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Black people or People of African origin in the New World are the millions of Africans that were moved in the New World as slaves as a result of capitalism. These African slaves were forcefully taken from Africa by the cruel European merchants to the New World for slavery during the Atlantic Slave Trade and their descendants who are still living in the America and Caribbean. They are known as Black People or the Negroes by the White racists.

The New World is Americas and Caribbean Islands (West Indies). They were called New World because they were unknown to Europeans before the accidental arrival on them by European sailors led by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th C (1492)  yet the European had already reached other overseas parts of the world like Africa.

Black Diaspora refers to the Africans that are living in every part of the World i.e. Europe, Asia and America, that were taken during the horrible trade of human trafficking from the 15th to the 19th century.

According to Walter Rodney, more than ten million Africans were moved in the New World and other parts of the World, and equal number was taken unrecorded, while millions died in the horrible journey of enslavement. From the 15th to the 19th century, Europeans bought millions of slaves in West, Central and East Africa and sent them to Europe, the Caribbean and North, Central and South America.

Brief Background

The accidental arrival at the New World by European sailors, led by Christopher Columbus was on the background of economic competition between European kingdoms to establish trade routes. Columbus’ voyages were sponsored by the Spanish Crown, which saw in it a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through a new westward route. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of arriving in Japan as he had intended, Columbus reached the New World, landing on an island in the Bahamas that he named “San Salvador.” Over the course of three more voyages of 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502 Columbus visited more Caribbean islands and Central America, claiming all of it for the Spanish Crown. European traders could no longer travel by land to India and Far East due to conflicts between the Europeans and the Persians.

Columbus’ voyages marked the beginning of centuries of transatlantic European exploration, conquest and colonization of the New World and enslavement of Africans. The great economic potentials of the New World led Europeans to establish plantations and mines of the greatly needed precious metals of gold and silver there. The labour problems encountered by them culminated in the Atlantic Slave Trade through which millions of African slaves found themselves in the New World. The powers that colonised the New World and conducted the Atlantic Slave Trade included; Spain, Portugal, England, France and Holland.

The Caribbean Islands are known as the “West Indies” because Columbus lost his way and accidentally landed in the Caribbean islands. So because the intention was to get to East Indies, the Caribbean islands were named the West Indies being found in the west.

Black American Slaves cutting sugar cane in the Caribbean Island


Slave trade was the most notoriously inhuman exchange in the human history. With it human beings are exchanged as objects of production for simple manufactured goods. The notable of the slave trading system was the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. Slavery is the act of being enslaved.

The Columbus discovery of great economic potential of the New World (1492) was swiftly followed by arrival of a large number of European mercantile capitalists to open up plantations and mining activities.

1. The voyages were successful due to the advancement of maritime technology by western European capitalist powers of Spain, Portugal, England, Holland, England and France.

2. The Europeans tried to enslave the Red Indians. This however, proved failure due to the fact that these people could not tolerate the hard working conditions in plantations and mines and so many died and many escaped because they were familiar with environment

3. The Europeans went back to their home countries to find labour solutions. Those with social problems such as criminals, indebted and poor people were carried to the New World. This however, failed because of the fear to under-populate their nations. Together with that, European labour could not tolerate the harsh labour and tropical conditions and diseases.

4. Plantations and mine owners desperate for massive vigorous labour force which the Red Indians and European labour failed to satisfy, then turned to Africa slaves as the final alternative source of cheap labour. In the process millions of energetic young Africans were ferried to the New World for slavery.

5. The need for African slaves gave birth to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Through this notorious inhuman trade by European nations, more than 10 million energetic young Africans were ferried to the New World to provide cheap free labour to European plantations and mines.

6. The journey to the New World was a difficult one to African slaves. For every four or three slaves one died before reaching the New World due to suffocation, congestion, hunger and diseases. Those who died on the way or the sick and rebellious ones were sunk thrown in the sea for sharks to enjoy their flesh. While in transit slaves were packed in the ships like goods.

7. On reaching America, African slaves started a new life of extreme horrible lifelong torture. Their new masters stamped their backs with the red hot iron for his identification; in case of sickness or rebellion, they were buried alive, shot to death, hanged, flogged or sent to exile and; they were given little food to survive on. Women slaves experienced all sorts of sexual abuse and harassment like rape was common. They were used to reproduce more slavers.

Transition from Native American and European labour to labour to African slaves

As already noted, African slaves were the third and final form of labour used by European colonisers in America and the Caribbean. In the beginning the European tried to enslave the natives of the New World - the Red Indians. After failure to use the Red Indians, the Europeans turned to European free and un-free labour, that is, the Indentured and the criminal and outcasts from the early 16th C before turning to African slaves as the last resort to the labour problem and to satisfy their increasing labour demands in their booming capitalist agriculture and mining.

Problems associated with the Red Indians and European labour

The two forms of labour were inefficient and with a lot of problems that failed plantation and mine owners to exploit them to the maximum.

The Red Indians

- They were unreliable. 
Since they were familiar with the environment, the Red Indians could easily escape torture — harsh treatment in plantations and mines.

- They were not much vigorous for manual labour. 
The Red Indians died in large number due to overwork, torture and exhaustion in plantations and mines.

- They were much susceptible to diseases. 
The Red Indians were weak in resistance against unfamiliar European diseases such as smallpox and syphilis and therefore died in large numbers. By the end of the first century of the European contact 90 per cent or more of the Red Indians had been wiped out by European diseases or harsh treatment.

European indentured labour

European labour was of two forms: the free labour which comprised of the poor, jobless and other fortune seekers who were encouraged to move to the New World to try their luck there; and the unfree labour of the prisoners, criminals, debtors and other outcasts. These had the following problems

- They were also unreliable. 
They served for a limited time; prisoners demanded for their freedom at the expiry of sentence time and the poor could leave after acquiring capital. Others purchased land and started business on their own. Others could also runaway from plantations and mines and disguise themselves to other Europeans.

- It was expensive labour 
The European free labour demanded for higher payments and together with the unfree labour demanded for better conditions of work like better housing.

- It was also susceptible to disease 
European labour was vulnerable to tropical diseases particularly malaria which they were not familiar with hence many died.

- Climate 
Working in the tropics was difficult to Europeans. They could hardly persevere with the hot temperatures in the tropic because they were used to temperate climate in Europe.

- It was hard to exploit them to the maximum 
European labour was protected by laws of their home governments hence could sue employers in case of mistreatment.

- Awareness 
European labour was somehow conscious. They knew their rights and demanded for them. For example right to bargain for better pay and to rest.

- Limited number of European labourers 
They could be provided by their states in small numbers in fear of under populating their countries.

With the above explanations, the Red Indians and European labour could not provide cheap and reliable labour force to plantation and mine owners in the New World. The solution was with African slaves who they had experimented with and proved to be cheap and reliable and could realise maximum benefits from them.

Red Indians


The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, 15-19th Century linked three regions; Europe, Africa and the New World. It developed during mercantilism, a European foreign trade and first stage in the development of capitalism - Africa and the New World were victims of exploitation.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the means by which the People of African descent came to be found in the New World. Indeed by it, the largest continental migration in the world history came to happen with a big number of African slaves shipped to the Americas and the Caribbean to labour in the European opened plantations and mines. The magnitude of slave exportation during the trade was very big and went on increasing year after year. Between 1530 and 1600 about 13,000 slaves were exported per year. The number rose to about 27,500 in the 17th century and about 70,000 in the 18th century. By 1800 it had increased to 145,000 slaves per year.

How the Trade was Conducted

The trade operated between three continents (regions) of Europe, Africa and the New World (Caribbean and Americas) along triangular routes dictated by the European merchants. It was the European merchants who journeyed from their home ports to contact Africa and the Caribbean and the Americas.

The first route was from Europe to Africa, transporting European made goods like cloth, cheap ornaments like earrings, beads and necklaces, guns, gun powder, and alcohol to be exchanged for slaves (and other goods like cola nuts, palm oil and bullions shipped directly to Europe). The second route of the triangle was ‘the Middle Passage’, European merchants transported human cargo (slaves) from West Africa across the Atlantic to the Americas and the Caribbean for resale to plantations and mines owners.

The third route was from the Americas and the Caribbean to Europe. Goods transported included, sugar, tobacco, cotton and rice from the plantations and minerals especially gold and silver to feed the European industries. A single ship setting out from Europe completed three stages of the triangle in its voyage, each with its own separate cargo, before finally returning to its home port in Europe.

The Middle Passage usually took more than seven weeks. Once on shipboard, slaves, mostly the males, were shackled and chained together and forced to lie shoulder to shoulder. There was limited space to move or even to answer the call of nature, forcing the captives to urinate and defecate upon each other. They were packed together like books upon a shelf, so close that the shelf would not easily contain one more. Conditions within the slave ships were unspeakably awful. Urine, vomit, mucous, and horrific odours filled the hold.

Men and women were separated. Generally female captives were kept on the upper deck unchained to entertain the ship’s crew and to cook and serve food to the men captives who were restrained in the ship’s hold. Women slaves were subject to inhuman acts like rape. During the voyage, the enslave Africans were typically fed only once or twice a day and brought on deck for limited times for forceful exercise.

Many Africans resisted enslavement. On shipboard, many slaves mutinied, attempted suicide, jumped overboard when they got chance, or refused to eat. To prevent their captives from starving themselves, slavers sometimes smashed out their teeth and a funnel was inserted down their throat to force feed them. Some captains actually cut off the arms and legs of a few kidnapped Africans. The death rate on these slave ships was very high, between 10 and 25 - as a result of torture, malnutrition, dehydration and such diseases as dysentery, measles, scurvy, and smallpox. Diarrhoea was widespread and many Africans arrived in the New World covered with sores or suffering fevers.

The Background of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

The influence of booming capitalist agriculture and mining in the Caribbean and Americas forced the European colonisers turned to African slaves after failing to profitably use the Red Indians and European labour. Their experience proved that African slaves were not only cheap but also reliable for enslavement. That marked the massive Trans-Atlantic trade in human cargo.

From early 16th C slaves were directly shipped from West Africa to the New World with the first batch shipped in 1518 by the Portuguese. The Portuguese were immediately joined by the Spaniards, Dutch, British and French. The more the colonies were acquired and plantations and mines established, the more the volume of human cargo went on expanding that by the 17th C about 1.8 million slaves had been shipped to the New World.

Factors for the Rise of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

1. Development of maritime technology. 
The technology enabled making of stronger high sea-going vessels and compass direction to direct voyages. Advancement of this technology made overseas journeys to contact distant lands and allowed easy transportation of goods across high seas. Such developments enabled European merchants make successful voyages across the Atlantic.

2. Discovery of the New World. 
The accidental landing of Christopher Columbus on the West Indies and the Americas was paramount for existence of the Atlantic trade. The new found lands were discovered to be of greater economic importance to prompt colonisation by the European states like England, Spain, France and Portugal to exploit the rich resources. The need for cheap reliable labour in plantations and mines led to African enslavement.

3. Low machine making technology. 
By the 15th C no significant machines had been invented to handle vigorous tasks in mines and plantations. Machines in use were inefficient to meet the increasing demands of the mercantile states which were in intense competition. To that effect, a large amount of cheap and reliable human labour was to be availed from Africa to work in plantations and mines.

4. Profitability of trade in slaves. 
European merchants accrued unanimous profits in dealing with slaves. Slaves were acquired cheaply in Africa in exchange of cheap manufactured goods such as cloths and guns from Europe and exchanged in the New World for abundant expensive items like bullions and raw materials like sugar, tobacco and tea which were badly demanded in Europe.

5. The prior knowledge of Africans’ abilities by the Europeans. 
Since 1440s Portuguese explorers like Phillip Gonzales had carried some Africans to Europe where they were enslaved and proved physically efficient for manual duties. Also after the conquest of Atlantic islands of Principe and Sao Tome, the Portuguese used African slaves to work in their sugar plantations there. With such experience, when the experiment on the Red Indians and European labour in the New World proved profitably wrong, the Europeans with conviction knew African slaves would provide the needed cheap labour efficiently.

6. The role played by African chiefs. 
Local rulers in Africa were crucial for the development of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. They took all the risks in slave raids in the interior and transported them to the coast where the European merchants who by then never entered the interior of Africa found them to be exchanged for the cheap goods like firearms that local rulers and traders needed from them.

7. Nearness of the Atlantic African coast. 
Geographically the Atlantic coast of Africa is closer to Western Europe. the West Indies, and Americas. With shorter sea journeys European merchants made more trade trips annually and reduced risks of long sea journeys. By that, more slaves were annually transported to the New Worlds and more bullions and raw materials from the New Worlds to Europe.

8. Possession of capital by the European merchants. 
By the start of the Trans-Atlantic trade, European wealthy classes had accumulated enough capital through primitive means like the crusades of the 11-12th centuries and enclosure system. It was this capital that was invested in ship building, cottage industries and purchasing trade items like slaves from Africa.

9. The role of mercantilism. 
Mercantilism led to insatiable demand for wealth by European nations. The intensive competition resulted into colonial conquest in the New Worlds and opening of plantations and mines of silver and gold which were highly needed in Europe. Such demands forced for increased importation of slaves from Africa.

10. The role of the crusades. 
These were wars sponsored by the church against the Muslim world in the 11 and 12th Centuries. The wars were first taken in 1095 by Pope Urban Ii. Due to endless invasions, the Muslims nations in the Middle East like the Persian Empire blocked land route from Europe to India where European nations had commercial interests. This forced Europeans search for an alternative sea route. By such efforts Vasco da Gama found the sea route to south and eastern Africa and India and Columbus landed in the New World.

Why the Europeans preferred African slaves

1. The fear to depopulate their own countries. 
European states could not allow large number of labour to the New World in fear of under populating their countries. Depopulation was dangerous to capitalist development and political stability of their nations. Large populations were needed at home to provide the required domestic market, cheap labour and defence.

2. Cheapness of African slaves. 
The slaves were bought at cheap prices in exchange of cheap goods like cloths from Europe and were cheaply maintained. They were not paid wages and fed and housed poorly. On the other hand, European labour was expensive. They demanded higher wages and better facilitations like housing. It is stated that the cost used to maintain a single slave for 30 years was not enough to maintain European labour for 10 years.

3. The racial factor. 
The Europeans were considered a master race destined to rule other “inferior-servant” races particularly the Africans. Therefore the Europeans believed that because they were a superior race, were not for manual (donkey) jobs but other races Africans in particular. The European labour and the Red Indians worked for a limited time.

4. The European labour demanded freedom at the end of their contracts or imprisonment terms. They could also escape and intermingle with other free Europeans or return to Europe. The Red Indians could escape from torture because of being familiar with the environment. African slaves could hardly escape or win freedom.

5. Climatic factor. 
The climate in the tropics was hard for European labour to work due to high temperatures since Europe has a temperate climate with lower temperatures. Besides being taken from the tropics in Africa, African slaves had proved to be adaptive to different climatic conditions.

6. The European labour knew their rights and demanded for them. 
For example, the right to bargain for better pay and demand for better working conditions. Similarly they were protected by their states’ laws against mistreatment — they could sue their employers for misconducts.

7. Africans proved to be more physically fit and more resistant to disease. African slaves could handle the hard work and torture in mines and plantations like long hours of work with heavy duties than the European and Red Indian labour. Likewise Africans were less susceptible to diseases like small pox and syphilis brought from Europe and tropical diseases like malaria.


To explain why the People of African Origin were shipped to the new founded lands of Caribbean and America. The following reasons have been analysed;

1. Mercantilism. 
Mercantilism operated as European overseas trade between Europe, Africa and the New World. By its competition with primitive means of wealth accumulation and colonisation of the New World, it propelled slave trade by which millions of Africans were shipped to the New World for slavery in mines and plantations for collection of bullions and raw material.

2. Advancement of maritime technology. 
This was characterised by making high-sea going vessels and marine compass. It indeed made voyages on high-seas possible to connect Europe, Africa and the New World through which slaves were easily moved from Africa to the New World to labour in European mines for bullions and plantations for raw materials.

3. Discovery of the new world.
The discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus in 1492 contributed to the existence of people of African origin in the new world. The discovery led to the establishment of plantations and mining centers that demanded for cheap labor which called for importation of African slaves.

4. Industrial revolution in Europe.
Due to the industrial revolution, there was a need to expand home markets thus the merchants and the ruling class in Europe were afraid of under population; this prompted the campaign against the use of white labor. The crisis called for massive importation of slaves from Africa to provide cheap labor on plantations.

5. Low machine technology. 
Europe had not invented advanced machines to provide desired efficient work in plantations and mines. This made them rely mainly on manual labour. It was this that called for a massive shipment of slaves from Africa to the New World. The more the plantations and mines were opened the more the slaves were needed.

6. The profitability of Trans-Atlantic trade. 
Trade in slaves was very lucrative to European merchants. They made huge profits by acquiring slaves from Africa cheaply in exchange for cheap goods like cloths and mirrors from Europe and traded them with plantation and mines owners in New World for dear items like bullions. The profitability of the trade encouraged more voyages to Africa for slaves.

7. Difficulties faced with earlier labour forms. 
The Red Indians and Europeans were the first form of labour to be worked by European colonists in the New World. They however, were susceptible to disease and could serve for a limited time. The Europeans were expensive and could start their own businesses when they acquired capital while the Red Indians could escape from torture. African slaves on the other side were reliable, cheap and resistance to diseases.

8. The role played by African chiefs. 
The local rulers in Africa were instrumental for the success of slave trade that exported millions of Africans to the New World. They carried the risks of acquiring slaves and transported them to the coast to be availed to the European merchants in exchange for cheap goods like guns.

9. The prior knowledge about Africans’ abilities by the Europeans. 
Since 1440s the Portuguese had enslaved Africans in Europe and in their sugar plantations in Principe and Sao Tome since 1480s where Africans proved great capabilities for manual duties. With such knowledge, when the experiment on the Red Indians and European labour proved profitably wrong, the Europeans swiftly turned to African slaves for reliable labour.

10. The proximity of West Africa to Europe. 
Geographically, the Atlantic coast of Africa, specifically West Africa is near to Western Europe and the New World. This did not only reduce risks of sea voyages but also it was less costly in terms of shipping, making it easy to ferry more Africans the New World for slavery.

11. Africans slaves were cheap.
It’s on record that money paid to a white labor for ten years could procure an African slave for life. In addition a white worker was expected to acquire land at the end of the contract while an African slave was prevented by law from owning land. This condition necessitated the use of African labor thus the existence of people of African origin in the new world.

12. Inability of the indigenous people.
Initially the Europeans were using Native Americans and red Indians to provide cheap labor on the plantations and mining centers but these later died in huge numbers due to plague. This called for an importation of African slaves which contributed to the existence of people of African origin in the new world.

13. Religious explanation. 
Western writers claim that slavery was a form of civilization for the black people. By enslaving the Africans, the European therefore claimed to be carrying out a divine mission to civilise Africans. To further justify slavery on Africans, they referred to the biblical story of Noah and his sons, claiming that Africans are descendants of Shem, Noah’s son who was cursed and whose descendants are to be servants to the descendants of the blessed Japheth and Seth from whom the European and Asians claim their origin.

Problems Encountered by People of African Origin in the New World

The problems faced by people of African descent started from their capture as slaves, then at the coast while waiting for transportation, then on voyage to the New World and finally in their lifelong stay in the New World. These problems can be analysed as follows;

1. They were denied civil rights. 
The people of African origin were not recognised as legal citizen of the United States even after end of slavery. Hence they were not protected by the law and denied rights to freely and equally participate in political matters like voting or to be voted for. Thus could not run any political office and neither were they represented in the parliament (congress).

2. Exploitation. 
They suffered from untold exploitation of long working hours and child labour as children as young as 13 years were overworked. As slaves were not paid and after slavery were paid low wages. They faced appalling working conditions of torture, poor housing and feeding and suffered widespread employment discrimination especially after emancipation.

3. They were denied right to own properties. 
The people of African origin in the New World were not allowed to own property of any type such as land and houses. The aim was to keep them under abject poverty and maintain their dependence on the whites to maintain exploitation.

4. They lacked security at work. 
The people of African origins were not insured and not provided with protective gears like boots and gloves. This made them vulnerable to accidents. They also had poor accommodation and transport.

5. Racial segregation. 
By law, there were separate public facilities and services such as schools, shops, buses, houses and jobs for whites and blacks. Characteristically, those for the blacks were of poor quality. Indeed the blacks were regarded as subject worthless people who deserve no respect.

6. They were denied better social services. 
The people of African origin were provided with poor services like health and education to keep them under poor living standards and maintain their dependence on the whites through which exploitation was sustained. For instance, low education was provided to the blacks to keep them unaware of their rights and deny them chance to develop life skills.

7. They were subjected to foreign culture. 
In the time of slavery, African slaves were forced to abandon their original culture and adopt their masters’ languages, culture and Christian identity. The slave masters put their names on their slaves and forced them to abandon their traditional names. Those caught practicing their culture like speaking their native languages and religions were heavily punished.

8. Violence. 
People of African origin faced violence from individuals, police, anti-black paramilitary organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, and mob racial violence. Lynching, beatings, whippings, tarring and feathering became usual on them. For instance between 1885 and 1917 over 2700 African American were lynched in the Southern state of USA.

9. Denied the right to marry.
Black people were denied the right to marry and be married. The capitalist believed that marriage would hinder the exploitation of African labor since it would become expensive to maintain the black people and their families. Laws were also established that prohibited relations between a black and a white man.


The Afro-American Nationalism was the struggle of the People of African descent for freedom and civil and equal rights in America. The problems of extreme exploitation, oppression, segregation and all other forms of injustices encountered by the People of African origin in Diaspora, particularly in America enlightened them and raised their determination to fight for their freedom and equal rights.

Factors for the Rise of Afro-American Nationalism

1. Extreme exploitation and oppression. 
People of African origin were overworked for longer hours. While in slavery they were not paid at all and after slavery worked for lower pay. On top of that they faced torture and all sorts of inhuman punishments and attacks including lynching and amputation. These injustices raised their awareness to struggle for freedom.

2. Feelings of homelessness. 
This took two faces: one is the poor housing and living conditions. They experienced hopeless living of wondering in isolated poor houses in slums called ghettos with poor sanitation and communication. Secondly, was their detachment from their ancestral origin in Africa.

3. Denial of civil rights. 
The people of African origin were not recognised as legal citizen of America since their arrival as slaves and after independence of USA. In such position they were not protected by the law right away from the colonial period in the New World. Their nationalist quest was in this case driven by feelings of the right to be recognised as true citizens of America and be protected by the law because they were born there.

4. The role of American war of independence (1776). 
Many Black slaves participated in this war against British colonialism having been promised abolition of slavery. The war exposed them to new life and understanding. They acquired skills in fighting and revealed their courage. Moreover, the war propaganda that “All men are born equal and free” enlightened them to struggle for equality and end slavery.

5. American Civil War 1861-65. 
This war was between the U.S union government and the Southern USA states that wanted to break away from the union. Among the reasons or the war, was the determination of Southern states to continue with enslavement of the Blackman against the demand of the union government to abolish slavery. Besides acquiring fighting experience, the blacks benefited as the Union government under president Abraham Lincoln passed laws against slavery and promised total freedom to the Blacks.

6. The rise of Afro-American elites. 
Afro-American elites like William E. Dubois, Henry William Sylvester and Marcus Garvey were not only inspirational but also provided leadership and enlightenment to the People of African origin on their rights. They formed movements such as Pan-Africanism to organise the blacks in the struggle for freedom.

7. The bitter experience of slavery 
The life of torture and depression under slavery in America and Caribbean made African slaves and their descendants think of themselves keenly and reflect of a free life. It was that attitude that developed their nationalistic guest for liberation.

8. Role of religious movements. 
These were separatist churches like Methodist, Episcopal and Baptist churches formed by People of African origin in America due to whites’ segregation. For example they were not allowed to occupy front seats or share seats with e whites and could not lead prayers. Others like Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X converted to Islam. Religious movement consolidated their unity and raised awareness fight for freedom.

9. Rise of anti-slavery movements. 
These started in Europe by British politicians like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson to campaign for the abolition of slave trade and slavery in the world. The movements inspired the people of African origin to fight for freedom.

Afro-American Elites 
Marcus Garvey, Henry William Sylvester and William E. Dubois


To liberate themselves and end such a horrifying life of slavery, oppression, exploitation and segregation the People of African origin in the New World developed a desire for freedom. They employed many ways, means and methods to liberate themselves from unbearable injustice.

A consideration should be given that the history of their struggle to liberate themselves is traced as far back as the time of Trans-Atlantic slave, that is, during their shipment from Africa to the New World. Before leaving Africa, some tried to escape, others deformed their bodies and others committed suicide by dropping into the sea and hanging themselves.

Ways of Struggle 
(the earliest forms of resistance against slavery by the people of African origin)

a) Through open resistance. 
The slaves resisted openly for example by destroying properties, setting plantation on fire and destroying work equipments.

b) Through active armed resistance. 
This was in the form of arm struggle. Slaves revolted and picked up arms against their masters. The revolts included those in Saint-Domingue (Haiti today), Nova Scotia, Jamaica and Trinidad, Tobago and Brazil. By these revolts, the People of African Origin attempted for establish independent states to escape slavery. For instance in the Brazilian revolt they established a short-lived state called Palmares. In Saint-Domingue the revolts led by Toussaint L’ouverture was successful to establish an independent republic of Haiti.

c) Through passive resistance. 
This was the use of peaceful means like sit-down strikes when they could refused to work or could simply run away and hide in far areas for example in forests and mountains. For example in Saint-Domingue (Haiti today) and Jamaica thousands of slaves found freedom by fleeing from their masters, forming communities of maroons — African Moors who escaped from slavery and mixed with indigenous people of America.

d) Formation of Anti-slavery movements. 
The movements were influenced by the American War of Independence and American civil War. They were formed to support the blacks to fight for the abolition of slave trade and slavery in America.

e) The Underground Railroad and Quilt Code. 
The Underground Railroads was a secret network of conductors, meeting places and safe houses for the passage of African American to escape slavery. The Quilt Code involved forms of code words, phrases and symbols through which slaves communicated in ways the slave masters could not interpret. It was a means to pass information to slaves ready to escape from slavery. The renowned conductor of Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman who guided hundreds of African Americans to Northern USA out of slavery from the southern USA. It was the earliest form of struggle to escape slavery by People of African origin in America.

Harriet Tubman (1833  1913) was an African American heroine and best known female abolitionist, humanitarian and freedom icon. She was born a slave, her name was Araminta Ross. During her early life, as a young girl, she lived a harsh conditions and violence (beatings) by her slave masters and a skull fracture that nearly killed and affected her for the rest of her life. She changed her name in 1849, when she fled slavery in Maryland to Philadelphia. She adopted the name Harriet after her mother and Tubman after her husband. Harriet Tubman became famous as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad during the turbulent 1850s. Despite a bounty on her head, she returned to the South at least 19 times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman also served as a scout, spy and nurse during the Civil War. In honour of her courageous efforts to rescue family and friends from slavery, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison named her “Moses”, alluding to the Prophet in the Book of Exodus who led the Israelites to freedom from Egypt.

The Black Americans fighting against slavery done by the Whites

Methods used by People of African origin to Struggle

People of African origin employed both peaceful and violent methods in the struggle for rights and freedom. The methods were;

a) Street demonstrations. 
The methods involved organising peaceful street marching to demonstrate their displeasure of conditions of life they were forced to live. They carried posters (banners) displaying their demands for equal rights, freedom and end of segregation.

b) Boycotts. 
This took the form of rejection and separation. They could reject public buses and meetings and shops and restaurants ran by the whites. For instance after the arrest of a black woman, Rosa Parks after her refusal to get up out of her seat for a white person to sit on a bus on Montgomery, a boycott of all Montgomery buses was started.

c) Use of violence. 
The method saw the blacks also use militant approach to defend themselves from dangerous assault by white oppressors. Riots were organised by the blacks’ and their defensive militant movements like the Black Panther to defend themselves from attacks and counteract the white’s terrorist movements like the Ku Klux Klan which murdered blacks.

d) Use of art. 
Through songs, plays, drama and drawings the people of African origin express their unhappiness caused by oppression and segregation by the whites. Black artists in the world showed their bitterness through songs. Famous artists include Rober (Bob) Marley, a Jamaican singer and other Rasta Farris who sang for freedom and end of segregation.

e) Use of literature and mass media. 
Educated blacks published magazines, newspapers, journals, pamphlets and books to sensitise the public about the suffering of People of African descent and to mobilise them in the struggle for their freedom and rights. Marcus Garvey for example published a weekly newspaper called “The Negro World” and Dubois edited a magazine called “The Crisis” through which they spread awareness.

f) Mass meetings and public rallies. 
Mass meetings were made by the leaders of the People of African origin to mobilise public support in the struggle for their freedom. People; blacks and whites were invited into mass rallies on which black leaders expressed their desire for the end of segregation. The famous rallies were organised by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior who expressed his dream when segregation of blacks will end.

g) Through slogans. 
Slogans were designed by the black educated leaders to inspire the blacks to struggle for liberation against oppression by the whites. Marcus Garvey for example raised a slogan “It is better to die free than to live a slave” to encourage the Blacks struggle for freedom. Slogans were also used as propaganda in campaigns and riots they organized.

The Black Americans fighting against their slave masters

Forms of Struggle

The struggle of the people of African origin was manifested into two forms:

1. The separatist movements. 
The movements campaigned for the freedom of the People of African descent by separating them from the whites for example by creation of independent Black institutions. The movements were mainly of two types;

a) Religious movements. 
People of African origin found separatist churches like the Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal Churches since they were segregated in the whites’ churches. The movements were started by Reverend Malcolm and his followers to unite all the blacks in their struggle for freedom. Movement leaders like Martin Luther King Junior led their people to fight for equal rights. Some leaders like Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammed converted to Islam to separate themselves from the religion of their oppressors. These called for the creation of a “Nation of Islam” in America where all races will live free and equal.

b) Back to Africa Movement. 
The movement was advanced to send the People of African origin to Africa their land of origin to save them from oppression and segregation by the whites in Diaspora. The idea was hatched in 1914 by Marcus Garvey who believed that the blacks will never win equality, freedom and justice in America so the solution was to go back to Africa.

c) Separate Black Institutions. 
These included schools and banks. For instance, in 1881 Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which he developed into a major centre of black education and in 1952 the black-owned bank named Tri-State Bank of Nashville which gave loans to those who were segregated by other banks, was established.

2. Integrationist movements. 
This advocated for the blacks’ co-existence with the whites in America. Advocates of this like William E. Dubois believed that the People of African Origin in America should form an alliance with the whites for a peaceful co-existence. The movements took the form of civil rights campaigns believing that it was possible for the blacks to win freedom and equality in America. They opposed the Back to Africa Movement arguing that since the blacks were born in America, they had the right to live in America.

The Black American slaves begging their boss to pay them



The Black Solidarity was the spirit among African Americans and other People of African Origin wherever they were like in colonial Africa to band together for a joint liberation struggle against segregation and oppression by the whites. The solidarity based on the common ancestral origin and on principle of Black Pride among the people of African Origin.

The Black Solidarity Movement is traced from 1830s with the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 that called for an immediate end to slavery and demanded that African Americans receive the same political, economic and social rights as white people. The society was followed by the formation of the Emancipation League in 1861 and Union League of America in 1863 during the Civil War when a Common Constitution that abolished slavery was adopted. It spread throughout the southern states mobilising African Americans to unite and resist slavery, segregation, exploitation and oppression.

Aims of Black solidarity

i) To build unity among the black and coloured people for a joint struggle against oppression, exploitation, humiliation and all forms of injustice done on them by the whites.

ii) To awaken the black people’s consciousness. 
To make the black people aware of their rights and make them think of their troubles as downgraded people so as to encourage them fight for their rights and freedom.

iii) To stimulate the black people’s liberation campaign. That is to free the Blackman from oppression by the whites in America since the time of slavery and in the colonies.

iv) To fight against racial segregation and discrimination against People of African Descent in the world so as to win equality and justice for all without regard of race in the world.

v) To encourage brotherly relations among the People of African Origin basing on the feelings of common ancestral origin so as to raise feelings of concern for all People of African Origin.

vi) Campaign for equal economic opportunities. 
This meant fighting for economic equality in USA, the Caribbean, and wherever people of African origin lived so as to give them equal share of economies they massively contributed to develop from the time of their slavery.

vii) To improve the living conditions of the people of African origin. 
This was a campaign to improve standards of living of the people of African origin and help reduce dependence on the whites — dependence subjected them to exploitation and humiliation.

Manifestations of Black Solidarity

i) Anti-slavery society (movement). 
The movement was formed in 1833 by the People of African Origin to campaign for the abolition of slave trade and slavery in America. It was energised by the American Civil War that also spread campaigns for the emancipation of the People of African Origin in America.

ii) Pan Africanism. 
This is a worldwide ideological, political and cultural movement that aims to unify the Peoples of African Origin in the world for a common fight for their right to freedom from Whiteman domination and for racial equality. It was started in the New World in the early period of 20th C by black leaders like W. E. Bu Bois and H. W. Sylvester.

iii) Back to African movement. 
The movement was found by Marcus Garvey in 1914 aiming to move the People of African Origin from America to their ancestral motherland, Africa as a means to liberate them from oppression and discrimination by the whites in Diaspora.

iv) The Civil Rights Movements. 
These were organisations by African Americans in the USA to fight racial discrimination on them and secure legal recognition and government protection of their citizenship rights specified in the American constitution. The movements became more popular in 1960s amidst severe racial discrimination against African Americans.

v) Religious movements. 
The People of African Origin in Diaspora and Africa formed separatist religious movements to attain unity and fight segregation. They included the Methodist and Baptist churches whose leaders like Martin Luther King Junior led their people to fight for equal civil rights. Other leaders like Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammed converted to Islam and called for the creation of a “Nation of Islam” in America where all races will live free and equal.


Back to Africa Movement was an organised action founded by Marcus Garvey in the early 20th C to move People of African Origin from America to Africa, their ancestral homeland. The movement was established on the idea that African Americans could never have true civil rights and equality (freedom and justice) in the United States and therefore needed to move to Africa. To Marcus Garvey and movement supporters, Africa had a free environment and was the best future for the People of African Origin to escape injustice in America.

The Back to Africa movement was motivated by the deterioration in status and living conditions of African Americans in the USA. Marcus Garvey originally founded the movement in Jamaica when he formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914, but eventually moved to New York. He used UNIA to raise funds and mobilise support for the Back to Africa Movement. Besides UNIA, he established the Black Star Shipping Line which also helped him raise funds and ship some people of African origin back to Africa, in Liberia.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. (17/8/1887  10/6/1940) was Jamaican born. A self-educated Garvey was a social activist and a proponent of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. He advanced a Pan-African philosophy which inspired a global mass Movement, known as Garveyism which would eventually inspire from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement. He is well known for his none-integrationist approach on which he developed the Back to Africa Movement. His message of African pride and dignity inspired many in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The country of Ghana has named its shipping line the Black Star Line and its national soccer team the Black Stars, in honor of Garvey.

Marcus Garvey, the leader of Back to Africa Movement

Objectives of the Back to Africa Movement

i) To liberate the people of African origin from the whites’ oppression, exploitation and other injustices in America. Marcus Garvey and his followers believed that genuine freedom for the blacks could only be achieved by moving back to Africa.

ii) To awaken the consciousness of People of African Origin. That is, to make the black people in world think of their position as downgraded and oppressed people so as to stimulate them fight for their rights and freedom.

iii) To promote unity and brotherhood among the People of African origin. 
The campaign to move People of African Origin back to Africa focused to encourage cooperation and fraternal alliance of all black and coloured people in Diaspora and Africa basing on natural assistance and a common ancestry against the whites’ domination, exploitation and oppression.

iv) To restore and stimulate dignity of the People of African Origin for the world to accept them as a people who deserve respect and equal treatment like other races in the world.

v) To improve the living conditions of the People of African Origin by contributing to their welfare and reduce their dependence to whites. Dependence of whites was keeping the blacks behind and trapping them to Whiteman’s exploitation and oppression.

vi) To create a free state of the black America. Whereby they could freely utilize their resources and engage in various economic activities for their own development and development of Africa at large.

vi) To help African Americans escape racism and violence from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and have more opportunities. It was a time when racism reached its peak and the greatest number of lynching in American history took place.

The continued experience of segregation and discrimination of African Americans after emancipation, and the belief that they would never achieve true equality, attracted many of them to emancipation in their motherland. They gave up on the United States and looked to Liberia (Africa) to construct a better life. Liberia would provide them freedom and equality.

Success of the Black to African Movement

1. The movement raised awareness among the people of African origin.
It contributed in raising self understanding and need to liberate themselves from the whites’ oppression and exploitation. The blacks uplifted the fact that they were a people like the whites hence deserve respect. Such a level boosted morale for their liberation struggle.

2. Repatriation of some Afro-Americans to Africa. 
The Back to Africa Movement succeeded in liberating some black Americans who accepted to be shifted back to Africa from the Whiteman’s oppression and exploitation. Between 1920 and 1924 about 2000 black people’s families were shifted to Liberia.

3. Consolidated unity. 
The movement contributed in solidifying the people of African origin worldwide by consolidating their spirit of togetherness and brotherhood. This was helpful in creating a common struggle for their liberation.

4. Establishment of the black people’s fund. 
The incomes collected by the movement’s associations like UNIA and the Black Star Shipping Line helped Marcus Garvey open restaurants, laundries and groceries that employed a number of blacks. It improved their economic conditions. The same funds helped in the shifting of some blacks to Africa.

5. Contributed to the development of Liberia. 
The country was preserved as a free state for the freed slaves and their descendants. Those who were repatriated to Africa by the Back to Africa Movement were resettled there. They contributed to the development of the country since some of them were skilled labour like teachers and doctors. Garvey raised funds to build infrastructures like hospital, library, police station and recreational centres.

6. It spread the claims of the black peoples’ need for freedom and equal right worldwide. The movement strengthened and popularised the struggle for liberation, respect and dignity for the people of African descent regardless of their colour, status and geographical location. 

7. It also energised Pan-African movement. 
The efforts of the Back to Africa Movement brought the People of African Descent in Diaspora and Africa closer. This accelerated the success of Pan-Africanism that aimed at uniting all the people of African descent in the world in a joint struggle for liberation from the Whiteman’s oppression and exploitation.

8. Inspired the foundation of Civil Rights Movements. 
The failure to the Back to Africa Movement was a motivational factor for Civil Rights Movements. The failure meant African Americans had no other alternative than staying in American where they had to fight for recognition as American citizens and win equality, freedom and justice.

Problems faced by the Back to African Movement

The Back to Africa Movement failed to catch on due to the following problems;

1. Insufficient funds. 
The movement was too expensive to implement. It needed huge financial resources for buying sufficient ships and licences, pay personnel and also buy essentials like food and medicine for those who would accept moving to Africa. Because the blacks were poor, they could not raise adequate funds for success of the movement.

2. Division among the blacks themselves. Some prominent black leaders like William E. Du Bois opposed Marcus Garvey’s idea of “Back to Africa.” They maintained that the blacks born in America had the right to live in America hence opted for the fight for civil rights there other than moving to Africa. By that only a few were ready to shift to Africa.

3. Inadequate skilled personnel. 
The movement lacked sufficient skilled labour like accountants and managers due low education provided to Afro-Americans in America. This left a large part of work to be done by one person, Marcus Garvey himself.

4. Corruption. 
It is unfortunate that the movement and its supportive organisations like the Universal Negro Improvement Association and Black Star Shipping line faced bankruptcy and collapse resulting from corruption by some officials who misused funds.

5.  Imprisonment of Marcus Garvey and his deportation. 
Marcus Garvey was charged with fraud in 1923 to be sentenced to five years imprisonment. Despite being released after two years in 1925, he was deported back to Jamaica where he was born. His imprisonment and deportation frustrated the success of the Back to Africa Movement.

6. Strong hand of the US government and the capitalists. 
The government fully supported the whites who wanted the blacks to remain in America and continue providing them cheap labour. It supported the capitalists to challenge UNIA by high licence charges because the association competed against them for shipping line and market. Open and secret tactics like through terrorist groups like the Ku-Kiax-Kian were used to sabotage the movement.

7. Low consciousness. 
High illiteracy and ignorance levels among the blacks were detrimental to the success of the movement. Many were contented to live a low life in America because they were unaware of their rights and believed that life elsewhere was impossible so had little desire to migrate to Africa. Moreover, some felt to have lost a true African identity to live in Africa.

8. Low desire for migration to Africa. 
Majority of the People of African Origin were contented to remain in Africa and instead of migrating back to Africa, were determined to fight for civil rights. They felt to have lost a true African identity and so believed that life in Africa would be more difficult for them that in America.

Marcus Garvey used the slogan “Africa for Africans” to popularise the movement. Unfortunately, the movement died in 1924 when Marcus Garvey was deported back to Jamaica and the dream of back to Africa was totally erased with his death in 1940.

Role played by Marcus Garvey in the liberation of the people of African origin

Marcus Garvey stance based on non-integrationist approach for the liberation of African Americans. He strongly campaigned for the Back to Africa because his version of Black Nationalism argued that African Americans’ pursuit for social equality, freedom and improve their conditions in America was impossible because the whites would never let them. To him only in Africa was self-emancipation possible. His contributions can be analysed as below;

1. He established the Back to Africa movement. 
Marcus Garvey found the movement in 1914 as a means to liberate the People of African Origin from socio-political and economic inequalities, oppression and exploitation by the whites in USA. He encouraged them to shift to Africa and managed to move about 2000 families of them to Africa.

2. Garvey established the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914. He used the association to mobilise the people of African Origin and raise funds to improve their living standards. UNIA became the largest mass movement in African American history that its influence was felt not only in America but in Canada, Caribbean, South America and Africa.

3. Establishment of Black People’s Fund. 
Garvey established the Negro Factories Corporation in 1919 and offered shares for African Americans to buy. The corporation operated grocery stores, restaurants, a printing plant, a steam laundry, and owned several buildings and trucks. Besides raising funds to improve the welfare of African Americans, he wanted them to end dependence on the whites.

4. Repatriation of some Afro-Americans to Africa. By his efforts, Marcus Garvey was able to move 2000 families of people of African origin to Africa between 1920 and 1924 for their liberation. This was heavily supported by UNIA and his Black Star Shipping Line.

5. Marcus Garvey started a newspaper called “The Negro World”. 
The newspaper was vital in spreading awareness to the People of African Origin to know their rights and history and displayed the evils done to them by the whites and so, propagating the liberation message.

6. Contributed in the development of Liberia as a free state. 
The role of Marcus Garvey to settle the Blacks moved from America in Liberia was important in the development of Liberia. He raised funds to put in place infrastructures like a hospital, post office, police station and recreational centres in the Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

7. Contribution towards Pan-Africanism. 
By his “Back to Africa” idea, Marcus Garvey popularised the idea of Pan-Africanism worldwide. He helped in consolidation of unity and brotherly relations among the People of African Origin by bringing together those in America and Africa.

8. He raised slogans for liberation struggle. 
The slogans like “It is better to die free than live a slave” and “Africa for Africans” designed by Marcus Garvey cannot be underestimated in the liberation cause of People of African Origin because they raised consciousness, self understanding and spirit to fight for the Blackman’s freedom.

9. He encouraged education to Afro-Americans. 
By this Garvey aimed to raise awareness and self acknowledgment as dignified people. Also to know their rights and freedom and how they are deprived of them by the whites in America and colonial Africa. Education propagated his idea of Black pride.

In 1940, Marcus Garvey died in London. However much his efforts of sending African Americans back to Africa ultimately failed; Garvey’s influence remains strong and inspired some People of African Origin to migrate, on their own, to Africa, the land of their ancestors. Indeed he remains one the most outstanding African American activist along a few others like William E. Du Dois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior.


Pan-Africanism is a worldwide ideological, political and cultural movement for encouraging and strengthening links of solidarity between all Peoples of African Descent all over the world. The movement looks at uniting the peoples of African origin in Diaspora and Africa to fight for their freedom and equality and to be treated with dignity in all parts of the world.

The term Pan-Africanism is a combination of two terms, a Greek word “Pan” meaning “all” and “Africa” referring to the content. It is a manifestation of Black Peoples solidarity and integral part of their liberation struggle against Whiteman’s domination, exploitation and segregation done since Atlantic slave trade, slavery in the New World and colonialism and neo-colonialism in Africa. The movement originated in the New World in the early period of the 20th C by men like W. E. Bu Bois, George Padmore. Edward Blayden, Marcus Garvey and H. W. Sylvester who championed the liberation struggle of the People of African Descent in America.

From 1900, the movement organised several conferences at which the common sufferings and cultural background of the people of African origin were stressed. They include Paris (1919), London (1921), Lisbon (1923), New York (1927) and Manchester (1945).

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (23/2/1868 - 27/8/1963) was an African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. After graduation from Harvard where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. He was a strong advocate of full civil rights and increased political representation for African Americans. Racism was the main target of Du Bois> polemics, and he strongly protested against it. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to fight for the independence of African conies from European powers.

Edward Wilmot Blyden, Henry Sylvester Williams and William Edward Burghardt  Du Bois

Aims for Pan-Africanism

i) To promote unity and solidarity among the People of African Origin all over the world so as to form an integrative force to achieve political, cultural and economic liberation from the oppression, exploitation and all forms of injustice imposed to hem by the Whiteman.

ii) To liberate the People of African Origin all over the world from all sorts o: oppression, exploitation, segregation and humiliation inflicted on them by the whites since Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, slavery in the New World and colonialism on Africa.

iii) To revive the lost dignity, respect and culture of the people of African descent so as to restore their true identity and pride as unique race. These had been lost due to slave trade, slavery in Diaspora and colonialism in Africa.

iv) To eradicate colonialism, neo-colonialism and all sorts of imperialist manifestations purposely to win total independence for Africa and set Africans free.

v) To promote inter-continental cooperation under the frame works of international bodies like UNO and OAU. This was seen as a way to involve People of African Origin in international affairs forjoint struggle against oppression and segregation.

vi) To struggle for equal opportunities in the economy of USA, the Caribbean, and wherever people of African descent lived. That is, to give the people of African descent equal share of economies which they largely contributed to develop from the time of slavery in America.

vii) To campaign against racial segregation of the people of African descent in the world so as to win equality of the black people with other races in the world.

viii) To re-awaken the Blackman’s consciousness and awareness for him to realise his plight position in the world as an oppressed, exploited, humiliation and disrespected person by the white capitalist nations. This would arouse his desire to fight for his liberation.

Causes (origin) of Pan - Africanism

1. The bitter experience of a widely dispersed People of African Descent. 
The people, who before the Atlantic slave trade were free citizens in their homelands in Africa, were scattered over the Caribbean and Americas for slavery. The experience of slavery under the Europeans was traumatising and so created feelings of reconnection with other black people.

2.  The feelings of homelessness. 
The Negro slaves and their descendants in the Caribbean and Americas felt homeless by being transferred away from their ancestral homeland in Africa to foreign lands for slavery. That feeling of homelessness motivated them to re-establish close union with fellow People of African Origin in other parts of the world, Africa in particular.

3. The American war of independence (1776) and Civil War (1861-65). 
The two enlighten the blacks who by actively fighting in them, discovered their intellect talent and bravery. To convince them to join the struggle, the whites promised them equal rights and the end of slavery, the promises which however were not fulfilled. To achieve their goals, the blacks then raised concern of unity to fight for their rights and freedom.

4. The colonial experience. 
Colonisation was a new form of slavery but this time in African itself. It led to losses of and by Africans to Europeans, forced labour on European farms and mines accompanied y unfair taxation and mistreatments. Thus the bondage of Africans in Diaspora and in Africa was a point of commonality on which the seeds of Pan-Africanism were planted.

5. The poor provision of social services. 
The people of African descent under the Whiteman’s’ control in Diaspora and colonial Africa, were denied quality education and other social services which meant they were forced to live in poor life conditions. The alarming conditions of life raised the Blackman’s spirit of togetherness to fight for better living.

6. Role of black elite leaders and writers. 
These among others were W. E. Du Bois, Martin Delany, H. S. Williams and Marcus Garvey who advocated for joint struggle for the Blackman’s liberation. They organised several conferences to popularise the movement and unite the black people worldwide to fight their oppression and low position in the world.

7. Development of racism. 
Racial segregation of the People of African Origin was developed by the whites on the belief of their racial superiority over other world races. Indeed it was more humiliating for the People of African Origin in Diaspora and colonies that because of their African origin and black skin colour they were despised and branded an inferior race.

8. The strong feelings of brotherhood among the People of African Descent. Humiliation in cruel hands in foreign lands made Africans in Diaspora to start to feel deeply conscious not only of their common origin and destiny in Africa but also looked at Africa with admiration and decided that in only Africa could they find friendship, solace and hope.

Methods used in their Struggle

1. Through holding conferences. 
This was the most remarkable method used by the Pan-African movement. Conferences were held in different cities of imperialist states such as Paris in 1919 and Manchester in 1945. They were held to popularise the cause of Pan-Africanism and through them the problems and strategies for liberation were discussed.

2. Institutionalisation of the Pan-African spirit. 
This was in the formation of international organisations through which unity and liberation of the People of African Origin could be realised. The major one, was, formation of the Organization of African Unity OAU), in 1963. Others are the regional groupings like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWA) and EAC formed for economic and political liberation of Africa.

3. Collective demonstration. 
Demonstrations were also a means to fight the injustice done to the people of African origin. For example, when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, people of African descent demonstrated in different parts of the world like in Nigeria and New York to show the whites that the blacks were tired of their aggression and exploitation.

4. Mass media. 
Pan-Africanism spread its causes, demands and enlightened the people by use of mass media through journals, newspapers, magazines and radios. For example; W. E. Dubois edited a magazine called “The Crisis” that was essential in spreading awareness and mobilising the people of African origin in the fight for their rights and freedom.

5. Use of art. 
Through songs, plays and drama the People of African Origin express their discontent caused by oppression and exploitation by the whites. Black artists in the world especially in Jamaica expressed their bitterness through songs. Famous artists include Robert (Bob) Marley and others Rasta Fams who include Lucky Dube and Alfa Blondie from Africa.

6. Separatist methods. 
The people of African origin in Diaspora and Africa formed their own (independent) institutions like religious organisations and schools as a means of raising black people’s personality, enlightenment, consciousness and awareness. These were important in uniting and encouraging the struggle against oppression and segregation.

7. Use of international bodies. 
Pan-African leaders like Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere used international forum like the UNO and other bodies like NAM to express their discontent and invited the world for the rescue of the People of African Origin from the bondage of oppression and segregation by the Whiteman in Diaspora and colonial Africa.

Contribution of Pan-Africanism to the Rise of African Nationalism

1. The pan Africanist movement united all Africans from all works of life to oppose colonialism. The common desire for independence was a unifying factor that terminated tribal interest, by uniting all Africans it became easy to oppose colonial rule.

2. The movement provided a forum or a platform where Africans could discuss the grievance caused by colonialism in all the congresses of the movement, the people of African origin discussed about implementing the spirit of oneness among all the black people all over the world.

3. The movement awakened the interests of the Africans to fight for independence. During the conferences of the pan African movement, members discussed a wide range of issues such as racial discrimination, unfair taxation policies and land alienation which they were facing under colonial rule.

4. The pan African movement played a big role in the rise of African nationalism because it stressed that; the fight for political independence by the Africans was a necessary step towards complete economic and social emancipation.

5. The pan African congress chose total liberation in their struggle for independence from Manchester; the activities of the movement were shifted to Africa following the independence of Ghana in 1957. The capital city of Ghana, Accra became the head quarters of pan Africanism where Kwame Nkrumah spear headed the independence of many African countries.

6. The movement represented the African continent in the international conferences especially in the United Nations wanted to ensure that all countries attain independence through the peaceful means.

Kwame Nkurumah (Ghana), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria) and Kamuzu Banda (Malawi)


The development of pan Africanism took place through summoning or holding various conferences in various countries of Europe. These conferences aimed at uniting people of African origin all over the world.

These conferences included the following;

1. The Pan African Congress of 1900 in London

This was the first conference which took place in London. The meeting was summoned by Henry Sylvester Williams from the West Indies. It was at this conference that Doctor Du Bois was introduced and he came to dominate the movement for almost half of the century.

The objectives of the congress included the following;

1. To provide a forum for people of African origin to protest against European exploitation and oppression.

2. To bring all people of African origin into closer relationship, this was so crucial in the struggle for their fundamental rights.

3. To appeal to the people to end the colonization and exploitation of the African people.
This conference was able to lay the foundation for future solidarity of all people of African origin and it planted the spirit of oneness of Africa all over the world.

2. The Paris Conference of 1919

This was the second pan African movement which was held in Paris. This conference was chaired by Du Bois. This conference took place at a time when the Paris Peace Conference is taking place. This was the conference which was signed after the First World War.

In this conference the following points were made:
1. The members recommended that an international law should be formed to protect the Africans.
2. The Africans should be guaranteed the right to education.
3. The conference also supported the abolition of slave trade and capital punishment.

3. The London Conference of 1921

This was the third conference that was held in three sessions, that is in London, Brussels and Paris. The conference emphasized the need to form political parties and the need for international harmony. In 1944, the students’ crew and politicians, led by George Pardmore, Wallace Jackson and Jomo Kenyatta formed a pan African federation.

4. The Pan African Congress of 1923

The fourth congress was held in London and Lisbon in 1923. The members in this congress maintained that the Africans should have a right to self government.

5. The Pan African Congress of 1927

This congress took place in New York in 1927; this was the last pan African congress which was directly linked to Dr. Bois and George Pardmore. There were conflicts which emerged between Marcus Garvey and Dr Bois. Marcus Garvey one of the founders of back to Africa movement wanted to deport all people of African origin back to Africa while Dr. Du Bois preferred to fight from exile.

6. The Manchester Conference of 1945

The pan African federation convened a radical congress in 1945 in Manchester. This was a Manchester conference of 1945. This conference was inspired by President Woodrow Wilson of the United States who declared the principle of self determination. This was the conference that demanded complete independence for the Africans. After the conference the intellectuals went back to Africa to mobilize the people for independence instead of remaining in Europe.

This was the conference that demanded complete independence for the Africans.The conference was attended by a number of nationalist leaders from Africa such as Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Peter Abrahams and Wallace Jackson.

The 1945 Pan-African Congress Delegates in Manchester

The members at this conference adopted the following resolutions

1. The members demanded complete independence from colonial rule, they argued that “We demand black African autonomy independence, so far and no further than it is possible in this one world for groups of people to rule themselves”.

2. They also demanded universal suffrage and condemned colonialism

NOTE: The African nationalists such as kwame Nkrumah, kamuzu Banda and Nnamdi Azikiwe studied in the United States of America thus they had been enlightened about them to take an active role in the pan African movement.

Challenges faced by Pan- Africanism

From its foundation in the early period of the 20th Century, Pan-Africanism was beset with a number of challenges:

1.  Lost original objectives. 
Pan-African Movement was found with the agenda uniting the People of African origin in the struggle for their liberation from the whites’ domination, oppression and exploitation. After the independence in Africa and wining civil rights in America, the movement seem to have lost its original objective.

2. The question of nationalism against internationalism. 
After independence, African countries developed individualistic tendency by being more concerned about their national matters than international matters that Pan-Africanism stood for. More of their efforts were put on building their economies and not international issues.

3. Divisions among the People of African Origin. 
From the start the movement leaders and their followers differed in opinion, ideology and strategies to be employed in their liberation. For example, while W. E Du Bois advocated for the fight for civil rights in the USA, Marcus Garvey campaigned for Back to Africa. Similarly, while Julius Nyerere called for the gradual process through regional integrations for the creation of the United State of Africa, Kwame Nkrumah advocated for immediate action after independence.

4. Colonial legacy. 
Colonialism divided Africans along religious, tribal and regional lines. More so, it tied colonies to their metropolitan states for instance Anglophone and Francophone countries. The divisions are maintained today by imperialist socio-political unions such as the Common Wealth for Britain and former colonial empire and French Community for France and her colonial empire. These unions consolidate divisions on African states.

5. Opposition from imperialists. 
The whites and their governments interrupted measures taken by Pan-Africanism to liberate people of African origin and to keep Africans under their domination and exploitation. The US government for instance denied travel passes to Afro-Americans who aspired to attend the 1919 Paris Pan-African Conference and visas for the 1927 New York Conference. Likewise British government denied visas to those who wanted to attend the London 1921 conference. These governments restricted demonstrations, meetings and rallies of Pan-African activists.

6. Influence of neo-colonialism. 
This suffocates efforts for Africa’s unity and liberation. Imperialist powers maintain divisions through the socio-political unions like the Common Wealth and French Community. Neo-colonial powers overthrow strong exponents of Pan-Africanism like Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 and Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Also incite conflicts between African states.

7. Formation of parallel organisations. 
African states are members of organisations that have similar or related agenda of fighting against imperialism like the Pan-African Movement. Such organisation include the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the South-South Commission, African Union and regional integrations. Such organisations have indeed submerged Pan-Africanism.

8. Diversity of People of African origin. 
The people of African origin in Africa are made of numerous ethinicises, religion and culture. This hampers unity within and between countries. Such loyalties are frustrating not only African continental unity but as well national unity in many African states like Kenya.

9. Violence and terror. 
Pan-African Movement was no exception to violent undertakings of white communities and terror movements notably the Ku Klux Klan group. For example, between 1920s and 1950s the movement was affected by many races riots which were accompanied violence in which thousands of the people of African Origin were killed.

Relationship between Black Solidarity, Back to Africa and Pan-Africanism

The Black Solidarity, Back to Africa and Pan-Africanism have the following in common; All of them were forms of struggle waged by the people of African origin to liberate themselves from the white’s domination, oppression and segregation. They looked upon changing the history of the Blackman by winning the desired freedom from all sorts of oppression including colonialism in Africa hence advocated for self-government of Africans.

All of them involved the African continent by calling for the unity of all people of the African race. For example the Back to Africa Movement aimed to shift the black peoples to Africa, likewise Pan-Africanism demanded for end of colonisation in the continent.

All the three originated in America. They were established by Afro-American leaders in America and the Caribbean like W. E. Dubois, H. W. Sylvester and Marcus Garvey who championed the black people’s struggle in America.

All aimed at unifying the people of African origin and building brotherly feeling among them basing on their common African ancestral origin and the problem they encountered in the hands of capitalist and imperialist.

The movements share common historical background. All are traced from the long history of slave trade across the Atlantic and slavery in the New World that resulted into existence of black people in the New World.

The three succeeded in attaining some of their goals. For example the Black Solidarity produced the Back to Africa Movement and Pan-Africanism; the Back to Africa Movement brought some Blacks to Africa and; Pan-Africanism managed to mobilise nationalist struggle for independence of African countries.

Faced strong opposition from the US government and the capitalist. The government fought the movements in favour of the capitalist who wanted the blacks to remain a low status people for continued exploitation. Not only that, but also encountered terrorist movements like the Ku Klux Klan which assassinated many blacks and their leaders.

Differences between the Black Solidarity and Back to Africa Movement and Pan- Africanism

Black Solidarity and Back to Africa Movement were more concerned about the people of African origin in America and Caribbean while the Pan-African Movement is concerned with all black and coloured people in the whole world.

Black Solidarity and Back to Africa Movement were short lived. They failed to live beyond the death of their founding fathers. On the other hand, Pan-Africanism has lived longer and indeed is into existence through international frameworks like African Union.

Pan-Africanism succeeded in many of its objectives like holding conferences and eradicating colonialism in Africa while Black Solidarity and Back to Africa Movement failed in most of their objectives. For example only a small fraction of the black people was moved to Africa as majority opted to stay abroad and fight for civil rights.

Pan-Africanism faced stronger opposition than the Black Solidarity and Back to Africa Movement. For example while European countries denied the blacks visas to attend some conferences like 1919 Paris conference, USA also denied them to attend the New York conference of 1927. The Back to Africa Movement was to a certain extent failed by the black people themselves by refusing to shift to Africa.

Pan-Africanism operated worldwide by holding conference in many cities of different countries like in London in 1923, Paris in 1919, New York in 1927, Manchester in 1945 and Accra in 1958 while the other movements operated mainly in US and the Caribbean.

Pan-African Movement shift to Africa while the Black Solidarity and Back to Africa movements remained tied to the Americas and Caribbean. From 1958 with the Accra Conference, Pan-Africanism operated from Africa while the other movements did not.


Civil Rights Movement were efforts by African Americans to fight racial discrimination in the USA and to make sure all USA citizens received their citizenship rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. The movement demanded for full equal rights, equal opportunity and equal treatment under law of Americans of African descent to fully participate without discrimination in the economic, political and social affairs of the United States.

The birth of the movement is traced back in the American Civil War (1861-1865) but reached the climax during the 1950s and 1960s. During the time, African Americans organised groups and worked to change the unpleasant conditions against them in the United States. Best-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were William E. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X. The major African American civil rights groups were;

- The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) by William Edward Du Bois found in 1910.

- Black Nationalism Movement of Malcolm X

- Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) founded in 1957 and King was its president.

- Black Power Movement emerged in 1966 under the leadership of Stokeley Carmichael. The movement was militant and encouraged robust self-defence by African Americans.

- The Black Panther Party was found in 1966 in Oklahoma, California, by Huey Newton, Leroy Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Searle. It was also militant in nature.

- The Nation of Islam Movement found by Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X

“I have a dream today!” Martin Luther King addresses the largest political demonstration the Nation had was the finest ever seen, in 1963

Malcolm X or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz 
(19/5/1925 - 21/2/1965), was an African-American Muslim minister and a human and civil rights activist. He has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. He was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks. He is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. Born Malcolm Little, but while in prison, he became a member of the nation of Islam, changing his last name to X because, “Little” was the name that the white slave master had imposed upon his paternal forebears. Charismatic and eloquent, Malcolm became an influential leader of the Nation of Islam, which combined Islam with Black Nationalism and sought to encourage disadvantaged young blacks searching for confidence in segregated America. His moving speeches and commitment inspired many African Americans who felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than other civil rights movement. He emphasized Pan-Africanism, black self-determination and black self-defence. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965.

Background of the Struggle

From the earliest years of European settlement in North America, the whites enslaved and oppressed the People of African Descent. Although the Civil War (1861-65) brought about the abolition of slavery, a harsh system of white supremacy persisted thereafter.

In the early 20th C, African Americans mainly in the Southern states of USA were banned from associating with whites in public areas such as schools, hospitals, libraries, homes, trains, hotels, and recreation halls. Some recreational areas posted signs, “Negroes and Dogs Not Allowed.” Racial discrimination deprived African Americans of decent jobs and schools and rights of citizenship, including voting. Intimidation and violence, including lynching, by the Whiteman remained an ever-present threat.

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929  April 4, 1968) was to the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. His legal name was Michael King but changed to Martin Luther King Jr. in respect of the German Martin Luther who led the Reformation. King was an American Baptist minister and activist who became one of the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movements in the 1950s to 60s. His moving speeches and commitment inspired many African Americans. He urged them to work to end racial discrimination and toward obtaining full and equal rights for all. The most famous of his speeches was the “I have a dream” speech. King led a nationwide movement, organizing, boycotts, marches and sit-ins to demand equal justice before the law. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Martin Luther King and Malcom X

Origin of Civil Rights Movements

The Civil Rights campaigns are traced to a number of factors;

1. The problems encountered by the blacks in America. 
African Americans were denied civil rights and faced all kinds of agonizing abuse of oppression, exploitation, humiliation and segregation at all life levels in the US. This intolerable situation motivated them fight for civil rights by which they could win freedom.

2. The role of the 1789 French revolution. 
This revolution spread the ideals of change, that is, equality, liberty and fraternity and thus inspired African Americans to fight for equal rights. It also taught them how to fight oppression and was significant in the abolition of slave trade.

3. The American Civil War, 1861-65. 
In this war the blacks fought on the side of the union government having been promised full and equal political, economic and social rights. Although the Civil War brought about the abolition of slavery, a harsh system of white oppression of the blacks persisted thereafter. The situation made the blacks realise that they can win equality by fighting on their own.

4. Constitutional amendments. 
The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the US constitution outlawed slavery, laid principles of racial equality, and gave all US citizens including the Afro-American equal protection of the law. Such achievements motivated them to fight for constitutional protection and consolidate civil rights when things turned against them later.

5.  Role of the previous black people’s movements. 
Civil rights movements were influenced by the experience other Blacks’ movements such as the Black Solidarity, Pan-African and Back to Africa movements. For instance the failure of the Back to Africa Movement to move majority African Americans to Africa meant that they had no other alternative besides fighting for civil rights in America.

6. Rise of elite black leaders. 
Outstanding African American leaders like Dr. William E. B. Dubois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther king Junior emerged with determination to fight for African American full civil rights. They formed movements such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and the Black Nationalism Movement through which they actively campaigned for the rights of the blacks in America.

7. Rise of socialism. 
The spread of socialist ideals that advocate for equality and end of exploitation of man by man after the 1917 Russian Revolution motivated the blacks to fight for equal rights in the US. More so, the attack of USA by the communist USSR over oppression and segregation of the blacks in USA motivated the struggle for civil rights.

8. Rise of the Blackman’s consciousness. 
Awareness spread among the Afro-Americans through education and by campaigns of black elite leaders, religious groups and socialist propaganda that enlightened them to know their rights. As the blacks knew their rights, they became recharged to fight for them.

9. Independence to the colonies. 
The success to liberation struggles in the colonies inspired African Americans to increase the demand for equal rights in America. So, as Asian and African states gained independence in 1960s, African Americans resented their own unfair treatment more than ever.

Black People demanding their rights in USA

Objectives of the Civil Rights Movement

i)  Fight for equal citizenship rights and legal citizenship recognition of the African Americans for equal treatment and constitutional protection accorded to every American citizen.

ii) Focused on eliminating legal segregation against African Americans in all fields or places like public accommodations and buses and workplaces.

iii) To demand for equal employment and economic opportunities for the African Americans to participate in the economic field of United States without discrimination.

iv) To help African Americans and other minority groups living below poverty line acquire equal public education, health and proper housing to improve their living conditions.

v) To form an acceptable integration between the black and white Americans for peaceful co-existence and create a united America where the blacks and whites lives in harmony.

vi) To completely end all forms of slavery and poor working conditions of the African Americans in America through achievement of black peoples freedom and rights.

vii) To stimulate African American consciousness to help them be aware of their rights and gain a sense in black pride and cultural identity as well.

Methods used in the Struggle

In defiance to segregation, discrimination and denial of civil rights, African-American activists adopted a combined strategy of mass action that typified the movement from 1960.

1. The use of boycotts. 
African Americans rejected public services like buses, restaurants and stores where they were segregated. For instance, after an African American woman, Rosa Parks, had been arrested on December 1, 1955 because she refused to get up out of her seat for a white person to sit down on a bus on Montgomery, Alabama, a boycott of Montgomery buses was started.

2. Sit-ins campaigns. 
By this technique African Americans gathered in facilities where segregation against them was done. The protesters were encouraged to dress well, sit quietly, and occupy every seat of such services like restaurants, parks, beaches, libraries and theatres. Fr example, in July 1958, the NAACP Youthful Council sponsored sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Dockum Drug Store in Wichita, Kansas.

3. Freedom Rides. 
The rides were journeys organised by civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into segregated southern USA, in order to challenge segregated buses. The tactic was to force for interracial pair sitting on adjoining seats in segregated buses. The first Freedom Ride began in 1961 led by James Farmer. With 13 riders, the ride left Washington, D.C. on 4/5/1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17 where a civil rights rally was planned.

4. Street marching and demonstrations. 
The marches were organised by civil rights organisations to reveal the injustices suffered by African Americans and push the government to grant them equal rights. For example, in 1963, civil rights activists, Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin organised what came to be known as The Great March on Washington. The estimated participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. The purpose of the march was to advocate for civil and economic rights for African Americans. At the march, Martin Luther King Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered the historic “I have a Dream” speech calling for an end of racism.

5. Violent methods. 
Afro-American organisations like the Black Power and Black Panther movements used armed self-defence against oppressive discriminative laws like Jun Crow Laws, the whites’ terrorist organisations - the Ku Klux Klan and police that brutally attacked the blacks. The movements aimed at protecting civil rights activists against brutal acts like lynching, beatings and assassinations.

6. Open public rallies and meetings. 
Rallies and mass meetings mobilised mass public support and displayed blacks’ strength and demands. This was an active strategy mostly used by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. One of the most remembered rally was of 1963 attended by 200,000 to 300,000 people and on which Martin Luther King Jr. Gave the historic “I have a Dream” speech that called for the end of racism in America. Among the demands aired out in the rally were full civil rights laws, fair employment, decent housing, the right to vote and adequate integrated education.

7.  Through legal actions (petitions). 
African American activists through their organisations like the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) delivered petition to courts of law and congress seeking for legal intervention against unfair treatment and laws against African Americans. For example the NAACP reported a case against school segregation. Afterwards, the court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional.

8. Mass media. 
African Americans published own: magazines like “The Crisis” established by the NAACP with William Edward Du Bois as its editor. Mass media helped in raising African American consciousness of their rights and raised the spirit and mobilised them for civil rights struggle. They also spread the news for African American concerns far.

9. Use of art. 
Numerous songs and popular cultural expressions associated with African American revival appeared at the time of fighting for civil rights. For example in 1968, African American artist James Brown released a song “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Such works inspired and revived African Americans’ self-determination and dignity.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (4/2/1913 - 24/10/2015) was an activist in the Civil Right Movement whom the US Congress called the first lady of civil rights and the mother of the freedom movement. Parks was at the centre of the Montgomery bus boycott to resist bus segregation. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Parks was arrested and charged with a violation of segregation law of the Montgomery City code. This stirred the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted for 381 days that eventually succeeded when segregation in public buses was made unconstitutional. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organised and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr.

Police preventing marchers in demanding their rights

Achievement of the Civil Right Movement

The civil rights movement was a heroic episode in American history. The movement witnessed the passage of major federal legislation in the 1960s. From the late 1950s the following achievements were attained:

1. The Civil Rights bill of 1963. 
This was submitted by President F. D. Kennedy to the congress. The bill was a legal push for equal citizenship rights to African Americans. It formed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that was passed by President Johnson. To add on that, Kennedy appointed the USA’s first African American ambassador.

2.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964. 
In 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act that expressly banned discrimination based on race, colour. religion, sex, or national origin in employment practices and public facilities such as schools, workplaces and restaurants.

3. The Voting Rights Act of 1965. 
Pressure by civil rights activist, pushed president Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act (1965) to try and make sure that African Americans exercised their right to vote. The Act restored and protected voting rights for minorities.

4. Right to own or purchase property. 
President Johnson followed up the Voting Rights Act (1965) with another Civil Rights Act, that is, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made it illegal to discriminate in selling property or letting accommodation.

5. Abolition of racial segregation in schools in 1954. 
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled out that it was unconstitutional for public schools to be segregated by race. That is the court rejected separate white and coloured school system.

6. Law against job discrimination. 
In June 1964, President Johnson signed into law a bill that outlawed job-discrimination in both public and private sectors. The law also authorized creation of a new agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to check on the vice of job discrimination.

7. It raised African American self-confidence. 
They acquired confidence in their ability to organize and effect political change. They gained more of a sense in black pride, cultural identity and strength, notably in the fields of music, dance, film, and sports where they excelled over the whites with men like Muhammad Au, the world boxing champion.

8. Rise in leadership ranks. 
As success to the civil rights struggles, African Americans have won equal political rights in political field. Some have served in higher government offices. Prominent figures include Collin Powel, who became the African American chief of staff of USA army and led that army in the Gulf war of 1990-1991 and later became the first African American Secretary of States. Condoleezza Rice became the second black and first woman secretary of state of the USA. Above all in 2008, Barrack Hussein Obama became a more celebrated history maker when he was elected the first African American president of USA.

9. Consolidated unity. 
Civil rights movements like the Black Nationalism, Black Power Movement and their leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King won massive rallying unity and support from African Americans and some white sympathisers to civil rights cause from their inspirational speeches and mobilisation and strategies like boycotts and sit-ins.

Putting into laws the civil rights was not a guarantee that African Americans would automatically be respected and treated equally. There was bitter white hostility to the reforms, and the problem was to make sure that the Acts were carried out. With all efforts racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans and other minorities persists to date in America.

Problems facing the Civil Rights Movements

The successes achieved by civil rights movement passed through thick and thin. Several hardships had to be overcome to attain success.

1. The Ku Klux Klan. 
The Klan began as a secret society formed on Christmas Eve of 1865, in Tennessee to intimidate African Americans’ fight for equality. They carried out campaigns of threats and terror against the blacks. Lynching, beatings, and feathering became commonplace. Many Afro-American activists like Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. died of the Ku Klux Klan.

2. Divisions among civil rights activists. 
They differed in strategy and ideology. While some like the Black Panther Party called for use of violent means, others like Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for non-violent methods. Ideologically, as some like Malcolm X wanted the creation of independent black state, others like King wanted integration with the whites.

3. The hand of American government. 
The government particularly in southern states passed laws such as the “Jim Crow laws” to maintain the whites’ supremacy and segregation. These severe laws restricted African American people’s rights; depriving them of voting; pinning them to worst and lowest-paid jobs; excluding them from schools attended by whites.

4. The  role  of  the  American  capitalists.  
The  capitalist  in  America  sabotaged  African Americans’ efforts to win civil rights. They influenced the government to pass decisions against African Americans. The whites especially in southern states wanted the People of African Origin to remain low class people tied in slavery and serve them as cheap labour.

5. The economic weakness of African Americans. 
The people of African Origin in the US were largely economically poor that they failed to raise enough resources to financially support the civil rights movements’ activities like mass rallies and publications. Their low financial status made them depend on the whites hence could not easily fight segregation.

6. The small number of African Americans. 
Compared to the whites, African Americans were few that were easily absorbed by the majority whites. Their small number made them weak to stand firm against inequality. It as well made it difficult for US government (congress) to pass decisions in their favour as the whites were the majority voters.

7. The low education status of majority African Americans. 
African Americans were mostly denied education and the few educated, mostly received poor education. Due to this their awareness and consciousness was kept low that they could hardly know their rights and stand firm to protest inequality.

8. Racial segregation and discrimination still persists in America. 
This is worse in southern states where African Americans still face poor reception in social services like education and health and public accommodations like houses and buses. Worse, even during the presidency of Barrack Obama, African Americans suffered open discrimination and violence with open police shootings that killed some of them.

A 17-year-old civil rights demonstrator attacked by a police dog

Change of attitude in Favour of Civil Rights

Starting from the late 1940s American politicians started changing their outlook towards African Americans. As a result of internal and external pressure, this shift in position began with President Harry Truman, then his successors notably, F. D. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who showed willingness to push for equal rights for all American citizens.

1. The Cold War. 
This was a major factor for the US government to support civil rights legislations. In the Cold War, the USSR accused the USA for its hypocrisy in portraying itself the “leader of the free world,” when so many of its citizens, the African American were subjected to severe racial discrimination and violence. To silence the communist accusations, the US government had to grant civil rights to African Americans.

2. Excluding African American from top jobs was waste of talent and expertise. Expansion of African American elite and middle class mainly in northern states where a number of African Americans were granted chance to have good education and skills was a way to success for civil rights. Their talents were usefully needed to serve the United States.

3. Democratic assertions. 
The USA could hardly claim to be genuinely democratic country and leader of the “free world” when 10 per cent of its population were denied voting and other rights. This gave her foes like the USSR a chance to condemn her as a “consistent oppressor of under-privileged peoples”. The American government wanted that excuse removed. The increasing pressure from civil rights campaigns.

4.  The period after the World War II witnessed an upsurge in pursuit for civil rights among African Americans. It was important for that reason to do something to calm the African American population, who were becoming more vocal in their demands for civil rights.

5. Rapid growth of nationalism in Asia and Africa. 
In early 1940s India and Indonesia were on the point of gaining independence and as well liberation campaigns were increasingly growing stronger in Africa. These new states would turn against the USA and move towards communism if American whites continued their unfair treatment of African Americans.

6. Pressure from international bodies. 
These bodies, notably, the United Nations of which African and Asian countries were members attacked the US for its practices of discrimination and violence against African Americans and other minorities. In respect of human rights, the UN pressed US government to protect minority groups by granting them civil rights.

7. Some politicians and a section of the white populace were worried by their conscience; They felt that it was not morally right to treat fellow human beings in such an unfair way. This group of politicians pushed for legislation of civil rights to support the efforts of African American activists.

8. The hard long struggle produced some desirable fruits. 
The zenith was reached in 2008 when Barrack Hussein Obama was elected first African American president. This is something which one could not expect in those days when discrimination was severe. Though no one of the profound civil rights activists like Dr. William Edward Du Bois, Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X was alive to celebrate the remarkable achievement, it will stay unforgettable to all people of African origin who had to endure segregation, discrimination, exploitation and humiliation in the hands of the whites for centuries. Indeed it opened the new chapter for black people’s history and the history of America in general.

More than at any time in our nation’s  history, we are all Americans.

Sample — Revision Questions

1.  Explain six reasons behind the rise of Atlantic Slave Trade. (NECTA 2014)

2.  Analyse six problems encountered by the People of African Origin in the New World (NECTA 2013).

3. Examine six reasons that led to the enslavement of Africans to the America and the Caribbean during the mercantile period. (NECTA — Private Candidates 2015)

4. Compare and contrast Black Solidarity and Pan-Africanism. (Give three similarities and three differences). (NECTA 2016)

5. Explain three prejudices which faced People of African Origin in the New World and show their three legal struggles which brought about equal education. (NECTA 2017)

6. Account for the origin and problems of the People of African Origin in the New World.

7. Trace the genesis of the people of African origin in the New World.

8. Assess the historical essence of the People of African Origin in the New World.

9. To what extent did the Back to Africa achieved its stated goals

10.  Explain  six  factors  which  hindered  the  success  of  the  “Back  to  Africa  Movement.” (NECTA 2015)

11.  Discuss the roles of Marcus Garvey towards the struggle for liberating the Blacks.

12.  Discuss the relationship between Black solidarity, Pan Africanism and the Back to Africa movement

13.  Account for the origin and objectives of the Civil rights movement in USA.

14.  The Civil Rights Movement by the Blacks in America was a struggle for genuine reasons. Account for 6 hardships faced during the struggle.

15.  Discuss how the KU KLAX KLAN and other reasons hampered the struggle for civil rights in America

16.  Appraise six achievements of the Civil Rights Movements in the USA (NECTA 2012)

17.  Examine the mechanism used by people of African origin in their struggle for liberation in America.

18.  Analyse the problems faced by the People of African Origin in the struggle for equality.

19.  Account for the success of the People of African Origin in the New World in the struggle for liberation.

20.  Account for change of attitude towards African Americans in the USA.

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