This is Part 2 of the 50 Most Important Pan-African Leaders in history. You can check out Part 1 here.
A Pan-Africanist is described as one who believes in the political jurisdiction of an independent African state, the ability of Africans to control and influence their own culture and affairs, and the freedom of Africans around the world to pursue their own self interests.
While there are millions of men and women who have given their lives to advance the cause of Pan-Africanism, many names have been lost to Euro-centric miseducation. Though they are not listed here, they are honored in spirit alongside the names presented below.
Paul Cuffee (January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817)
Paul Cuffee was born to his father Kofi or Cuffee Slocum – a member of the Akan’s ethnic Ashanti subgroup – in Massachusetts. As a child, Cuffee taught himself the alphabet in order to read scriptures, and served aboard whaling and cargo ships at the age of 16. During his time on the seas, he was able to learn to navigate and sail, braved pirates and the British (who captured and held him for 3 months during the Revolutionary War), and learned to turn a profit form a small ship that he and his brother both financed.
With profits come taxes, but Cuffee refused to pay because free blacks did not have the right to vote. His defiance led to the Legislature in 1783 to grant voting rights to all free male citizens of the state. Paul Cuffee was an abolitionist, an entrepreneur, but he is most well known as one of the founding ideological fathers of Sierra Leone. After the abolition of slavery in Britain, crews would deliver thousands of formerly enslaved Africans to Freetown, after liberating them from illegal slaves ships.
Cuffee landed in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1811 to build trade and commerce, but met with failure thanks to the system of mercantilism that British settlers created to exploit locals. Cuffee and local black entrepreneurs came together to found the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone as a mutual-aid merchant group dedicated to furthering prosperity and industry among the free peoples in the colony and loosening the stranglehold that the English merchants held on trade.
The society was successful, building a grist mill, saw mill, rice-processing factory and salt works. At his death, Cuffee left an estate with an estimated value of almost $20,000 (six figures in today’s money). He is buried in the graveyard of the Westport Friends Meetinghouse, and his legacy lives on in the name of the Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School.
George Padmore (28 June 1903 – 23 September 1959)
In 1959, Kwame Nkrumah, then President of Ghana, wept publicly over the burial of a Black West Indian man named George Padmore.
In the early 1920s, Padmore, born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse, joined the Communist Party and quickly rose to become President of the Negro Bureau of the Communist Trade Union International. Padmore, in fact, played a leading role in the Communist plot to create an African-American republic.
Padmore organized an elaborate network of thousands of anti-colonial militants throughout the Caribbean and Africa during the Great Depression. Later, in 1931, he would write The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers, which championed the cause of Black labor throughout the world. His achievements earned him the attention of Marcus Garvey at a time when the UNIA was at its height.
Padmore and his allies in the 1930s and 1940s—among them C. L. R. James, Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, the Gold Coast’s Kwame Nkrumah and South Africa’s Peter Abrahams—saw publishing as a strategy for political change, and formed the International African Service Bureau (IASB).
Padmore’s intellectual contribution to Pan-Africanism earned him a position among the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century.
Martin Robison Delany (May 6, 1812 – January 24, 1885)
One of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School and the first African-American field officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War, Martin Delany is the first true proponent of Black Nationalism – the belief that separation or independence from European society was the path to Black self-determination.
His writings heavily influenced the philosophies and opinions of Marcus Garvey. Delany only wrote one novel – called Blake – which was inspired by the events of the Haitian Revolution.
Delany’s book is one in a series of texts written by African American authors in response to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Indeed, Delaney’s hero Henry Blake is placed in the exact same place time and position as Uncle Tom, but instead of heroically suffering and dying and inspiring while refusing to physically resist slavery, Henry Blake runs away from slavery to organize an international revolution against slavery.
His other books, The Origin of Races and Color and The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States argued that blacks had no future in the United States. In reaction to his message and to whites’ regaining power suppressing black voting, Charleston-based Blacks formed the ‘Liberia Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company’, with Delany as chairman of the finance committee. A year later, the company purchased a ship, the Azor, for the voyage to return to Africa.
Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad (January 12, 1948 – February 17, 2001)
At a very early age, Khalid Abdul Muhammad (born name Harold Moore, Jr.) demonstrated exceptional intelligence and athleticism. He was a star quarterback, an Eagle Scout, the President of the Houston Methodist Youth Fellowship, and a talented debater. Upon graduating from Phyllis Wheatley High School in his hometown of Huston, Texas, Khalid was awarded a scholarship to Dillard University (Louisiana).
In 1970, Khalid Abdul Muhammad joined the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad, and would rise to the position of National Spokesperson under Louis Farrakhan. He would maintain this position until 1993, when his infamous Kean College speech would cause Louis Farrakhan to turn his back on him.
Following Muhammad’s speech at Kean College in 1993, The United States Senate unanimously passed House Resolution 343 on delivered in February 1994 condemning his speech. Muhammad became the only private citizen in American history to be officially condemned by means of a resolution.
Immediately after the United States rejected the Minister, so too did Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan removed Khalid Abdul Muhammad from his position as second in command, silenced him, and reassigned him to Chicago headquarters. Ultimately, Minister Khalid would step down and become the National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party until his death in 2001.
Dr. El-Hajj Khalid Abdul Muhammad, The Truth Terrorist, was one of the greatest Black men of the 20th Century, and deserves his place among our ancestors.
Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe (5 December 1924 – 27 February 1978)
As one of the greatest South Africans in history, Sobukwe founded the Pan Africanist Congress in opposition to South Africa under apartheid.
He was a strong believer in an Africanist future for South Africa and rejected any model suggesting working with anyone other than Africans, defining African as anyone who lives in and pays his allegiance to Africa and who is prepared to subject himself to African majority rule. He later left the ANC to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), and was elected its first President in 1959.
Sobukwe was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in 1960 on Robbin Island where he had no contact with other prisoners. Despite these restrictions, he still studied and received a degree in economics from the University of London by correspondence courses.
Sobukwe was released in 1969, but was kept under house arrest with his family at a distant outpost. Again, despite all odds, Robert Sobukwe finished his law degree with the help of a local lawyer and started his own practice in 1975 in Kimberley.
He contracted lung cancer in 1977, prompting his doctors to beg for his release and freedom of movement. The request was denied by the racist white government, and he died on 27 February 1978.
Queen Afua (August 1953 – )
For more than 40 years, Queen Afua has been an inspiration, a spiritual mentor, and a master healer for the global human family. She is a Kemetic priestess, a yoga teacher, natural healer, and lay midwife. Her clients include Erykah Badu, Vanessa Williams, Stevie Wonder to name a very few.
She is the author of several books including Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing The Feminine Body, Mind and Spirit, and has been the co-director of the Heal Thyself Natural Living Centre, which has operated for over 20 years in Brooklyn.
As if her many contributions to our people weren’t enough, she has also been a lecturer or writer for Essence magazine, the United States based NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration); The National Coalition of 100 Black Women; and at colleges and universities throughout the USA.
For more information, and for a full list of here works, please visit the Queen Afua Wellness Center by clicking here.
Henry Mcneal Turner (February 1, 1834 – May 8, 1915)
“Turner was the last of his clan, mighty men mentally and physically, men who started at the bottom and hammered their way to the top by sheer brute strength, they were the spiritual progeny of African chieftains, and they built the African Church in America.” – W.E.B. Dubois
One of the ‘Four Horsemen’ of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Henry McNeal Turner was the first black chaplain in the United States Colored Troops under Delany during the Civil War before becoming the the first southern bishop of the AME Church. Many of the AME churches in Georgia today owe their existence to Bishop Turner.
Jim Crow and the oppression of Southern Democrats following the Civil War turned Turner into a Pan-African, and he began to support black nationalism and emigration of blacks to Africa. He founded the International Migration Society, supported by his own newspapers: The Voice of Missions (he served as editor, 1893-1900) and later The Voice of the People (editor, 1901-4).
He organized two ships with a total of 500 or more emigrants, who settled in Liberia in 1895 and 1896 with the help of Paul Cuffee and the American Colonization Society.
He is buried in Atlanta, where a portrait of him hangs in the state capitol.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (September 26, 1936 – April 2, 2018)
Wife of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Winnie Mandela is a revolutionary in her own right. She fueled the revolution and violence in the name of the ANC that led to the release of her husband and the destruction of apartheid. In 1986, she gave a speech where she said “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country” (‘a necklace’ was a tire filled with gasoline placed around the body and arms of whites and traitors which were then set on fire).
During South Africa’s transition to democracy, she refused to forgive or compromise with the white South African community n contrast to her husband. In fact, in a 2010 interview, Madikizela-Mandela attacked her ex-husband, claiming that he had “let blacks down”, that he was only “wheeled out to collect money”, and that he is “nothing more than a foundation”. She further attacked his decision to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with De Klerk.
Regardless of the controversy that surrounds her, it was Winnie Mandela’s revolutionary spirit that helped to destroy the wicked system of Apartheid in South Africa.
Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882)
“Neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success.” – H.H. GARNET
Those were the words of the baddest Black man of the 19th Century. Never heard of him? There is a reason why.
History would like us to forget men like Henry Highland Garnet because he argued for active resistance to slavery in a time when appealing to white Christians was the thing to do. In an 1843 speech to the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York, he said “You had far better all die—die immediately, than live slaves and entail your wretchedness upon your posterity.” Garnet’s critics – including Frederick Douglass – feared that he was encouraging actions which might lead to a blood bath, and turned their back on Garnet.
While his calls were then rejected, the outbreak of the Civil War, the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, the Dred Scott case, the Mexican War, and the general political climate which led to the Civil War eventually made Garnet’s advocacy of civil disobedience, indeed resistance, appear appropriate as a response to slavery.
By 1863, Garnet and Douglass were united in recruiting Negro troops for the Union Army, and they later joined in efforts to raise funds for Mary Todd Lincoln. In February, 1865, when Congress enacted the bill which became the Thirteenth Amendment, President Lincoln invited Garnet to deliver a sermon in the House of Representatives. He was the first of his race to speak before that body, the first black to enter the House except as a servant.
When his calls for resistance fell on deaf ears , he left the United States. For the next several years, he continued to lecture on economic subjects and on civil rights, and in 1881, having been appointed Minister Resident and Consul General, he traveled to Liberia, where he died.