Rayford W. Logan: The Evolution of a Pan-African Protege, 1921-1927

By Reed, David L. | Journal of Pan African Studies, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Rayford W. Logan: The Evolution of a Pan-African Protege, 1921-1927


Reed, David L., Journal of Pan African Studies


The African diaspora is a triadic relationship linking a dispersed group of people to the homeland, Africa, and to their host or adopted countries. Diasporas develop and reinforce images and ideas about themselves and their original homelands, as well as affect the economies, politics, and social dynamics of both the homeland and the host country. Diasporas are therefore significant factors in national and international relations.

--Joseph Harris, The African Diaspora

This investigation covers Logan's involvement and development as a Pan-Africanist during the formative years between 1921 and 1927 from his perspective, which he recorded in his personal diaries, an un-published draft of an autobiography, public speeches, and his analysis of the Treaty of Versailles. Other relevant secondary sources are included for context.

Rayford Whittingham Logan's evolution into one of the most formidable and yet lesser known of the 20th Century Pan-Africanist began in earnest when he met W.E.B. Du Bois in Paris, France in 1921 at age twenty-four. At the time Du Bois was for black America arguably the most learned man of the era. Having graduated with a liberal arts education from Fisk University in 1888, Du Bois went on to graduate with honors from Harvard University in 1890 with a degree in philosophy. After Harvard, Du Bois studied sociology and economics in the early 1890s at the University of Heidelberg in Germany before returning to the U.S. to finish his doctorate in history from Harvard in 1896. Du Bois already showed interest in Africa with a doctoral dissertation on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (1) In addition to being well educated and having traveled Europe it was Du Bois in 1903 who prophesized with poetic clarity that "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea." (2)

Rayford Logan was thirty years Du Bois' junior and he too was well educated considering his liberal arts education from the renowned M Street High School in Washington, D.C. and he finished valedictorian from the prestigious William's College in 1917 giving the commencement address. At twenty-four, Logan was also a war veteran that had lived in Paris and traveled Europe for two years giving him valuable experiences about European and world culture. (3) Although Logan was budding into a cosmopolitan thinker himself he was not yet actively engaged in any movement or struggle outside fighting military racism as a second lieutenant in the U.S. army. As revealed later in his life he did make observations about race and race culture, normally ending in a negative assessment of the racist attitudes of white Americans traveling abroad.

Logan's evolution as a Pan-Africanist involved his assessment of world politics and movements from the end of the 19th century through World War I. To be sure, both Du Bois and Logan were not only professionally trained historians but serious students of current events and modern world history. In fact, Du Bois had recognized as early as 1915 in a provocative essay entitled, "The African Roots of War," that the entire conflict of World War I lay in which European power would dominate and control African [and Asian] land and resources. Logan believed that when Germany sought to expand its empire and sent the battleship Panther to the coast of Morocco in 1911, this was a precursor to Du Bois' thesis that the industrialized European powers would fight over Africa. (4) Du Bois had also given his valedictorian address on Otto Von Bismarch the German chancellor most responsible for the unification of Germany in the late 19th century. After the Berlin Conference of 1885 it seemed that Africa increasingly received the attention of the major European powers for economic and political reasons that were very clear by the end of the century. Du Bois deplored European imperialism in Africa and wrote forcefully:

   The methods by which this continent has been stolen have been
   contemptible and dishonest beyond expression. … 

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