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  February 22, 2013

Du Bois, Garvey and Pan Africanism

On the 145th anniversary of W.E.B. Du Bois's birth, Anthony Monteiro discusses the opposing views on Pan Africanism of Du Bois and Marcus Garvey
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Anthony Monteiro is a professor of African-American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

We're continuing our discussion about the life of W. E. B. Du Bois, whose 145th anniversary of his birth will be on February 23.

Now joining us again to talk about all of this is Anthony Monteiro, who's a professor of African-American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Thanks for joining us again, Anthony.


JAY: So Du Bois has been known as the father of the pan-Africanist movement. What's that history, and what's the significance of that today?

MONTEIRO: Well, you know, he wasn't the first pan-Africanist—and he's called the father of modern pan-Africanism by the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and he eulogized Du Bois in that way. But Du Bois makes a tremendous contribution to the struggle for African independence in the early 1920s with his pan-African congresses.

And what he says in effect is that a part of securing world peace is the dismantling of the colonial system in Africa and Asia. He said that World War I was a war over Africa's colonies. If you want peace, you have to dismantle the system of colonialism. Well, that is not to be, but he fought for it. He fought for it throughout the 1920s.

However, by 1945, after the end of World War II, there is a Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. That was the Fifth Pan-African Congress. And he was invited by all these young African leaders—Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, to name two of the very famous ones—and they make him the chairman of this congress.

But now you have representatives of African labor and of the European labor movement. So the pan-African movement is now poised to become an actual movement in different African countries—Ghana, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Zambia, and on and on and on. These young people who come to Manchester are prepared to go back and fight for independence. Well, of course, at the same time, the colonial powers had been severely weakened by these two wars. Britain cannot afford its colonies, France can't afford its, Belgium, and so on and so forth. So you have this convergence of possibilities.

But for Du Bois, after World War II, pan-Africanism intersects with the struggle against the rising American empire and the Cold War. And so for him the pan-African movement must become a part of the overall global anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and peace movement. This gets him in trouble—not the fact that he's fighting only for civil rights, which he continues to do, but that he internationalizes or globalizes the struggle through the pan-African and anti-imperialist and peace movements.

JAY: Now, when I hear him talked about in Baltimore and other places I've been, often you hear people describe themselves as pan-Africanists—for example, in Baltimore—and they almost equate that with Garveyism (Marcus Garvey), which is a sort of a kind of back-to-Africa movement, black sovereignty, back to Africa. But he actually had quite a division with Garvey.

MONTEIRO: Yeah, no question. They were distinct forms of pan-Africanism.

Now, of course, Garvey makes a great contribution in raising the consciousness and awareness of African-Americans and Africans of the mutuality of our struggles. However, I think Du Bois's pan-Africanism in the beginning is more practical, because Garvey's did not have a direct anti-colonial program connected to it. Du Bois's did. He was calling for a transformation of international law and the practices of the major colonial powers, which in their own interests would lead them to accept a decolonization process for Africa. Garvey never had that program. However, after World War II, the Garveyist form of pan-Africanism did not rise to the level of anti-imperialism and the global struggle against colonialism and for peace that we find in Du Bois's.

JAY: And the two men were quite harsh critics of each other.

MONTEIRO: They were, yes, they were. But when Garvey dies, Du Bois eulogizes him in a very favorable way. You know, he doesn't hold on to, you know, the anger that fired their differences in the early 1920s, and he says that—you know, he speaks of this contribution of Garvey to an awakening of Africa's consciousness of itself and of Africa-America's consciousness of its links to Africa and the struggles of the African peoples.

JAY: Okay. Thanks very much.

Please join us for the continuation of our discussion with Anthony Monteiro about the life of Du Bois on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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