It was on the eve of a critical phase of African liberation -- the formation of the Republic of the Congo -- that the Third Annual Conference of the American Society of African Culture was held in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in June, 1960. The sessions took place in historic Houston Hall -- the same setting where, at the beginning of World War II, Kwame Nkrumah, then a teaching fellow at the university, had shared the platform with Justice William H. Hastie, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, and AMSAC's Executive Director, John A. Davis, to consider the subject of African freedom. Alioune Diop, the Senegalese Secretary General and founder of the parent organization, the Société Africaine de Culture, could not remain after the Philadelphia sessions for the tour of American cities with other African visitors because of his scheduled flight to attend what proved to be that crucial event in African resurgence, the inauguration of the Republic of the Congo. In a sense, the Belgian Congo experience -- or, more precisely, what at the time of writing still threatens to be the Belgian Congo disaster -- reflects in microcosm the clash of forces inherent in the theme of the conference, "African Unities and Pan-Africanism." The divisive aspect of nationalism is there, threatening to splinter the Congo hopelessly into its several constituent parts; and the influence of an embattled Pan-Africanism is also manifest even in secessionist Katanga in demonstrations supporting the Republic.
Pan-Africanism is a timely subject. It has been the rallying slogan, the springboard, the ideological vehicle for the common efforts of exiled Africans, West Indians, and American Negroes to advance the cause of Africa and of Africans. But Pan-Africanism, like Joseph's coat, is described in many colors; at no time have these variegated hues been more significant than now. These are the years -- 1960 is in a large measure the year -- of Africa's liberation. The drive toward freedom has, or shortly will have, succeeded, with certain reluctant exceptions at the extreme ends of the continent. That very success has, in large degree, automatically eliminated this source of psychological energy, of unity and effort, generated in the struggle against France, England . . .