4 Pan-African Leaders You Should Know

Pan-Africanism is an ideology that argues encouraging a united African Diaspora. Pan Africanists believe that a unified Diaspora is an essential step in creating a progressive economic, social and political climate. 

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John B. Russwurm: Publisher and Abolitionist

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John B. Russwurm was an abolitionist and co-founder of the first newspaper published by African-Americans, Freedom's Journal

Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1799 to a slave and English merchant, Russwurm was sent to live in Quebec at the age of eight. Five years later, Russwurm's father moved him to Portland, Maine.

Russwurm attended the Hebron Academy and taught at an all black school in Boston. In 1824, he enrolled in Bowdoin College. Following his graduation in 1826, Russwurm became Bowdoin's first African-American graduate and the third African-American to graduate from an American college.

After moving to New York City in 1827, Russwurm met Samuel Cornish. The pair publishedFreedom's Journal, a news publication whose aim was to fight against enslavement. However, once Russwurm was appointed senior editor of the journal, he changed the paper's position on colonization--from negative to advocate of colonization. As a result, Cornish left the newspaper and within two years, Russwurm had moved to Liberia. 

From 1830 to 1834, Russwurm worked as the colonial secretary for the American Colonization Society. In addition he edited the Liberia Herald. After resigning from the news publication, Russwurm was appointed superintendent of education in Monrovia.

In 1836, Russwurm became the first African-American governor of Maryland in Liberia. He used his position to persuade African-Americans to move to Africa.

Russwurm married Sarah McGill in 1833. The couple had three sons and one daughter. Russwurm died in 1851 in Cape Palmas, Liberia.

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W.E.B. Du Bois: Pan-African Movement Leader

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W.E.B. Du Bois is often known for his work with the Harlem Renaissance and The Crisis. However, it is less known that DuBois is actually responsible for coining the term, "Pan-Africanism." 

Du Bois was not only interested in ending racism in the United States. He was also concerned with people of African descent throughout the world. Leading the Pan-African movement, Du Bois organized conferences for the Pan-African Congress for many years. Leaders from Africa and the Americas assembled to discuss racism and oppression—issues that people of African descent faced all over the world.

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Marcus Garvey

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Marcus Garvey, 1924. Public Domain

 One of Marcus Garvey's most famous sayings is "Africa for the Africans!" 

Marcus Mosiah Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association or UNIA in 1914. Initially, the UNIA's goals were to establish schools and vocatinal education.

Yet, Garvey faced many difficulties in Jamaica and decided to travel to New York City in 1916. 

Establishing he UNIA in New York City, Garvey held meetings where he preached about racial pride. 

Garvey's message was spread not only to African-Americans, but people of African descent throughout the world. He published the newspaper, Negro World which had subscriptions throughout the Caribbean and South America. In New York he held parades in which he marched, wearing a dark suit with gold striping and sporting a white hat with a plume.

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Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary

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 Malcolm X was a Pan-Africanist and devout Muslim who believed in the upliftment of African-Americans.He evolved from being a convicted criminal to a learned man who was always trying to change the social standing of African-Americans. His most famous words, "By any means necessary," describe his ideology. Key accomplishments in Malcolm X's career include: 

  • Establishing Muhammad Speaks, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam in 1957. 
  • Participating in nationally broadcasted radio stations in the early 1960s. 
  • According to The New York Times, X is considered  one of the most sought after speakers in the United States.
  • In June of 1963, X organizes and leads one of the United States' largest civil rights events, the Unity Rally.
  • In March of 1964, X establishes Muslim Mosque, Inc and the Organizations of Afro-American Unity (OAAU).
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X is published in November 1965.