The Korean war began officially in June 1950 and continued for another three years before an Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. Since 1953, there has not been a comprehensive peace agreement signed between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Republic of Korea, the U.S. and the UN.

In a document published by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in July 1965, members responded to the combat death of a young man known by several civil rights organizers in the state. An entry in the SNCC Digital archives notes:

“In late July 1965, a group of young activists in McComb, Mississippi’s Movement learned that John Shaw, one of their former classmates at Burglund High School, was killed in combat in Vietnam. The news stung them and that he was fighting in Vietnam seemed hypocritical–Why should young Black men fight and die in far-off Vietnam when first-class citizenship and freedom was denied to them in Mississippi? They wrote and released a broadside declaring in part that “Negro boys should not honor the draft [and] mothers should encourage their sons not to go.” Their public denouncement was the first anti-war statement from within the Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for SNCC to take a stance against the war.” (https://snccdigital.org/events/mccomb-project-comes-vietnam-war/)

Although SNCC had participated in the April 17 antiwar demonstration in Washington, a statement articulating its position was not formally released to the public until January 6, 1966, in the wake of the murder of one of their activist Sammy Younge, Jr. in Alabama. Between July 1965 and early 1966 several monumental events occurred including the Watts Rebellion in August and the burgeoning organizing work which resulted in the formation of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, the original Black Panther Party. 

The overall atmosphere in the African American community, particularly among youth and workers, was becoming far more radical. Consequently, it was not surprising when SNCC wrote that:

“We, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, have been involved in the black peoples’ struggle for liberation and self-determination in this country for the past five years. Our work, particularly in the South, has taught us that the United States government has never guaranteed the freedom of oppressed citizens, and is not yet truly determined to end the rule of terror and oppression within its own borders…. We ask, where is the draft for the freedom fight in the United States? We therefore encourage those Americans who prefer to use their energy in building democratic forms within this country. We believe that work in the civil rights movement and with other human relations organizations is a valid alternative to the draft. We urge all Americans to seek this alternative, knowing full well that it may cost them their lives–as painfully as in Vietnam.” (https://snccdigital.org/inside-sncc/policy-statements/vietnam/)

During the May 1966 national SNCC conference, Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) was elected chairman. His work in Lowndes County had gained attention across the U.S. Opposition to the war in Vietnam, the militant demands of the civil rights movement and the launching of the Black Power movement represented a sharp turning point in the work of SNCC as well as the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). Both organizations adopted the Black Power slogan and the program of independent politics including opposition to the draft which fueled U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. 

Diane Nash, who joined the struggle while a student in Nashville at Fisk University, gained national attention for her leadership role in the sit-ins to end legalized segregation in 1960 and later the Freedom Rides” during the Spring of 1961. In December 1966, she traveled with four other women working with various peace organizations to North Vietnam with stopovers in the Soviet Union and China. 

In a report on the trip written by Nash and published in Freedomways journal she noted that:

“Finally, on January 2 we had an hour-long discussion with President Ho Chi Minh. He seems to be a very gentle man. He is 76 years old but is very alert and shows no signs of becoming senile. He is determined that Vietnam be reunified and independent. He expressed regret that so many American youth were dying on Vietnamese soil but said, ‘If they came to teach or to help us build, we would welcome them, but they come to our country to kill us, so we have no 

other choice but to kill them.’ He said, ‘in this war we are at home. We want peace, but we insist on peace with independence.’” (https://www.crmvet.org/info/67_nash_vietnam.pdf)

During 1967, Carmichael traveled to Puerto Rico and later Cuba, Egypt, Tanzania, Guinea-Conakry, England, France, China, North Vietnam and several Scandinavian countries. James Forman, the former Executive Secretary of SNCC, established an International Affairs division where he served as Director between 1967-1969. Forman spoke on more than one occasion to the Fourth Committee of the UN on Decolonization where he addressed the then ongoing armed struggles in Southern Africa and the unconditional solidarity advanced by SNCC and other liberation forces within the African American community. (https://www.crmvet.org/docs/6711_sncc_un.pdf)

Amid the rising opposition to the war within the Civil Rights Movement, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had written documents and resolutions critical of the war as early as 1965. However, it would not be until early 1967 that Dr. King came out publicly against the War, linking it to the failure of the Johnson administration to fulfill its promises of the Great Society and the War on Poverty. 

King’s position on Vietnam, his determination to bring forward the plight of poor people in the U.S. and the intensification of the fight against racism contributed to his further alienation from the Johnson administration and subsequent assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Although King had initially refrained from condemning the war, his wife, Coretta Scott King, had participated in antiwar demonstrations related to Vietnam as early as 1965. (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/vietnam-war#:~:text=Though%20he%20avoided%20condemning%20the,a%20small%20first%20step%20that)

Panthers for Pentagon Prisoners of War

Building upon the relationships between African Americans and the Vietnamese, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense founded in October 1966 in Oakland, developed new solidarity programs between the two peoples. Moreover, during the 1920s, Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the Indochinese Communist Party and later the Communist Party of Vietnam, lived in New York City where he was a supporter of Marcus Garvey. There is a document written by the Vietnamese revolutionary leader on the plight of African Americans. (https://canada-asean.org/the-black-race-by-ho-chi-minh)

By 1968, the Black Panther Party had gained notoriety internationally. In December of that year a solidarity conference on Vietnam was held in Montreal. Bobby Seale, co-founder with Huey P. Newton of the Oakland-based BPP, was invited to address the meeting attended by delegates from 25 countries. The conference would endorse both the National Liberation Front fighting in South Vietnam and the Panthers as the vanguard organizations in the struggle against imperialism.

The following year at the First Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algeria, the BPP was invited alongside liberation movements and governments from throughout the continent. The Panthers were recognized as the legitimate representatives of the African American people. They would establish an International Section beginning in 1969 during the festival at the location vacated by the NLF. 

Several weeks later during the Chicago 8 conspiracy trial, the socialist government in Hanoi offered to turn over all U.S. Prisoners of War in exchange for the release of Panther leaders and co-founders, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, then incarcerated in California and Illinois. The U.S. administration under then President Richard Nixon immediately rejected the proposal. Later there was a modified version of the Vietnamese offer which was called “Panthers for Pilots”, where for each Pentagon operative released in Hanoi, there would be the liberation of detained members of the Party, which in 1969-1970 included hundreds of cadres across the country. After the release of Newton on appeal in August 1970, he continued the outreach to the Vietnamese by pledging to send Panther cadres to assist the NLF fighting in the South of the country. (https://wp.nyu.edu/gallatin-bpparchive2021/international-branches/vietnamese-national-liberation-front/)

These historical examples of African Americans and their opposition to the Vietnam War provide only a glimpse of the widespread solidarity efforts. Despite the increasing bans on literature which examines resistance history in the U.S., people must continue to seek out and demand information and knowledge which reveal the actual situation in the U.S. and the world.  

African Americans and the Cold War from Civil Rights to Black Power

After the conclusion of the Second Imperialist War the movement for equality, self-determination and national liberation intensified

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Thursday February 22, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 6

When the Red Army seized control of Berlin in early May 1945 hoisting the Soviet flag on the Reichstag building within the besieged city, jubilations erupted across Europe and around the world.

The European phase of the Second Imperialist War cost the lives of tens of millions of people in the fight against fascism.

In the North African state of Algeria thousands of people went into the streets on May 8, 1945 celebrating the defeat of the German military while at the same time demanding an immediate end to French colonialism. Instead of joining in with the people of Algeria, a country which had been subjected to imperialist rule since 1830, the French police and military opened fire killing thousands in one of the largest massacres of the colonial period.

Details related to this horrendous act of repression ordered by the French military and government were suppressed and then denied by the officials in Paris. Algeria, as a result of the German occupation of France after 1940, had become the de facto capital of the European state.

In one account of the massacre, it emphasizes that:

“Panic ensued and clashes between the Algerians and French quickly led to violence with the French using all attempts to control the population. The colonial forces launched an air and ground offensive against several eastern cities, particularly in Setif and Guelma. The head of the temporary government of France at the time, General De Gaulle, ordered for farmers and villagers from surrounding areas to be killed in what quickly became lynching operations and summary executions. Thousands of bodies accumulated so quickly that burying them was impossible, so they were often dumped in wells or surrounding ravines. The violence would continue until 22 May when the tribes surrendered. By then, 45,000 Algerian men, women and children in and around the region of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata had been killed along with 102 French casualties.” (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170508-remembering-the-massacre-of-45000-algerians/)

The May 8 massacre and subsequent events in Algeria fueled nationalist sentiment which eventually created the conditions for the initiation of an armed struggle nine years later in November 1954. The war of liberation lasted until 1962 when the French imperialists were forced to grant independence to Algeria after 132 years of occupation.

These events in Algeria during the post-war period were by no means isolated incidents. The following year beginning on August 12, 1946, thousands of African miners struck in the Union of South Africa. The strike was led by J.B. Marks of the Communist Party and the African National Congress (ANC). 

The mine bosses and police responded to the strike with brute force. At least 9 miners were killed and more than 1,200 were wounded and injured. Although the strike was ruthlessly suppressed, the degree of militancy exemplified by the African Miners Union would have an impact on the overall struggle for national liberation led by the ANC and its allies during the subsequent years during the 1950s. 

In the Gold Coast, later known as Ghana, the African military veterans were angered over the failure of the British colonial forces to pay benefits for their service during the Second Imperialist War. On February 28, 1948, during a demonstration by the ex-servicemen in the capital Accra, the British security forces opened fire on the march killing three people. In response, strikes and rebellions erupted throughout various regions of the country. 

According to one account of these developments:

“The people’s protests lasted five days. By 1st March the colonial governor had declared a state of emergency and put in place a new Riot Act. On 12th March the governor ordered the arrest of ‘The Big Six,’ leading members of the UGCC, which included Kwame Nkrumah, as he believed they were responsible for orchestrating the disturbances. The Big Six were incarcerated in remote northern parts of the country. It was around this time that Nkrumah and the other five began to have significant disagreements over the direction of the movement for independence. By 1949 Nkrumah had broken away from the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP) taking the masses of the people with him. The CPP, through a campaign of ‘Positive Action,’ achieved an end to the Gold Coast colony and brought the new dawn of independent Ghana on 6th March 1957.” (https://praad.gov.gh/index.php/the-riots-of-28th-february-1948/)

Impact of the Cold War on the African American Struggle

These events in Africa had a tremendous impact on people of African descent in the U.S. Even prior to the Rand Miners’ strike of 1946, the Council on African Affairs (CAA) led by Dr. William A. Hunton, Paul Robeson and others held a solidarity rally with the South African movement at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 6, mobilizing tens of thousands. The CAA was founded in 1937 by Robeson, Hunton, Max Yergan and many others. 

However, after the conclusion of World War II, the CAA would come under fire by the U.S. government which labelled the organization as a “communist front.” Similar attacks were also carried out against the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) since both organizations were supported by the Communist Party. 

Robeson, Du Bois and his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois, were targeted for their support of the socialist states and national liberation movements in Africa. After they attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1949 their passports were confiscated, and Du Bois was later charged with being an “agent of a foreign power” due to his opposition to the Cold War which threatened the commencement of another global conflagration this time involving the socialist states and U.S. imperialism. 

Although the case against W.E.B. Du Bois collapsed, many others were indicted between 1948 and 1951 on numerous charges including failure to register as a foreign agent and conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government. The Smith Act, which outlawed the advocacy of the violent overthrow of the government, was utilized in the indictments and prosecutions of more than 100 members of the Communist Party. Lawyers which provided legal assistance to the defendants were held by the judge in contempt of court and faced disbarment and jail sentences. 

The Cold War and the Mass Civil Rights Movement

In May 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Topeka ruling which declared that the “separate but equal” decision in the Plessy v. Fergusen case of 1896 was inherently unconstitutional. The following year with the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and the quest for justice in the case by his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, created an atmosphere of discontent among the African American people. 

Although the Mississippi courts refused to convict the two murderers of Till, by December of 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott erupted sparked by the arrest of Mrs. Rosa L. Parks of the NAACP who had worked closely with E.D. Nixon, an organizer for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister in Montgomery, became the spokesperson for the movement. 

After the successful conclusion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 when the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in the municipal transportation service, King and his comrades founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. Although a Civil Rights Bill was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1957 aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Justice Department to enforce the right to vote among African Americans, progress remained extremely slow for the remainer of the decade.

However, by 1960, student demonstrations erupted across the South against legalized segregation involving public accommodations and private businesses. During April, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed at an SCLC sponsored conference held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ella Baker, who had served as the executive secretary of SCLC, encouraged the students to form their own independent organization.

SNCC moved throughout various areas of the South organizing local communities and students to advance the struggle against segregation and later for voting rights. The Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 brought together numerous Civil Rights groups in the state where they engaged in voter registration and the formation of the Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).

Other important developments in 1964 would prove highly significant. Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam forming the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) on June 28 after a tour of the African continent and several countries in West Asia. Malcolm’s emphasis on armed self-defense, Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism had a monumental influence on SNCC and other young people. 

By 1966, when Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, became SNCC chairman, Black-led urban rebellions had increased in their frequency across the U.S. It was the work of SNCC in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965-66 which led to the creation of the original Black Panther Party. The Black Panther concept rapidly spread to other regions of the U.S. In October 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, California under the leadership of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Congress continued their repressive campaigns against the leadership of social movements under the guise of fighting communism and subversion. Many people were killed during the more than 200 urban rebellions which took place between 1964 and 1970. More than twenty members of the Black Panther Party were murdered by police and those operating in their interest. Hundreds of Panthers and members of other revolutionary organizations were framed on trump-up charges and sent to jails and prisons. 

Therefore, the attempted suppression of national liberation movements in Africa coincided with the efforts to overthrow the socialist countries while simultaneously targeting Black-led social movements in the U.S. These developments further exposed the falsehood that the U.S. political system was based upon democratic practice and the right to due process. 

Cultural Renaissance, Economic Crises and the Struggle Against Fascism, 1919-1945

Africans from across the globe joined hands in efforts to end colonialism and imperialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Wednesday February 21, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 5

In the aftermath of the First Imperialist War, African Americans and people of African descent around the world escalated their movements to end colonial domination, legalized segregation and the super-exploitation of their land, resources and labor.

The Pan-African Congress held in Paris during 1919 represented a turning point in the political consciousness and organizational capacity of the Black masses globally.

A central figure in this process was Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) in 1909. Du Bois was a graduate of Harvard University in 1896 where he wrote his Ph.D. Dissertation on the suppression of the African slave trade. 

By 1900, Du Bois was involved in the Pan-African Conference held in London from July 23-25. After WWI, the historian and social scientist in response to the Paris Peace Conference called for another gathering, this time entitled the Pan-African Congress. 

Although the resolutions of the Pan-African Congress in Paris during 1919 were limited in their militancy due to the strength of imperialism even in the wake of the pillage involving millions during the war, the gathering was a clear reflection of the heighten consciousness of peoples throughout the oppressed nations. In that same year, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) was founded by African workers in Cape Town, South Africa where it embarked upon an unprecedented strike against racism and exploitation. 

Also in the summer of 1919, white racist mobs backed by police and national guardsmen invaded African American communities in cities such as Chicago, Knoxville and Washington, D.C. attacking, robbing, burning and murdering African American people. However, in contrast to the lynchings in the rural and urban South, veterans from the war organized defense brigades where they fought back with a vengeance against the racists. 

Consequently, the stage was set for a surge in organizations advocating armed self-defense, desegregation, Socialism, Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Du Bois had established “The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races” in 1910 just one year after the NAACP was founded. The magazine played a pioneering role in the development of what became known as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. 

The Role of Jessie Redmon Fauset in the Harlem Renaissance and Pan-Africanism

In 1919, Du Bois recruited educator and writer Jessie Redmon Fauset and appointed her as the literary editor of The Crisis. Fauset had been born into an impoverished family in New Jersey in 1882.

Despite her humble origins she was able to excel academically at the Philadelphia High School for Girls and later won a scholarship to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Fauset earned a bachelor’s degree at the Ivy League institution in classical languages and literature in 1905. Later she received a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1919. She would work as a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. while gaining notoriety as a poet and writer of short stories, essays and novels. 

As literary editor of The Crisis she was described by legendary poet, novelist, composer, playwright and public intellectual Langston Hughes as the “midwife” of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes noted that it was Fauset who published his first poems in The Crisis. Other figures which rose to prominence during the 1920s such as Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay were given access to The Crisis which had broad circulation during the 1920s. 

The Second Pan-African Congress organized by Du Bois was held in late August and early September of 1921 in the European capitals of London, Paris and Brussels. Fauset represented the NAACP at the gatherings and later wrote an extensive report in The Crisis entitled “Impressions of the Second Pan-African Congress” published in the November edition of the magazine. Following her detailed description of the Congress, “A Manifesto to the League of Nations” was reprinted. (https://archive.org/details/crisis2324dubo/page/n23/mode/1up?view=theater)

The League of Nations formed after the conclusion of the First Imperialist War and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, agreed to accept the manifesto from the Pan-African Congress delegation as outlined by Fauset in her report. Nonetheless, the United States never joined the inter-governmental organization even though President Woodrow Wilson was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the post-war talks and the Treaty of Versailles. 

Fauset’s interest in Pan-Africanism had begun before she joined The Crisis magazine in 1919. The first issue of the Journal of Negro History, founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915-16, features a book review by Fauset on the history of Haiti which was written by T.G. Steward. Prior to going to the Second Pan-African Congress, she co-authored an article with Cezar Pinto on the Brazilian abolitionist Jose Do Patrocinio who worked tirelessly for the liberation of Africans still enslaved in the South American state during the 1870s and 1880s. The article entitled “The Emancipator of Brazil” appeared in the March 1921 issue of The Crisis. (https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/civil-rights/crisis/0300-crisis-v21n05-w125.pdf)

The literary editor and mentor traveled regularly to France to study at the University of Paris Sorbonne. She was fluent in French and other languages in which she taught in high schools before and after leaving The Crisis.

In 1925, Fauset visited Algeria, then a French colony in North Africa. She would write a two-part report published in The Crisis in their April-May 1925 editions entitled “Dark Algiers The White” where she recounts her experience in the living quarters of the colonized population. France occupied Algeria from 1830 to 1962 when a guerrilla war led by the National Liberation Front (FLN) forced the French government to grant independence to the country. (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106005491805&view=1up&seq=26&skin=2021)

The Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s would come to a screeching halt when the stock market collapsed in October of 1929. The economic downturn disproportionately impacted African people leading to a new phase in the struggle to end racism and national oppression on an international scale.

The Great Depression, the Rise of Fascism and the Second Imperialist War

As the U.S. and the entire capitalist world fell into an unprecedented economic depression in the 1930s, resistance movements arose at a rapid pace. Efforts aimed at organizing labor unions and winning recognition by the corporations and later public entities accelerated.

In several European states the crisis had already taken hold in the years following World War I when inflation and unemployment reached astronomical levels. The Treaty of Versailles has often been cited as fueling the financial downfall in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Italy, where a fascist government came to power in 1922 under Benito Mussolini, embodied aspirations to revive the ancient empire of Rome. In 1896 at the Battle of Adwa, the First Italo-Ethiopian War resulted in the defeat of the Kingdom of Italy in their campaign to expand its colonial holdings. Earlier in 1889, the Italians seized Eritrea and later signed the Treaty of Wuchale which supposedly protected Ethiopia from attack. 

Nonetheless, the fascist Italian regime had no intentions of abiding by the treaty and seven years later attempted to seize control of Ethiopia. The defeat of Italy in 1896 is still commemorated every year in Ethiopia as an historic event which impacted the entire struggle against colonialism.

Nearly four decades later in October 1935, Mussolini’s army invaded Ethiopia again causing massive casualties. The use of mustard gas by the Italians and other atrocities prompted international outrage. In the U.S. and Britain, committees arose among African Americans and people of African descent living in England calling for the withdrawal of Italian forces.

Socialist and Pan-Africanist organizers C.L.R. James and George Padmore, both of whom were originally from Trinidad-Tobago, then living in the United Kingdom, formed the International Friends of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935-36. In the U.S., African Americans set up recruiting stations to send volunteers to fight against the fascists occupying Ethiopia. 

The events of 1935 portended much for the future of Europe and the world. When Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party took power in 1933 in Germany it signaled the imminent threat of fascism in Europe. By 1941, both Britain and the U.S. were brought into the war against the fascists and the imperial expansionist regime in Japan.

During the Second Imperialist War, heavy fighting took place in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Eastern and Western Europe. Due to the imperialist character of the war, fierce battles were fought in the North African states of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. The Italians had fought against the anti-colonial resistance in Libya from 1911 to 1931. When the Italian army failed to defeat Britain in North Africa during the early 1940s, fascist Germany sent in their troops in a failed attempt to secure the region for the expansionist aims of Berlin and Rome. 

By the conclusion of World War II, a reconfiguration of international power dynamics came into being. The U.S. would emerge as the undisputed dominant imperialist state while the Soviet Union not only reclaimed their territory from Nazi occupation during 1941-43 the Red Army drove the Nazis across Eastern Europe back into Germany where they met their inevitable defeat in May 1945.

After the conclusion of WWII, the struggle against colonialism, imperialism and racism accelerated. However, the emergence of an anti-capitalist bloc with the revolutions in North Vietnam, North Korea and China along with the rise of socialism in Eastern Europe, would pose a monumental challenge to the aims of the U.S. to consolidate hegemonic control over the globe.     

Pan-African Struggles Against Colonialism and the First Imperialist War, 1876-1919

From the decline of the Triangular Trade to the rapacious extraction of mineral resources and labor exploitation, Africans have organized and revolted against western domination

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Thursday February 15, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 4

Beginning in 1876, the monarchy in Belgium initiated a massive campaign to fully conquer the Congo where tremendous wealth existed in natural resources and labor power.

King Leopold I pursued the riches and workforce in Congo as a private enterprise where agents of the monarchy and other transnational corporations functioned as a de facto regime.

Over the next 32 years until 1908 when the colonial administration in Brussels took over the national oppressive and exploitative system in Congo, several reports indicate that up to ten million Africans were killed in the territories claimed by Belgium. Several years after the Belgian intervention in Congo during 1884-85, the Berlin West Africa Conference was held in Germany which carved up the continent as spheres of interests for the imperialist powers.

Nonetheless, in the so-called Belgian Congo, Africans from various regions of the country resisted the horrendous methods of domination and forced labor. According to Calvin C. Kolar in his review of the literature on the efforts by the people to repel colonial rule noted that:

“A Force Publique officer reported, ‘I expect a general uprising...the motive is always the same, the natives are tired of the existing regime ­ transport work, rubber collection, furnishing [food] for whites and black...For three months I have been fighting, with ten days rest...Yet I cannot say I have subjugated the people. They prefer to fight or die...What can I do?’ These revolts by the Mongo people highlighted the fact that revolts were not constrained to the Kasai region. Reacting to various pressures, violent resistance was widespread throughout the Congo.” (https://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=uhp_theses)

These developments were by no means isolated incidents. Africans resisted the onslaught of classical colonialism which resulted in the reported deaths of millions. From the late 19th century through the period of World War I, there were several rebellions and organized wars of resistance in the areas now known as Zimbabwe and Malawi, then controlled by Britain, along with Southwest Africa and Tanganyika under German domination. 

The attempts to conquer Mashonaland and Matabeleland, now known as Zimbabwe, by the British military forces prompted the First Chimurenga (war of resistance). Africans fought a series of battles over a two-year period (1896-97) against the British. Due to the lack of sophisticated weapons in abundance, the people of Mashonaland and Matabeleland were eventually defeated militarily and brought under colonial domination. (https://www.zim.gov.zw/index.php/en/my-government/provinces/mashonaland-east/9-uncategorised/461-history-of-zimbabwe-2?showall=1)

Later between 1904-1907, the Herero and Nama people of Southwest Africa, now known as Namibia, waged a resistance war against German colonialism. In retaliation for their resistance, the German imperialists systematically relocated and slaughtered 80 percent of the Namibian people. (https://www.aljazeera.com/features/longform/2022/11/6/reckoning-with-genocide-in-namibia)

Also under German control, the colony of Tanganyika experienced a war of resistance popularly referred to as the Maji Maji Revolt of 1905-7. Africans in Tanganyika objected to the theft of their land, the paying of taxes to the colonialists while being subjected to forced labor in the production of agricultural products. (https://theconversation.com/300-000-tanzanians-were-killed-by-germany-during-the-maji-maji-uprising-it-was-genocide-and-should-be-called-that-217712)

These events in Southern and Eastern Africa are highlighted to emphasize that African people responded in similar ways to the rise of colonialism during the 19th and early 20th centuries across the continent. The atrocities committed by the Belgian, British and German colonialists have been well documented by numerous journalists and historians during this period and in subsequent years. 

The military phase of the struggle against imperialism in Africa was paralleled by the formation of mass organizations and conferences throughout the world. This process of opposition to European domination was a combined political, cultural and military effort to bring about the eventual independence of these territories and colonial states.

Colonialism in Africa and the Movements Against Racism

On July 23-25, the First Pan-African Conference was held in London, England just prior to the Paris Exposition. The gathering was attended by Africans and people of African descent largely from the British colonies and other English-speaking territories. 

This meeting followed the Chicago Columbian Exposition and the Congress on Africa in 1893 where African American leaders such as anti-slavery organizer, women’s suffrage advocate and diplomat Frederick Douglass along with Ida B. Wells, who had built an international reputation as a journalist and an outspoken critic of the United States legal system for its refusal to prosecute mobs and law-enforcement personnel for carrying out thousands of lynchings in the South, utilized Douglass’ links with the Haitian government to distribute thousands of pamphlets exposing the actual conditions of Black people during this period. Wells’ work in defense of the security and rights of African Americans played an instrumental role in the launching of the African American women’s movement which came into fruition during the late 1890s and early 1900s. (https://blackwomenssuffrage.dp.la/collections/ida-b-wells/ibwells-0010-005)

The 1900 Pan-African Conference was described by the following source in this way:

“Speakers over the three days addressed a variety of aspects of racial discrimination. Among the papers delivered were ‘Conditions Favoring a High Standard of African Humanity’ (C. W. French of St. Kitts), ‘The Preservation of Racial Equality’ (Anna H. Jones, from Kansas), ‘The Necessary Concord to be Established between Native Races and European Colonists’ (Benito Sylvain, Haitian aide-de-camp to the Ethiopian emperor), ‘The Negro Problem in America’ (Anna J. Cooper, from Washington), ‘The Progress of our People’ (John E. Quinlan of St. Lucia) and ‘Africa, the Sphinx of History, in the Light of Unsolved Problems’ (D. E. Tobias from the USA). (https://friendsoftheafricanunion.com/african-diaspora/the-pan-african-congresses/the-1st-pan-african-congress/)

By 1912, Duse Muhammad Ali from Egypt, founded the African Times and Orient Review in London. The newspaper published articles in opposition to colonialism in Africa and Asia. 

People such as Marcus Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in 1914 worked at the African Times and Orient Review prior to his emergence as world leader. In 1916 Garvey re-located to the U.S. and by the early 1920s, the UNIA-ACL had grown to an international movement with chapters around the U.S., the Caribbean, South America, Europe and in some regions of the African continent. (https://era.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/7323)

Consequently, leading up to the beginning of World War I, there were many instances of political and military resistance to imperialism on the part of African people on the continent and within the Diaspora. The First imperialist war from 1914-1918 led to an intensification of the struggle to end institutional racism and colonialism. 

African Resistance to World War I

One of the earliest rebellions against the First Imperialist War took place in the British colony of Nyasaland, which is modern-day Malawi in early 1915. The rebellion was led by John Chilembwe, a U.S.-trained Baptist minister and educator who sought to prevent Africans from being recruited into the war effort.

There were battles on the African continent between German and British imperialist forces over the control of territories. Chilembwe protested the conscription of Africans into the British military for the purpose of fighting the Germans.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a publication said of the Nyasaland Revolt:

“John Chilembwe's rising was precipitated by the enlistment of Nyasas and their large death toll in the first weeks of the war in battle with the Germans. In his memorable censored letter to the Nyasaland Times of 26 November 1914 he protested 'We understand that we have been invited to shed our innocent blood in this world's war ... we are imposed upon more than any other nationality under the sun'.” (https://courier.unesco.org/en/articles/first-world-war-and-its-consequences-africa)

John McCracken in his book entitled “A History of Malawi, 1859-1966, the author said of the Nyasaland Revolt:

“Within a fortnight the revolt had been suppressed. Three Europeans had died; two had been severely wounded, 36 convicted rebels had been executed, many others had been killed by the security forces. ‘For a rebellion against foreign rule, it had been, on the face of it, singularly ineffective’ noted Shepperson and Price in their authoritative account of the rising. Yet, as they also commented, the importance of the rising was far greater than its immediate, quantifiable, impact. A leading historian has claimed that this was the only significant rebellion in the whole of Africa to be inspired by Christianity prior to the First World War. It provided Malawi with its one unproblematic hero, John Chilembwe; his image is now depicted on Malawian bank notes.” (https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/history-of-malawi/chilembwe-rising/A03646A52AADB620B9B37CF25EAEBCD4)

In the U.S., A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owens, editors of the Messenger newspaper, which was affiliated with the Socialist Party during World War I, were charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The paper opposed African American involvement in the imperialist war. (https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/messenger/index.htm)

Although Randolph and Owens were arrested at a Socialist Party rally in Cleveland on August 4, 1918, and brought into court for espionage, the judge refused to sentence them because he did not believe that the two young African Americans could have written and edited the Messenger. He believed that they were mere agents of the Socialists and ordered them to leave the city. 

Randolph and Owens were only two of the estimated 10,000 people who were arrested for opposing the war, many of whom were socialists. Others were deported for advocating peace and social change. The repression initiated by the Department of Justice during the war continued under Attorney General W. Mitchell Palmer when in 1919-20, 6,000 people were unlawfully detained in over 30 cities. 

After the conclusion of the First Imperialist War, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois convened the Pan-African Congress in Paris. This gathering in 1919 coincided with the escalation of racist violence inside the U.S. along with anti-colonial rebellions in Egypt. (https://www.history.com/news/red-summer-1919-riots-chicago-dc-great-migration) (https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/after-the-first-world-war-the-1919-egyptian-revolution)

As the 1920s and 1930s would reveal, the struggle against national oppression, institutional racism and imperialism escalated. By the beginning of the Second Imperialist War, the historical stage was set for the advent of the independence and civil rights movements which swept the entire African world.

Emancipation, the Nadir and Pan-African Awakenings

From the post-Civil War years to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, African people acted in unity to end colonialism and national oppression

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Tuesday February 6, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 3

“The unfriendly whites first drove the native American from his much-loved home. Then they stole our fathers from their peaceful and quiet dwellings, and brought them hither, and made bondmen and bondwomen of them and their little ones. They have obliged our brethren to labor; kept them in utter ignorance; nourished them in vice and raised them in degradation; and now that we have enriched their soil, and filled their coffers, they say that we are not capable of becoming like white men, and that we never can rise to respectability in this country.” (Quote taken from a Maria W. Stewart address entitled African Rights and Liberty delivered at the African Masonic Hall in Boston, February 27, 1833)

These words uttered in a public address later published in the abolitionist Liberator newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison some three decades prior to the African intervention in the United States Civil War, typified the sentiment of Black people during the escalating struggle over the future of slavery. (https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2020/11/20/an-address-african-rights-and-liberty-feb-27-1833/)

Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879), born in the northeast state of Connecticut, is said to have been the first woman of any race to speak before audiences of all genders. A series of her speeches between 1831-33, which often utilized religious themes, also gave a materialist analysis of the social conditions of African Americans in the 19th century.  

After the defeat of the Confederacy in April 1865, the post-Lincoln government led by President Andrew Johnson was faced with the policy question of how to deal with the 4.5 million people of African descent of which nearly 90 percent were enslaved. Since the national Colored Conventions held in the U.S. beginning in 1830, African American men and women were calling for full equality and land. 

Nevertheless, the gallant legislative and organizational efforts of African Americans and their allies within the political superstructure in the House of Representative, Senate, along with state and local governing entities, could not reverse the failure to reconstruct the U.S. on bourgeois democratic principles. These historical developments would plunge the country into another century of racial turmoil. A series of judicial and legislative decisions set the African American people back to a period often described as the “Nadir”. Elected and appointed officials were driven from offices in Washington, state capitals and local governments. This level of institutional racism and repression was enforced by the Ku Klux Klan and other violent white supremacist organizations. Their policies of complete segregation were given legal cover by the state and federal courts which reversed the intent of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution along with the Civil Rights Acts passed during Reconstruction. 

By the last decade of the 19th century, “lynch law” was prevalent throughout the South and other regions of the U.S. Thousands of African Americans were being driven from their farms, workplaces and communities. Others were subjected to highly exploitative conditions of employment and unlawful imprisonment which were just as horrendous if not worse than the antebellum period.

Interventions at the Columbian Exposition 

Chicago was the scene for the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World Fair) where people from throughout the globe would visit the city to “celebrate” the 400th anniversary of the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus. The entire framework of the gathering was of course flawed since there were already peoples and nations in existence in the western hemisphere centuries prior to the arrival of Columbus in the Caribbean. 

The fair immediately drew the ire of leading African Americans who decried the total neglect of the contributions of their people in the three decades since the legal end of enslavement. Fortunately, in response, the Haitian government appointed longtime public speaker, author and diplomat Frederick Douglass as co-commissioner of the exhibit for this independent African island-nation in the Caribbean. 

After the protest by community organizations, the event administrators designated one day for African Americans. Anti-lynching campaigner and journalist, Ida B. Wells, a much-younger friend and collaborator of Douglass, urged him not to participate in this concession. Douglass argued that he would take advantage of any opportunity to advance the plight of African Americans. 

At the Haitian exhibit, a document written by Douglass, Wells, I. Garland Penn and Ferdinand Barnett, the future husband of Wells, entitled “The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition”, was broadly circulated in the thousands. The pamphlet, which extended over 80 pages, was a damning indictment against the U.S. political, economic and social system. 

Wells in chapter IV of The Reason Why explained the purported origins of lynch law in the U.S. Citing the Virginia Lancet related to horse theft, Col. Wm. Lynch drafted the law in 1780, and it has been referred to since as the infliction of punishment by private and unauthorized persons. 

According to Wells in the chapter:

“This law continues in force today in some of the oldest states of the Union where the courts of justice have long been established, whose laws are executed by white Americans. It flourishes most largely in the states which foster the convict lease system and is brought to bear mainly against the Negro. The first fifteen years of freedom he was murdered by masked mobs for trying to vote. Public opinion having made lynching for that cause unpopular a new reason is given to justify the murders of the past 15 years. The Negro was first charged with attempting to rule white people and hundreds were murdered on that pretended supposition. He is now charged with assaulting or attempting to assault white women. This charge, as false as it is foul, robs us of the sympathy of the world and is blasting the race’s good name.” (https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/ead/pdf/ibwells-0010-005.pdf)

This intervention in 1893 coincided with the Chicago Congress on Africa and the Congress of Representative Women, both of which were addressed by African American women. The Congress on Africa occurred between August 14-21. The event was spread out across various churches within the African American community. Several press accounts praised the Congress on Africa as the most interesting and significant aspect of the Columbian Exposition.

According to one account of the deliberations:

“From August 14, 1893, to August 21, 1893 probably the largest number of African American participants in a world's fair event assembled as part of the Congress on Africa, or as it was sometimes referred to, the Congress on African Ethnology, or the Congress on the Negro. Its eight-day length included a citywide Sunday session that entered the sanctuaries and pulpits of scores of churches, so thousands of interested church congregants listened to information on the status of the global African population. Identified fully for what it was, the Congress on Africa combined the intellectual with the ideological, religious, philosophical and scientific to formulate an agenda facilitating, in effect, a dualistic American African public policy on the status of continental and diasporan Africans. Frederick Douglass, Alexander Crummell, John Mercer Langston, T. Thomas Fortune and Bishop Henry McNeal Turner discussed the future of Africa with a smattering of continental Africans in attendance. For the American nation, this congress brought about a re-creation of the liberal arrangement between the races that originated in the abolitionist era. And, in its aftermath it represented a first dialogue in substantive interracial cooperation. Accordingly, well-educated blacks as well as the elite and middle-class whites presented invited papers. Africans from the continent and from the Diaspora filled the black ranks, many being the most notable persons in their fields of endeavor - intellectually-endowed, well-known and respected by members of both races. So, with enthusiasm, Caucasians from Europe, Africa and America collaborated in problem-solving based on African strengths rather than handwringing over African deficiencies.” (http://columbus.iit.edu/reed2.html#:~:text=From%20August%2014%2C%201893%2C%20to,the%20Congress%20on%20the%20Negro.)

Pan-African Awakenings 1897-1900

During the time period in which the Columbian Exposition was held, colonialism was expanding exponentially on the African continent. The Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85 convened by the leading European powers divided the continent among the imperialist states. (https://loveman.sdsu.edu/docs/1885GeneralActBerlinConference.pdf)

By 1897 in Britain, the African Association had been formed by activists such as South African Alice Kinloch and Trinidadian-born Barrister Henry Sylvester Williams. By 1900 the so-called First Pan-African Conference was convened in London which attracted delegations largely from African descendants in the European, U.S. and Caribbean Diaspora. 

The event held between July 23-25 enjoyed the active participation of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Bishop Alexander Walters, Ms. Anna Julia Cooper, among others. The African Association was merged into the Pan-African Association which, according to the conference report, was supposed to hold another gathering within two years in the U.S. (https://credo.library.umass.edu/view/pageturn/mums312-b004-i320/#page/1/mode/1up)

Nonetheless, such a gathering was not held until after the conclusion of World War I in 1919 in Paris to coincide with the discussions by the imperialist powers over the geopolitical dynamics stemming from the post-war situation. Nonetheless, the objective limitations of the organizers of the Pan-African Conference of 1900 in London did not halt the resistance to colonialism on the African continent and throughout the world. 

African Emigration and the United States Civil War

Through flight and rebellion enslaved people created the conditions for their own liberation

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Sunday February 4, 2024

African American History Month Series No. 2

After the United States Congress outlawed participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, the kidnapping and importation of Africans into North America continued. (https://repository.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2769&context=cwbr)

From the geographical regions on the continent where the trade in human capital thrived, there was resistance from Africans to their bondage which was designed for the purpose of gross exploitation enforced through national oppression.

Numerous revolts among the enslaved African population occurred throughout the Western Hemisphere from Brazil, St. Vincent, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, the United States, among others. In the U.S., the plans for rebellion in Richmond led by Gabriel in 1800; the German Coast revolt in Louisiana in 1811; the Charleston incident under the direction of Denmark Vessey in 1822; a widespread revolt in 1831 led by Nat Turner in Southhampton County, Virginia shook the ideological foundations of the slavocracy.  

These acts of resistance were the most well known since under the system of African enslavement there was resistance which took many forms on a daily basis. In addition to direct violent confrontation with the slave owners and their functionaries, many people fled the plantations seeking freedom from the tyranny of enforced labor exploitation.

Those Africans who escaped bondage either through legal means after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in the northeast or migration to areas outside the U.S., played a critical role in the establishment of the Underground Railroad. This term was attributed to an organized cadre of anti-slavery activists who facilitated the departure of Africans from their slave masters.

In areas within the northeast of the U.S. there were newspapers founded in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston which advocated the emancipation of African people. In Philadelphia there was the formation of anti-slavery societies for both men and women. Philadelphia was the scene of the initiation of the Free African Society and later the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) which contributed to the political education and agitation for the dissolution of legalized slavery. (https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/essays/free-african-society/)

Mary Ann Shadd and the Debates Surrounding Emigration and Full Equality

One of the key routes of the Underground Railroad was pathed through19th century Detroit where a community of African Americans by the 1830s-1840s began to build independent institutions in this strategically located municipality bordering what became known as Ontario, Canada. One of the first urban rebellions in the U.S. took place in Detroit in 1833 when a couple which fled from enslavement in Kentucky were jailed in efforts to send them back into bondage.

The plight of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn prompted the African American community in Detroit at the time to forcefully liberate the couple and arrange transport to Canada. After 1833, the British-controlled territories were declared free from slavery. The Blackburns later took up residence in Toronto where they became a self-sufficient couple operating their own transportation business in the city.

In later years, Mary Ann Shadd Cary represented a prime example of the role of African people in Ontario during the period of the mid-to-late 19th century. Shadd became a journalist, publishing the Provincial Freeman which advocated the abolition of slavery as well as African emigration from areas where they were endangered of being placed in bondage.

One source on the political organizing work being done during this period points out:

“In 1823, Mary Ann Shadd was born in Delaware to a free couple. Shadd is recognized today as the first Black female editor in the United States and, after emigrating as an adult, one of the first female journalists in Canada. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Shadd and one of her brothers left the U.S. to move to Canada. Encouraged by Henry and Mary Bibb—two active attendants at the 1854 Emigration Convention—Shadd later became a teacher. After doing so, she successfully established a school for Black children and, in 1852, published several pro-emigration booklets. One of her most well-known pieces is titled A Plea for Emigration: or Notes of Canada West, which encouraged her Black readers to emigrate to Canada. The year before, Shadd has been the only woman present at the first Convention of Colored Freemen.” (https://coloredconventions.org/emigration-debate/women-involvement/mary-ann-shadd/)

These developments were by no means isolated. Others advocated a return to the African continent such as Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912) who eventually moved to Liberia and Sierra Leone while working for many years as a journalist, educator, diplomat and politician. The Republic of Liberia was established formally in 1847. Nonetheless, the American Colonization Society (ACS) remained controversial among Africans in the U.S. during the antebellum period. (https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/people-global-african-history/edward-wilmot-blyden-1832-1912/)

Due to the prevalence of institutional racism, many whites believed that African Americans legally manumitted from enslavement could not live a productive existence in the U.S. Earlier Sierra Leone, also in West Africa, was established after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War for those who fought alongside the British who had promised freedom in the aftermath of the conflict.

However, the experiences of Shadd Cary embodied the contradictions and rigorous debate among the African American people. This same above-mentioned document emphasized:

“Much like her father, who edited the Liberator alongside William Lloyd Garrison, Shadd was inspired to create her own newspaper in order to pursue her pro-emigration and abolitionist goals. She did just that, publishing the first issue of Provincial Freeman on March 25, 1854. Shadd did not place her name under the masthead of the paper, ‘thus concealing the paper’s editorship.’ In addition to including her own articles (without crediting herself) in the paper, Shadd incorporated the work of other influential abolitionists and pro-emigrationists such as Martin Delany. Although Mary Ann Shadd was not in attendance at the 1854 Emigration Convention, it can be said that her pro-emigration pieces in the Provincial Freeman were incredibly influential as associated textual pieces engaging the convention event. The following year, Shadd maneuvered her way into the 1855 Colored Convention. Although her emigration ideas clashed with some delegates, Shadd presented a speech at the convention. It proved convincing to the delegates so much so that they granted permission to extend her speaking time.”

Nevertheless, when the Civil War erupted in the U.S. in 1861, Shadd and her husband, Thomas F. Cary, returned to the U.S. Shadd worked as a recruiting officer for the Union army encouraging African Americans to enlist to fight for the end of slavery. After the war, Shadd studied law and became one of the first women lawyers to practice in the U.S.

African Labor and the Civil War

At the beginning of the Civil War in April 1861, there were nearly 4.5 million Africans living in the U.S., 90 percent of whom were enslaved. The profits accrued from the theft of Indigenous land, the importation of enslaved African labor and its super-exploitation economically benefited the slavocracy and the burgeoning industrial capitalists largely based in the northern states.

The contradictions between the systems of slavery and industrial capitalism underlined the outbreak of the Civil War. The valuable enslaved labor of African people served as the basis for the prosperity and social status of the planters.

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois during the Great Depression in 1935 published his seminal work entitled “Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880.” In the first chapter of this book, The Black Worker, Du Bois puts forward his thesis which emphasizes that the African agricultural proletariat played a central role in the defeat of the Confederacy. 

Du Bois writes saying:

“It was thus the black worker, as founding stone of a new economic system in the nineteenth century and for the modern world, who brought civil war in America. He was its underlying cause, in spite of every effort to base the strife upon union and national power.” (https://files.libcom.org/files/black_reconstruction_an_essay_toward_a_history_of_.pdf)

After the Civil War and the failure of Federal Reconstruction by 1877, African Americans were thrust back into a social situation reminiscent of the antebellum period. It would take nearly another century to regain those rights granted through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution as well as the Civil Rights Acts passed between 1866-1875. 

Today in the third decade of the 21st century the right to the universal franchise, access to public accommodations and education remain contested in the U.S. Consequently, the issues which drove the country into a civil war could resurface threatening the very existence of the bourgeois democratic system which has developed since the latter decades of the previous century.