Pan Africanism 101: A Short Introduction

In his book Powernomics Author and Economist Dr. Claud Anderson describes politics as ‘the process that decides who makes the rules and who gets what’.

If his definition is accurate, that means that the African Diaspora relies on non-Black groups to decide our rules for us and to tell us what (if anything) they will do for our community.

It doesnt take a genius to understand that this is a recipe for failure. For as long as other groups are given the power to tell us how we live, what we can do, and how much access we have to resources, then we will remain in a position of weakness and dependence.

In other words, political powerlessness is as bad as slavery and colonialism.

Our Ancestors had the wisdom to understand this fact, and they warned us to liberate ourselves or remain pawns on the political chess board controlled by whites, Arabs, and Asians.

Pan Africanism is the answer that our Ancestors gave us to the threat of political powerlessness. The Pan-African philosophy is deeply rooted in indigenous values and generations of jurisprudence refined by pre-colonial Black societies.

Today, Pan Africanism serves as the only political philosophy that makes sense for us today. Here is everything you need to know about the past, present, and future of Pan Africanism.

Members of our organization are taught that Black Consciousness is a knowledge of four things:

  • who you are,
  • how you came to be,
  • the world around you,
  • and your place in that world.

And within the world around you there are 9 areas of life. They are:

  • Economics
  • Entertainment and Culture
  • Education
  • Labor
  • Law
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • and Warfare

These areas of life are the battlefields that Africans have found themselves fighting on since the dawn of the arrival of alien groups. Since then, Pan Africanism has become the political tactic used by Africans to meet our needs.

What is Pan Africanism Really?

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Pan Africanism is a political philosophy that represents a belief in the laws and representation that benefit Africans across the Diaspora.

The ultimate manifestation of that philosophy is the establishment of a unified and sovereign homeland for all Africans – both at home and abroad.

Pan-Africans understand that we can never reach our fullest potential while our limits are defined by outside groups. Thus, our political struggle is – and always has been – for our own system of government, our own borders, and our own way of life as first class citizens of our own nation rather than third class citizens of other nations.

What Led To The Rise of Pan Africanism

When Pan Africanism came into being is subject to debate. In some schools of thought, our struggle began on August 21, 1415. This date marks the first battle at the Port of Ceuta, and it was this battle that would start centuries of slavery, colonialism, and the destruction of Black civilization.

In other schools of thought it was the Berlin Conference and partition of Africa in 1884 that led to the rise of Pan Africanism. In that year, white nations gathered in Berlin to carve Africa into territories to divide amongst themselves. During that meeting, no African or representative was present.

During the Berlin Conference, borders were drawn all over the African continent without the knowledge or the will of Africans. New languages were forced on colonial subjects based on the new territories they found themselves in. And African troops fought against each other carrying the British flag on one side and the French flag on the other.

In response to this disaster, warriors and scholars from across the African Diaspora came together to develop counter imperialist strategies.

They called their new approach the Pan-African Movement.

How Did The Pan African Movement Begin?

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The Pan-African Movement officially began with the establishment of the first Pan-African organization in the year 1900. This organization came to be known as the Pan-African Association.

With the birth of the first Pan-African organization, Africans around the world began actively coordinating their efforts, adopting uniformed approaches to fighting white supremacy, and coming to the aid of other groups that shared their interests.

Most notable of all, regular global strategy sessions were held to coordinate new responses to changes in the world. These gatherings were called Pan-African Congresses, and were attended by the best thinkers, leaders, and fighters in the Black world.

Below is a timeline of Pan African Congresses, when they took place, and what they accomplished.


July 23, 1900
The First Pan African Conference

Established the first Pan-African organization in history.


July 23, 1900

February 19, 1919
The First Pan African Congress

Issued the demands of the African Diaspora to the Paris Peace Conference between the victorious Allies after the end of World War I.


February 19, 1919

August 28, 1921
The Second Pan African Congress

Published the London Manifesto To the League of Nations formalizing the Pan African position of separation instead of integration.


August 28, 1921

November 1, 1923
The Third Pan African Congress

Formalized anti-lynching demands in the United States and demands to end white supremacy in South Africa.


November 1, 1923

August 21, 1927
The Fourth Pan African Congress

Adopted resolutions that were similar to the Third Pan-African Congress meetings.


August 21, 1927

October 15, 1945
The Fifth Pan African Congress

Established the Organization of African Unity – the most powerful organization in Black history.


October 15, 1945

June 19, 1974
The Sixth Pan African Congress

Established the Pan African Center of Science and Technology, expanded the Pan-African philosophy to include intersectional issues.


June 19, 1974

April 3, 1994
The Seventh Pan African Congress

Established the Constitution of the Pan-African Movement and The Black World Think Tank


April 3, 1994

March 4, 2015
The Eight Pan African Congress

Established the Investing in Africa: Addis Ababa Plan of Action


March 4, 2015


Out of these gatherings came some of the greatest minds and ideas in Black history. Here are just a few of the people who organized and guided the Pan African Movement.

The People Behind The Pan African Movement

Contrary to popular belief, Pan Africanism is not the exclusive domain of bourgeois intellectuals. Rather, the philosophy has its origins in grass roots mass movements, and out of these movements came the names that we should be familiar with today.

Here are just a few of the people who gave their lives to guide us toward our political destiny.

Who Is The Mother of Pan Africanism

Within the Pan-African Alliance we call Anna Cooper the Mother of Pan-Africanism for reasons you can learn more about here.

But in other circles, Alice Kinloch of Azania (South African) was the principal actor in the formation of the African Association and the subsequent Pan African Association in 1900. In a letter written in June 1899, Henry Sylvester Williams (who is credited as the Father of Pan Africanism) stated that ‘The Association is the result of Mrs Kinloch’s work in England and the feeling that as British Subjects we ought to be heard in our own affairs’.

Emmanuel Lazare – another notable Pan-African – introduced Williams at a meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad where he gave credit to her role in the formation of the Pan African Association.

Who Is The True Father of Pan Africanism

The true father of Pan Africanism is Henry Sylvester Williams. Williams was the first person to create a truly Pan African organization.

Williams is also credited with creating the first truly Pan-African conference that would inspire 8 others (shown above) over the span of nearly a century. These conferences would lead to the creation of the Organization of African Unity, The African Union, the Economic Communities of West Africa, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and hundreds of other initiatives that have shaped Africa and the Diaspora.

Who Are The Most Important Pan African Thinkers and Activists

Thousands of women and men have made extraordinary sacrifices for the political liberation of Africans at home and abroad.

Among them are 50 names that have risen above others. You can view the first 25 most important Pan-Africans in history by clicking here, and the second list of 25 names by clicking here.

What Is Pan African Ideology

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The leaders listed above created and shared several ideals that form the basis of Pan African political theory and policy. Here are a few:

1. The Practice of Collectivism as a System of Government

Collectivist systems of government distribute power to the population as a whole in contrast to individualist systems of government where power is held by individual citizens. Such is the difference between pure democracies ruled by the majority and republics ruled by hand-picked representatives.

And collectivist economic models distribute land, resources, and the means of production among the people equally and in contrast to individualist economic models where the vast majority of wealth and resources are held by a small group of people. This is how the richest 1 percent in the United States have come to own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

2. The Necessity of a United States of Africa

For centuries Africans have been guests in nations that do not respect their right to life and prosperity. Instead, in every nation we find ourselves, we are incarcerated, ridiculed, exploited, and abused.

We face a similar situation to other oppressed groups of the planet. But unlike other oppressed groups, we have failed to respect the call for a homeland where we can be safe, raise our children in peace, live free, and enjoy our culture.

The call for a Pan-African sovereign state as an alternative to fighting for our rights in houses that we have not built is the only long term approach that stands up to reason for Africans across the diaspora.

3. Support For Independent Political Representation For Africans in non-African Nations

As a short term approach to protecting and advancing the interests of Africans across the Diaspora, Pan African ideology calls for independent political representation of Africans in whatever nation they find themselves.

As Pan Africans, we are not Democrats, Republicans, Torries, or Whigs. Nor are we members of the People’s Progressive Party (Guyana), the People’s National Party (Jamaica), or the Bloc Québécois (Canada). Our sole political identification is Pan-African.

4. The Practice of Ubuntu and Democratic Decision Making as a Political Policy

In his book Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes the profound influence that the democratic decision making processes of the Thembu people (of which his grandfather was chief) had on him:

“Everyone who wanted to speak could do so. It was democracy in its purest sense. There may have been a hierarchy of importance amongst the speakers, but everyone was heard … Only at the end of the meeting as the sun was setting would the Regent speak. His purpose was to sum up what had been said and form some consensus among the diverse opinions. But no conclusion was forced on those who disagreed.” – Long Walk To Freedom pp. 18-19

Unlike oligarchies, representative republics, and controlled Communist or Socialist nations, many African nations have historically relied on democratic decision making like the one Mandela described to make sure that political decisions were reached with as much grass roots consent as possible.

Click here to learn more about Ubuntu and the history of democracy on the African continent.

These ideals are just a few of those that make up the Pan African ideology.

The Most Sacred Symbol of Pan Africanism

There are a number of symbols that represent Pan Africanism: the raised Black fist, the iconic shape of the African continent, and the umoja pictograph. But of all these, the most sacred symbol of Pan Africanism is the Pan-African flag.

The Pan-African flag – also called the RBG flag – is our symbol of unity, a reminder of our past, and a representation of our future. Here is what you need to know about the Pan African flag.

Who Created The Pan African Flag

The Pan African flag was created by Pan African leader Marcus Garvey, who was inspired by the racist song “Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon”.

This song was wildly popular amongst whites of the time in the United States and Britain, so much so that hundreds of other white artists created remixed versions of the song, and dozens of white film makers featured the song in films like the 1915 The Birth of a Nation.

According to this article, the song motivated the creation of the Pan-African flag in 1920 by the members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. In a 1927 report of a 1921 speech appearing in the Negro World weekly newspaper, Marcus Garvey was quoted as saying,

Show me the race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, “Every race has a flag but the coon.” How true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can’t say it now….

What Do The Colors Of The Pan African Flag Represent

The Pan-African Colors are red, black, and green.

The colors represent the blood of our Ancestors, the melanin of the original people, and the wealth and prosperity of our African homeland. You can watch a video and learn more about the Pan African colors by clicking here.

When Is African Flag Day

Answer: August 17

To remember our Ancestors and the destiny that awaits us, August 17 should be celebrated worldwide as Universal African Flag Day by flying the red, black, and green banner.

Since the birth of the Pan African flag, dozens of nations from Ghana and Libya to Malawi and Kenya have adopted the colors to represent their nation’s highest political ideals.

What Does It Mean To Be Pan African Today?

Pan Africanism 101: A Short Introduction

“Our next assignment in history is nation management and nation structure.” – John Henrik Clarke

Pan Africanism is not a denial of the trials and tribulations of Black citizens in white nations. It is well understood that we must build political power no matter where we are while also advancing the Pan-African philosophy.

But while we fight for our rights and freedoms in whatever nation we find ourselves, we must never lose focus of the ultimate objective of the movement: the establishment of a Pan-African state.

To those ends, we must build the infrastructure for political power, structure systems that adapt to our changing times, and finish the work started by our Ancestors.