Magazine article Poverty & Race

Exploring the Parallels between the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the African Liberation Movement

Magazine article Poverty & Race

Exploring the Parallels between the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the African Liberation Movement

Article excerpt

The history of African and African-American struggles for liberation interacting is as multiple and organic as its various manifestationsNegritude, Black Consciousness Movement, Black Arts Movement, to name a few. What these manifestations had in common was their desire to strengthen and unify all those of African descent. This desire was bolstered by institutional and individual attempts to solve what they saw as the problem of the 20th Century- "the problem of the color line," in the iconic phrase of W. E. B. Du Bois. These movements' central aim was to secure civil and political rights for Africans and their descendants throughout the world. Their struggle was against colonialism and the activities of imperialist powers in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

As racism evolves and mutates as a force of oppression, so do the means to resist it. In an effort to situate and contextualize the various instances of interaction, it becomes vital to highlight crucial moments of this interaction. In this, two interconnected strains of thought become visible. The first visible point of reference is encapsulated in the movement's intellectual framework: The writings and speeches of the movement's leaders illuminate the importance of African and African-American collaboration against a common enemy. Secondly, we can see attempts to institutionalize this framework. Thus, not only is it necessary to study the words and ideas of the movement's personalities, a substantive analysis of the actualization of their words and ideas in the form of the institutions they created is also useful. This level of analysis upon the similarity of African and African-American liberation movements is necessary for future direction. This becomes especially incalculable as the mutation of racism comes of age in the 21st Century. In all of its complexity and radicalism, this investigation will provide the vital context and frame of reference in order to address disease, poverty and human rights abuses plaguing Africans and people of African descent across the globe.

The Council on African Affairs

With that, a brief look into one of the many attempts to institutionalize the idea of African and African-American liberation movement interaction offers a clear view of the foundations that have been laid that can undoubtedly inform future progress. Notwithstanding the Pan-African work by pioneers such as Henry Sylvester Williams and W.E.B. Du Bois, a continuation of their groundwork can be found in the formation of the Council on African AffairsCAA (Du Bois was instrumental in the work of this organization). Founded in 1942, CAA quickly emerged as the principal voice of anti-colonialism and Pan- Africanism within the U.S., as well as abroad. Before becoming a casualty of the Cold War and anticommunist campaigns during the early 1950s, CAA served as the central point of interaction between Africans' and African Americans' struggles for liberation.

Paul Robeson served as Chairman during most of the CAA' s existence, while W.E.B. Du Bois served as ViceChair and headed the Africa Aid Committee. Alphaeus Hunton, Jr. was the organization's Executive Director, editor of its publication, New Africa, and the force behind much of CAA' s activities and vision.

Despite its radical politics, in the early and mid 1940s CAA benefited from the support of a wide range of liberal activists and intellectuals, including E. Franklin Frazier, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rayford Logan. The support of these three liberals should not be taken for granted. This support indicated the pervasive appeal of the CAA' s program and messages -a vital component in building a movement over two continents and uniting various groups of people with assorted interests. The CAA was able to do this by articulating and promoting a fundamental linkage between the struggle of African Americans and the fate of colonized peoples in Africa as well as around the globe.

Among the various campaigns and methods used to solidify this notion, the CAA lobbied the federal government and the United Nations; lent material support to Indian independence activists and striking trade unionists in Nigeria; and established African famine relief initiatives. …

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