Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Marcus Garvey and African Francophone Political Leaders of the Early Twentieth Century: Prince Kojo Tovalou Houénou Reconsidered

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Marcus Garvey and African Francophone Political Leaders of the Early Twentieth Century: Prince Kojo Tovalou Houénou Reconsidered

Article excerpt


A major tendency in Black Diaspora Studies is that critics represent Black resistance against colonialism as a typically Western phenomenon, ignoring the vital role that African Francophone intellectuals and political leaders of the early twentieth century such as Blaise Diagne, of Senegal, and Prince Kojo Tovalou Houénou, of Benin, played in the global Black struggle for liberation and equality. Admittedly, both leaders worked on the crucial issues of Black participation in World War I, the Pan-African Congress of 1919, racism and discrimination in Europe and the United States, in which W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey were heavily involved in the 1910s and 20s. In this context, in order to have a better understanding of the impact of Garvey on Africa, it is important to discuss his relationships with the African Francophone leaders of his generation, and thus contrast them occasionally with those between Du Bois and Africa.

Literature Review

Scholars of Garvey tend to study Garvey's activism mainly in the context of his relationships with African American leaders of the early twentieth century only, overlooking his personal and ideological interactions with African leaders of that period. While Garvey's relations with Du Bois and African American nationalism are fairly explored, his relationships with Diagne and Tovalou, or African nationalism, are less known. So far, studies of the relations between Garvey and Africa have focused mainly on the work of the UNIA in Liberia and South Africa, with the exception of Michael O. West's essay "The Seeds are Sown: The Impact of Garveyism in Zimbabwe in the Interwar Years" (2002). Yet, few critics have examined the effects of Garveyism on Africa beyond Liberia and South Africa.

Nevertheless, a pioneer study in Garvey's relations with Africa is John Henrik Clarke's Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa (1974). Clarke depicted Garvey as a messiah who sacrificed his life, health, family, and happiness "for the cause of Black people" (Clarke 1974: 439). Focusing on African Americans, Clarke said that Garvey gave a strong and enduring message that "a strong Africa would of necessity redound to the good of New World Africans," showing that Garvey did not neglect the New World for the continent (Clarke 1974: 438-439). Moreover, Clarke suggests connections between Garvey and Africa by showing how, in about 1911, Garvey was aware of "the new anticolonial literature coming out of West Africa, such as the writings of the great Gold Coast (now Ghana) nationalist E. Casely Hayford" (Clarke 1974: 5). Later, Clarke makes a link between Garvey and Ghana by suggesting that Garvey would not be impressed by the Black man's situation in today's world that Kwame Nkrumah called "neocolonialism," in which he has no armies, navies, or great affairs (Clarke 1974: 384). Clarke argues that both Garvey and Nkrumah anticipated the chaos that the lack of racial unity and economic cooperation has brought to the Black world today.

Furthermore, Clarke discusses Garvey's ideology by revealing how Garvey's "Back to Africa" teaching was consistent with Nkrumah's call for the creation of an independent African nation. According to Clarke, "Nkrumah dreamed of organizing all Africans in the United States so that they might return and perform useful services for Africa" (Clarke 1974: 327). Finally, Clarke posits that Garvey and Nkrumah were working for the same goal from different locations. "While Nkrumah was finishing college in America and writing his important booklet, Toward Colonial Freedom, Marcus Garvey was in London trying to hold together the structure of the UNIA while war clouds were gathering in Europe" (Clarke 1974: 327).

Another study of Garvey's relations with Africa is Ali Mazrui's The Africans: A Triple Heritage (1986). Focusing on Garvey's influence on Liberia, Mazrui conceived Garveyism as an initial important stage in Africans' attempt to re-Africanize their identity and political future with its roots in the Pan-Africanism of the Diaspora. …

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