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African Philosophies of History and Historiography  

Toyin Falola and Abikal Borah

Since the late 1950s, the field of African historiography has undergone many changes. While discussing African philosophies of history, one must acknowledge shifts within the discipline of history and the Afrocentric vision of historical scholarship as two constitutive processes through which different historiographical trends have come into being. It is difficult to take an essentialist position on African philosophies of history, because Africa has been at the center of various transnational and global processes of historical formation. As a result, the scope and scale of African historiography signals a variety of entanglements. The imperative lies in recognizing such entanglements in the longue durée of Africa’s past, to dislodge the narrowly framed imagination attached to African historiography. Considering the complexity of the terrain, it would be appropriate to view African philosophies of history and historiography from three different vantage points. Firstly, historical scholarship centering on Africa has produced critiques of the post-Enlightenment philosophy of history in Europe and elsewhere. This strand highlights the interventions posed by African historiography that decenter a globalized philosophical tradition. Secondly, the inclusion of African indigenous epistemological formations into historical scholarship has transformed the scope of African historiography. This shows shifts in the methodological approaches of historical scholarship and highlights the question of access to the multiplicity of Africa’s past. Thirdly, Pan-Africanism and Afropolitanism expanded the scope and scale of the African philosophy of history by thinking through the transnational and global connections of Afrocentric thought. In other words, Afrocentric historiography attends to the ideas of globalism and cosmopolitanism within its scope and scale.

Article

Pan-Africanism  

Harry Odamtten

Pan-Africanism is an idea that calls for unity for all peoples of African heritage in order to overcome inequitable global systems, especially racial capitalism. However, defining Pan-Africanism requires a survey of definitions to delineate areas of historical consensus. Thus, this work makes a historical distinction between a prior period of Pan-African ideas and a subsequent Pan-African social movement era, dating from the 1900 Pan-African Conference in London. It also recognizes that Pan-Africanism is dynamic and not static; it evolves within various historical contingencies. Furthermore, a distinction between the canon of Pan-African ideas and the Pan-African social movement is paramount. Black intellectuals, such as Edward Blyden, were the producers of the series of ideas in the 19th century that would catapult Pan-Africanism into a worldwide social movement for global Black unity, racial equality, and legitimize African histories and cultures. Building on these forerunners were the leading lights of the social movements, Henry Sylvester Williams, W. E. B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Marcus Garvey, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Amy Jaques Garvey, Paulette Nardal, Jane Nardal, George Padmore, and Kwame Nkrumah. The latter two are included in the pantheon for imbuing the Pan-African ideas and social activism of two prior generations. They were distinctive by their explication of Blyden’s 19th-century African Personality and adopting the symbolism of Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association in the early 20th century and working with DuBois to organize the 5th Pan-African Congress in 1945. Finally, they also pushed for the Organization of African Unity’s (OAU) formation in 1963. In the aftermath of the seventh Pan-African Congress organized in Dar es Salaam, from 1974 to the end of the 20th century, Pan-Africanism reached its organizational nadir. Beset by neocolonialism, bad leadership, and the complex demands of nation-states in Africa, the movement struggled to maintain worldwide interest even as Pan-African activities and Black internationalist engagements proliferated in various regional enclaves including North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. In the 21st century, the exuberance of Muammar Gadhafi and the sentimental pragmatism of Thabo Mbeki rose to the fore. This new dynamism generated a restructuring of the OAU into the African Union, and the African diaspora became a region of the African continent. Beyond this, while belief in Pan-Africanism as a liberation tool remains, questions persist about African leaders’ agency and institutional frameworks for achieving Pan-African goals.

Article

Western Education and the Rise of a New African Elite in West Africa  

Apollos Okwuchi Nwauwa

With the arrival of Europeans in West Africa in the 15th century, which preceded formal conquest and pacification, missionaries took the lead in introducing Western education as an indispensable tool for effective evangelism. Subsequently, the various European colonial governments appropriated education as a means of consolidating colonial rule in West Africa. By the middle of the 19th century, Western education began to produce a new, educated elite, at the core of which were “liberated slaves” in Sierra Leone. Western education produced its own contradictions. On the one hand, it produced educated hybrids who were alienated from their own peoples and cultures and who collaborated with Europeans to entrench colonialism in West Africa. On the other hand, the new elite, educated both in Africa and overseas, subsequently morphed into the new nationalists who became valuable agents for the liquidation of European imperialism in Africa. The emergent institutions of higher learning and the three new universities in West African founded in the aftermath of World War II became hotbeds of intellectual discourse just as the debate over the need for adaptation and Africanization resurfaced. Following the end of colonial rule, the “new elite,” now expanding in number, continued to provide contentious, neocolonial leadership and direction for development in postcolonial West Africa. Thus, despite its undesirable effect on European colonialism, Western education played into the hands of the educated elite who appropriated and deployed its latent, potent force in order to dislodge Europeans from Africa.