Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

"Race Men": The Pan-African Struggles of William Galwey Donovan and Theophilus Albert Marryshow for Political Change on Grenada, 1884-1925(1)

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

"Race Men": The Pan-African Struggles of William Galwey Donovan and Theophilus Albert Marryshow for Political Change on Grenada, 1884-1925(1)

Article excerpt

Introduction

Pan-Africanism, asserts Immanuel Geiss, is "the reaction of the most advanced, most intensively Europeanised Africans and Afro-Americans to contact with the modern world". For Geiss, Africans and African Americans embraced "European and North American principles of equality and democracy and on this basis elaborated their own ideology of emancipation from White supremacy". Such notions invariably entailed a narrow struggle limited to "political movement for the unification of the African continent" and a broader concept that includes "cultural and intellectual movements, even those that aim at a wider solidarity, i.e., anti-colonialism or Afro-Asianism".2 While it is fashionable in some circles to see the Paris Pan-African Congress of 1919 as marking the start of the modern pan-African movement, others have rightly pointed to the 1900 Pan-African Conference in London as evidence of the movement's earlier birth.3 Recently, an increasing body of new literature has sought to trace the nineteenth-century origins of the movement.4 It is also becoming evident from this research that Caribbean activists were adopting a pan-African perspective in shaping some of their demands for political change.

Commenting on his motivation for convening the 1900 Pan-African Conference, Henry Sylvester Williams, then a law student in London, remarked: "I took this matter in hand because I found that we were not recognised as a people, and did not take our place in the world. Legislation went on for us without our sanction, and in which we had no voice. The result is that we suffer from many injustices and many inequalities."5 Williams undoubtedly drew on experiences in his native land to inform his decision-making. As a youngster in Trinidad, he was obviously aware of Samuel Carter's unceasing condemnations from the 1870s onwards in the San Fernando Gazette of the patronizing manner in which British administrators had governed Trinidad without provision for hearing local voices through elected representatives.6 Further, highly publicized debates surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of slave emancipation had drawn critical attention to the status of Afro-Trinidadians from 1838 onwards. Convinced that the full promises of emancipation remained unmet and that racially motivated colonial policies prevented Africans and their descendants worldwide from participating fully in determining their future, Williams had used the newly formed African Association of which he was secretary as the catalyst for planning the Pan-African Conference. His hope was that the conference might stimulate discussion on the plight of, and lead to full civil rights for, Africans throughout the diaspora.7

Historians have rightly stressed the role of Henry Sylvester Williams and ideas in Trinidad, Great Britain, the United States and Africa in shaping the agenda and deliberations of the conference. Few, however, have recognized the part individuals in other English-speaking Caribbean islands played in articulating a vision for political representation that paralleled some of the calls made in London in 1900.8 Studies of the demands for political change in Grenada and other Caribbean islands have invariably treated the early twentieth century movement as beginning almost in a vacuum after World War I. Hardly anyone has explored the late nineteenth-century pan-African stirrings in the English-speaking Caribbean.9 This article partly rectifies the omission. Through an examination of the activities of William Galwey Donovan and Theophilus Albert Marryshow, it argues that on Grenada interest in the welfare of Africa and its peoples throughout the diaspora had antedated Williams' efforts. While not detracting from the goals and achievements of the 1900 Pan-African Conference, the essay suggests the need for a careful study of the efforts of other persons throughout the late nineteenth-century Caribbean if we are to obtain a comprehensive picture of the Caribbean aspects of early pan-Africanism. …

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