Ending British rule in Africa

Writers in a common cause

Author:
Carol Polsgrove
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Across the continent of Africa, a web of laws silenced African speech. On the eve of World War II, a small, impoverished group of Africans and West Indians in London dared to imagine the end of British rule in Africa. Printing gave oppositions a voice, initially through broadsheets, tracts, pamphlets, later through books and articles. The group launched an anti-colonial campaign that used publishing as a pathway to liberation. These writers included West Indians George Padmore, C. L. R. James, and Ras Makonnen, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta and Sierra Leone's I. T. A. Wallace Johnson. They formed a part of International African Service Bureau (IASB), and the communists saw them as "generals without an army, they have no base and must depend on their pens". Padmore saw 'trusteeship' as a concept invoked as far back as the late nineteenth-century conferences that divided up Africa. Pan-Africa, a monthly periodical T. Ras Makonnen put out, reported that Richard Wright urged his listeners to form an international network of 'cultured progressives'. Labour-powered nationalism was to Padmore more than a drive for self-government. With the Gold Coast political ground so unsettled, neither Nkrumah nor the Convention People's Party (CPP) made Wright privy to their operations. Inspired by the movement for self-government in British West African colonies, French radicals like Leopold Senghor were rebelling against French political control. In 1969, when a small American publisher reissued A History of Pan-African Revolt , James added to it an epilogue explaining the 'rapid decline of African nationalism'.

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