Pan-Africanism and Higher Education:

The Role of Black Institutions of Higher Learning in the Fights for Racial Equality

By Thierno Thiam & Gilbert Rochon

August 31, 2019


Like the black church and the black press, the role of black institutions of higher learning does indeed go beyond the civil rights movements and extends to the Pan-African struggle.  Like the black church and the black press, the existent scholarship has yet to catch up with the evidence.   As with the cases of the black church and the black press, the original proceedings of all the six major Pan-African Congresses held from 1900 to 1945 do show that the scope and mission of black institutions of higher education transcends the bounds of continental U.S.A.

The key and fundamental role of black institutions of higher learning in the Pan-African movement must be understood in light of (1) the role of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2) the creation of institutions of higher learning in Africa by major proponents of Pan-Africanism (3) the rise of discipline specific organizations designed to pursue the Pan-African ideal.


  1. The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universitiesin the Pan-African Movement

Like the Black Church and the Black Press, the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the civil rights movement is established and has been documented sufficiently.  Like the black church and the black press, they have and continue to play a role in the Pan-African movement, which has yet to be chronicled in a systematic way.   This chapter seeks to bridge this gap.

The Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were created in the United States of America with the specified purpose of serving primarily the African-American community.  They constitute an essential venue for educating the black community, especially in the context of the segregation era, when they indeed were the only recourse for African-Americans to receive a higher education.  As such, they constitute a quintessential institution of higher education among Africans in America.  Perhaps the singular power of HBCUs can be measured by the fact that from the beginning of the twentieth century to his death in 1915, the most powerful black person in the United States was a college president and his name is Booker T. Washington, the first president of Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The most widely accepted definition of an HBCU has been provided in the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, which defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”  It is important, however, to note that HBCUs are training students in a wide variety of areas ranging for engineering to agriculture, from arts to science regardless of race, ethnicity or any other social background.  As such, they have added considerable value not only to the cities, counties, and states that house them but also to the nation writ large.  Tuskegee University, for instance, with its record of training nearly 75% of black veterinarians holds a national impact worthy of praise.  Of equal of importance, is the role of HBCUS in furthering the ideal of democracy in the U.S. and abroad (Rochon and Thiam 2013) constitutes a singular contribution to the cause of freedom. 

HBCUs have played a critical role and continue to play a key role in the emancipation of people of African descent in the United States of America.  Today, there are one hundred and five (105) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States, including public and private, two-year and four-year institutions, medical schools and community colleges.  These institutions are one of the ultimate symbols of accomplishment and pride not only for the African American community, but also for the entire American and international community.  Their national impact is well captured by the scholarship.

What is equally, if not more, striking is that a good number of  these institutions known as HBCUs, as the evidence gathered from the original proceedings of the Pan-African Congresses reveal, have been at the forefront of all Pan-African Congresses.  Such institutions, including the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, Howard University, Fisk University, and Lincoln University have indeed played a central role in the historical evolution of the Pan-African movement by training Pan-African leaders who would serve in various capacities in several African governments including at the highest level.

As an illustration, an array of significant Pan-African leaders, trained in HBCUs not only put their training to the service of ridding the continent of Africa of the colonial hold, they went on to guide the first steps of their respective countries and Africa into the post-colonial era.  Such leaders include Kwame Nkrumah, a graduate of Lincoln University, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, also a graduate of Lincoln University and classmate of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and Langston Hughes, early innovator of jazz poetry, novelist, activist and social commentator.

Coleman’s seminal contention that African nationalism was born on the campuses of Black colleges in America (Coleman1971) is borne out by the facts.  In tandem with African-American Churches, HBCUs worked to produce African leaders who would go back to question a system of domination and overlords, which revealed its limitations with every passing day.

Yet the existing literature has failed to capture in a systematic way such a significant contribution.  While this chapter does not seek to focus on the reasons why such preeminent role, which show in the proceedings, was not captured in the scholarship, it may suffice to advance a few explanations.  The most obvious one may well rest in the mistaken belief that there are no comprehensive reports of the original proceedings of the Pan-African Congresses (Geiss 1974, 232).  Subsequently, little may have been done to go back to the original and primary sources let alone to do research on this particular issue.  This is all the more perplexing, since not only were these institutions present at all Pan-African Congresses; they also actively participated in shaping the intellectual discourse around Pan-Africanism. 


  1. The Case of Tuskegee Institute

In chapter three, we have analyzed the role that leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played in shaping the Pan-African idea as well as their even most impressive role in the case of Booker T. Washington, in turning the first Pan-African Congress, the only one during his lifetime, into a reality.  The fact that Robert Russa Moton, the 2nd President of Tuskegee Institute and the successor of Booker T. Washington attended the second Pan-African Congress constitutes further evidence of the engagement of HBCUs with the Pan-African Congresses. This was established with the evidence obtained from the original proceedings of Pan-African Congresses.  

Then there is the fact that the very seeds of Pan-Africanism among Africa’s first post-independence leaders were in fact shown in American universities in general and HBCUs in particular.  Nkrumah, the first and most prominent indigenous Pan-African leader, is himself a product of HBCUs.  HBCUs were able to provide Pan-African leaders who hailed directly from Africa with a bird’s eye view that they could not get in their respective home countries.  It is in fact possible, had they remained in their home countries that they would identify within the narrower confines of their territories. The contacts they made in this uniquely nurturing environment defined their identities, not in terms of the arbitrary names that were allocated to their respective narrow countries as Ghanaians, South Africans, and Tanzanians; but as Africans.

Nowhere is the evidence for this more convincing, perhaps, than in the accounts of the visit to Tuskegee in 1921 of J. H. Oldham, Secretary of the International Missionary Council. During his visit, he met with five African students, two Ugandans, one South West African and two Liberians.  Oldham recalls his first impression in the following terms: “the striking thing to me” he says, “is now all these men have an African consciousness; their loyalty is not Liberian or Rhodesian or Gold Coast, but African.”  (Clements 1999, 176)

These students were denied the courses on true African history by their homeland institutions, which were still dominated by the colonial frame of mind.  HBCUs, through their focus on the Liberal Arts, would afford them such opportunities and, in the process, change the dynamics of their thinking.  HBCUs, through this mechanism, are the quintessential drivers of the Pan-African struggle for self-rule.  HBCU’s led the charge in search for a self-respect, which they sought depended to a large extent on the conditions of their original homeland.  African-Americans, they believed could gain redemption only if Africa was redeemed.

Equally important is also the fact that many leaders of the struggle for self-affirmation in Africa are product of HBCU’s.  The first president and founding member of the mythical African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa in 1912, John Langalibalele Dube, was significantly influenced by the ideal of the founding of the Tuskegee Institute by Booker T. Washington (The African National Congress 2013).  Booker T. Washington’s most enduring influence on John Dube is located, perhaps, in the institution of the Zulu Christian Industrial Institute in August 1990 by John Dube following the model of the Tuskegee Institute (Rochon and Thiam 2013, 205).  The Zulu Christian Industrial Institute is now the Ohlange Institute.

When John Dube returned home to South Africa after his graduation from Oberlin College, an institution that became notorious for been the first American institution of higher education to regularly admit female and black students, he seized on the opportunity afforded to him by Chief Mqhawe of the AmaQadi who donated land to him.  Modeling the case of the Tuskegee Institute, he turned that land into the first black institution of learning in South Africa.  As in the case of the Tuskegee institute, he counted on generous donations to get started.  His benefactors included George Hodson, American Board ministers, S.C. Pixley, C.W. Kilbon, Mr Pugh and William Cullen Wilcox, the missionary who had first taken Dube to the United States of America in 1887 and who also has major buildings named after him currently at Tuskegee University including the building that houses the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture.

Moreover, the fact that one of his successors, Alfred Bitini Xuma, is a graduate of Tuskegee University[1] is no trivial matter.  This is especially important in light of the fact that the ANC is arguably one of the most significant political parties in Africa and in the world in light of their contributions to a free and independent South Africa.  Dr. Xuma, known affectionately in his homeland simply as A.B. Xuma, is credited with having roused the ANC from its slumbering state (Mandela 1994, 98).  One of Xuma’s major accomplishments was the establishment in 1942 of the ANC Youth League.  The Youth League, however, would choose a more radical path and ultimately lead to Dr. Xuma’s downfall (Mandela 1994, 115) as young emerging leaders estimated that the time was ripe for the resistance movement to match the radical methods of the oppressor.  The ANC Youth League trained and nurtured future South African leaders who would go on to abolish the unjust and unfair Apartheid regime in South Africa.  These leaders include William Nkomo, Walter Sisulu, Congress Mbata, Oliver Tambo, Lionel Majombozi and of course South Africa’s first Black President, Nelson Mandela.

Having discovered their own sense of an identity that transcended the restricted geography that they were assigned to, they set out to cultivate that same sense of African identity in their brothers and sisters with whom centuries of separation and the oceans that fenced them away were no match to the ideal they shared and the determination to reunite.  In this sense, it is critically important to note, especially in light of the above, that perhaps no other African country encapsulates best the parallel between Africans at home and Africans abroad in their struggle for self-affirmation than the USA and South Africa.

This is perhaps the single most significant tool by which the effectiveness of higher learning can be measured.  Indeed, in the case of South Africa, the reach of black institutions are not simply measured by that fact that some of the leaders of the freedom movement in South Africa were products of HBCUs; such reach can also be measured by the fact, institutions of Higher Education in South Africa, modeled after HBCUs, were critical in the fight against Apartheid.  The fact that the most important figure in the fight against Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, a product of Fort Hare University, an institution modeled after Tuskegee University (Mbeki 1996) is quite significant. 

Equally significant is the notion that not only was the idea of Fort Hare an HBCU idea, but Fort Hare also trained renowned scholars, including most notably Professor Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews, simply known as “ZK” Matthews, who were influenced by the teachings of Booker T. Washington (Mandela 1994, 44).  The teachings of these iconic figures, grounded in the ideal of hard work and social justice, had a profound influence in the intellectual growth of future leaders of the fight against Apartheid.

In former Nyasaland, now Malawi, the founding by John Chilembwe of the Providence Industrial Mission located in Chiradzulu constitutes yet an important example.  Chilembwe is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and College, now Virginia University of Lynchburg, a small Baptist institution at Lynchburg, Virginia whose principal, a militantly independent African-American, Gregory Hayes, was an early influence in Chilembwe’s intellectual growth.  Upon his return to Nyasaland, Chilembwe modeled the Providence Industrial Mission after the Tuskegee Institute (Coleman 1971) in an attempt to transplant the visions of prominent African-American education leaders in general and Booker T. Washington in particular on African soil.

The influence of HBCU’s on African leaders goes beyond classroom instructions to reach the ambient mood for emancipation that prevailed on HBCU campuses.  As the civil rights movement reached a boiling point and the African-American sought to affirm his basic human dignity,  the African who found himself amidst this atmosphere joined with his African American brothers and sisters in search of freedom not only in America but also beyond the shores of the Atlantic into his African homeland.  Such search combined both non-violent as well as violent methods.  Nowhere is perhaps the influence of dual methods in search of an ideal for freedom more salient that in John Chilembwe himself.  Influenced by Booker Washington, he established an institution of higher learning dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge for emancipation; influenced by John Brown, the same Chilembwe led a quixotic John Brown style attack on a European settlement in 1915.  As a result, he paid for such an attack with his life.  Today, January 15, the day of his death is celebrated as John Chilembwe day in his homeland of Malawi.  This did nothing to dampen the ardor with which emancipation was being clamored in chorus through the voice of African-American and African students in HBCUs.  A half a century later, most of African states would gain their independence from colonial rule.

This narrative is a confirmation of the fact that education and liberation traditionally have gone hand-in-hand.  It is may be worth noting that the two co-fathers of Pan-Africanism, notably Du Bois and Blyden, were deeply convinced of the value of education in general and higher education in particular in the fight for the reaffirmation of Africa.  Du Bois, himself, is directly linked in a variety of forms to the aforementioned Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which would prove critical as guiding institutions for many African institutions of higher learning.  As the product of an HBCU, notably Fisk University, Du Bois would go on with ties to other HBCUs notably Tuskegee Institute where he would teach.  In the course of his career, whether in agreement, disagreement, or outright conflict with the leadership of these institutions, his experience and intellectual development and conviction, one can argue, would take shape.  In this, HBCUs contributed to the growth and maturity of the father of the Pan-African ideal.

Similarly, Edward Wilmot Blyden’s initiation of the Back-to-Africa movement  in 1851, which led him first to Liberia and ultimately to Sierra Leone, is at its core one of the first attempts to institute some of the best educational practices in Africa.  The fact that education remained a pivotal target of Blyden’s activities constitutes a clear indication of the level of understanding which the father of Pan-Africanism had with respect to the necessity to begin with  education in the fight for the redemption of the African.   We have discussed Blyden’s involvement and belief in the American Colonization Society in chapter two.  It will suffice to point out that Blyden’s involvement and subsequent expedition was focused on improving the agricultural and educational systems of Liberia and then Sierra Leone.  He saw the improvement of the education system as the cornerstone of any development efforts in both West African countries.

It may also be worthwhile to point out the creation of education systems in the Western Hemisphere to carter to the needs of people of African descent is not exclusive to institutions of higher education.  As the work of Russell John Rickford (2015) shows, during the 1970s, a variety of schools, designed to transmit black consciousness, appeared in major cities across the United States. This experiment in autonomous small, and independent enterprises ranging from preschools to post-secondary, however, was short lived largely due to the routine and sustained harassment by authorities precisely because of their nationalist teachings.


  • The AfricanDiaspora and the Rise of Institutions of Higher Education in Africa

One of the most significant manifestations of the Pan-African ideal can be seen the relentless efforts of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to reach out to Africa in an effort to replicate the ideal of using knowledge and science to improve the living conditions of Africans everywhere including in Africa.  The relationship between HBCUs and Africa should be understood within this context.  One such relationship is perhaps captured best by the relationship between Tuskegee University, an HBCU, located in the heart of the Southern Black Belt of the United States of America and a variety of African nations.  This relationship is multidimensional and incorporates a variety of sectors including African governments and African Institutions of Higher education.  There are indeed perhaps no better countries in Africa that exemplify such relationship than the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Togo.

First, with respect to the Republic of Liberia, Tuskegee University’s links to the West African nation go back to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s when Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberia’s first President expressed his interest in transplanting the Tuskegee Institute model in Liberia.  Such interest would be reiterated in a more forceful way by President Charles Dunbar Burgess King, a successor to President Roberts during his 1924 official visit to the US.  On that occasion, when a reporter asked President King to name any thing of significance that he would like to take back to Liberia. His reply was one that was long thought out.  “If it were possible”, he said, “I would like to take Tuskegee Institute with me to Liberia.” (Kollie 2012)

The response of Booker T. Washington, founder and first President of Tuskegee Institute now Tuskegee University, came in no uncertain terms as he expressed his wish to “help towards starting a school that will really be a fine school following Tuskegee’s methods … so that as the years go by Tuskegee will be a bond of union between the colored people here and in the state of Liberia.” (Washington 1909)  Booker T. Washington’s determination would be matched by Olivia Phelps-Stokes, an American Philanthropist, who expressed her desire to finance an educational institution somewhere in Africa.  The three parties went to work to turn what seemed like a mere wish into reality.  The chartering of the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute (BWI), Liberia’s first vocational and agricultural school, by the Liberian legislature on November 29, 1928, named after Tuskegee University’s first President, is the product of this vision and is rooted in a history of mutual engagement.  Located in Kakata, forty one miles away from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute has, since its creation, continuously strived to embrace the educational philosophy of Booker T. Washington, that of educating the mind, heart and hands. This educational concept is at the ethos of Tuskegee University and is at its core a combination which involves theoretical and practical concepts of learning.

Secondly, as for Tuskegee University’s relationship with Togo, it goes back to the 1901 Tuskegee University’s engagement with Togo.  At its core, this engagement captures the essence of the mission of Booker T. Washington trough Tuskegee, which was one of bridging the gap that separated Africa and her Diaspora in the most practical ways possible.  As he sent a team of four scientists to the Republic of Togo to help improve the production of cotton, he sought to fulfill the fundamental goal of a pragmatic model of Pan-Africanism.   This was clearly in line with the fundamentally stated mission of learning by doing amongst people of African descent, a belief that led him to found Tuskegee University in the first place and to accept that transplanting of the Tuskegee model on African soil as embodied by the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Liberia.


  1. Discipline Specific Unification

The institutionalization of Pan-Africanism has also often taken the form of discipline specific organizations, which are aimed at advancing the goals of the Pan-African scientific community.  These different discipline specific communities are the most significant representations of the Pan-African ideal at the scientific and academic level and are the bedrock upon which the scientific discourse and endeavor is built; a discourse and endeavor designed as vehicles for engaging productively with Africa.  Such organizations are wide ranging and include most notably the Association of African Universities (AAU), the Pan-African Anthropological Association (PAAA), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE), the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE), the African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA), African Association for Health Professions Education and Research (AAHPER), the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA), the Association of Schools of Public health in Africa (ASPHA), African Association of Agricultural Economics (AAAE), African Federation of Public Health Associations (AFPHA), Pan African Association of Neurological Sciences (PAANS), Pan African Association of Surgeons (PAAS), Pan African Association for Literacy and Adult Education (PAALAE), Pan African Urological Association (PAUSA), Pan African Pediatric Surgical Association ((PAPSA), Pan-African Association of Zoos (PAAZA), African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP), African Water Association (AFWA), African Association of International Law (AAIL), African Evaluation Association (AfrE), African Society of Association Executives (AFSAE), African Association of Psychiatrists and Allied Health Professions (AAPAP), African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA), and the African security Exchanges Association (ASEA), inter alia.

It is also important to note that their grasp goes beyond academia in the sense that their very raison d’être is to apply scientific and technological advances to the service of the greater African community.  Such raison d’être is perhaps stressed best by the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment, which during its 8th Conference on October 30, 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia called on all African countries to urgently coordinate their offices on space affairs in line with the mission of the African Union.  For AARSE, such coordination is vital to ensure the benefits of space science and technology in regional initiatives.  Furthermore, AARSE did not lose sight of the fact that such coordination would help in the development of African space policies and programs for the eventual establishment of an African Space Agency (The Ethiopian News Agency, October 2010).  The subsequent AARSE conferences since 2010 have focused on the imperative for a continental framework to face the sustainable development challenge in Africa.  Nowhere is this point made clearer that during the 12th biennial AARSE conference held in October 2018 in Alexandria, Egypt, which stressed the importance of leveraging Africa’s and the world’s remote sensing and geospatial information to achieve the global agenda for sustainable development 2030.

These discipline specific Pan-African communities are uniquely important to the next step of the Pan-African struggles essentially because they constitutes the bedrocks for emerging scientific methods.  Consequently, their potential for economic and sustainable development can never be overstressed.  Hence, their mission is no less important than that of the first generation Pan-Africanists who were tasked with freeing the continent from colonial domination.  In the first case, the focus of the fight was on political liberation.  The second generation is charged with the responsibility for creating the scientific conditions for economic and development liberation.  The second task is a sine qua non for preserving the political gains of the first generation.

The same new technological revolution, which is compressing even further both the old temporal and spatial distance, which has separated for long the African Diaspora has the potential to play an even more crucial role in the renewal and the rebuilding of the Pan-African enterprise.   The African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) and the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE) constitute two very good examples of discipline specific Pan-African organizations that are focused on key technical aspects of Pan-Africanism and are also harnessing the power of new technologies to create value for the continent.

The African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) was created in August 1992 during an international conference organized by the United Nations in cooperation with the United States of America.   Initially, the UN and the U.S. met in Boulder, Colorado (USA) to discuss “satellite remote sensing for resources management, Environmental Assessment and Global Changes Studies: Needs and Applications of Developing Countries”.  In the course of this high level meeting, a particular emphasis was laid on four major areas relevant to African sustainable development through coordinated policies.  This meeting laid the ground for the creation of AARSE.   The birth of the Pan-African organization could be explained by the following four major imperatives:

  1. The reported benefits being derived from the application of remote sensing and the contribution being made towards the indigenous developmentof these technologies by the participants from other countries;
  2. The prevailing low level contribution of the natural resourcesto the socioeconomic development of most African countries;
  3. The resource and environmentalmanagement practice in Africa, resulting in unprecedented depletion, destruction and degradation of the resource base; and
  4. The inadequate human and institutional capacity to redress the situation in order to evolve a sustainable developmentstrategy (

These were the key considerations against which the participants at the conference decided to form the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE), a continental, professional, non-governmental association.  AARSE is open to any individual and institution or organization engaged in the development and practice of remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS) and environment as well as individuals and institutions or organizations interested in the development, application and products of geo-information technologies in their respective areas of operation.

The goals of AARSE include:

  • To assist its members as well as national, regional and international user community through timely dissemination of scientific, technical, policy and program information in all aspects of space science and technology through a Newsletter (see for example, the attached quarterly newsletter)
  • To provide a forum to address issues of common interest through the conduct of conferences, seminars and workshops
  • To promote a greater cooperation and coordination of efforts among African countries, institutions and industries in the development of space technology and its application to natural resources and environmental issues
  • To promote greater appreciation of the benefit of the technology, especially, remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) in the pursuance of an African priority program for Economic Recovery and sustainable development
  • To exchange views and ideas on technology, systems, policy and services of remotely sensed data and GIS which are applicable to the betterment of Africa 
  • To improve teaching and training in remote sensing and GIS and to collect, evaluate and disseminate results and failures in remote sensing activities from all over the world
  • To conduct other remotely sensed and GIS activities consistent with its aims (

The structural design of AARSE is made of three main bodies that are entrusted with the functioning and well-being of the Association. They include: the Board of Trustees, the Executive Council and the Advisory Council Members. The Executive Council of AARSE comprises the President, the Vice Presidents, the Secretary General, the Treasurer, the Conference President, Editor of the Newsletter, the auditor, and one representative from: National Society/or National Association Member of AARSE, which formally endorsed the AARSE constitution and fulfill the membership obligations. The Vice-Presidents of AARSE represent the five sub-regions in Africa, namely, the North African Region, the West African Region, the Central African Region, the East African Region and the South African Region. It is important to note that personnel selection is dictated by the imperative to reach the widest possible segments of African scientists.  The selection of the Vice-Presidents, which is based on the need to reach out wider African Scientists and Engineers and other professionals to register their membership of the Association and facilitate communication problems, encapsulates perhaps best such drive.

As for the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE), it was established at its inaugural symposium on December 6-8, 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya and was registered in the same country on September 19, 2005 with the singular mission of promoting sustainable agricultural development in Africa.  The meeting brought together over 80 representatives of African universities, research and development institutions, business and the public sector from 24 countries in Africa and the rest of the world.  The AAAE relies on over 451 registered members working in over 100 subjects in agricultural and resource economics as well as in other social sciences, spread in over 24 African countries and Diaspora.  The organization’s main goals include:

  1. The improvement of liaison between agricultural economists with an interest in African issues at the regional and international levels;
  2. The promotion of training, research, policy dialogue and interest in Agricultural Economics on the continent of Africa as envisaged in Article 3.
  3. The contribution to broad-based rural development, poverty reduction, food security and sustainable use of natural resources in the continent of Africa.

Source: Constitution of AAE.  Available at


  1. Pan-AfricanLiterary, Artistic and Cultural Movements

It is also worthwhile to note that the Pan-African movement has also generated and was in turn supported by a massive cultural and literary movement.  Like the emergence of discipline specific organizations, the emergence of these massive literary and cultural Pan-African movements is also directly correlated and related to the contributions of academia on the larger Pan-African movement.  Indeed, the fact that the very locations that witnessed the birth of such major cultural and literary movements are, in fact, for the most part, the same as those that hosted the Pan-African Congresses is no trivial matter.  London, Paris, and New York became the literary and cultural capitals of the African Diaspora.

This is especially significant in light of the time frame within which such major developments in the literary, artistic and cultural world of the African Diaspora took place.  Indeed, the 1920’s in particular and the interwar period in general, which is located at the heart of Pan-African Congresses, constitutes also, perhaps, the single most important inflection point of what could be called the greatest revolution in literary and cultural Pan-Africanism.  Nowhere is perhaps this revolution more remarkable than the phenomena that was born in the street of Harlem in New York in the 1920s and that came to be known as the New Negro movement, or better yet as the Harlem Renaissance.  Although by no means exclusively Pan-African, the Harlem Renaissance was inspired and in turn helped shape major Pan-African ideas.  Harlem Renaissance Writers like Richard Wright, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and James Weldon Johnson inspired not only writers but also activists beyond Harlem, New York and the United States.   Johnson, for instance, is credited with influencing the Nardal sisters, Paulette, Jane, and Andrée, from Martinique.  The three sisters ran a salon where La Revue du Monde Noir – The Journal of the Black World – was born.  The Harlem writer is also credited with influencing Jamaica’s first major woman poet and playwright, Una Marson.  This is quite significant in light of the fact that Marson’s stylistic and substantive innovations have played a key role in advancing positive images of blackness and have influenced generations of Pan-Africanists.  In so doing, she is increasingly being recognized, despite the fact that she never enjoyed the fame of Claude McKay, as a major figure of Pan-African feminist humanism (Belinda Wallace (2016).  Such tradition of Pan-African music would be brought to exceptional heights by a world renowned singer , born on the same year that most consequential Pan-African Congress took place in 1945: Bob Marley.  His songs, especially Buffalo Soldiers, constitutes one of the most extraordinary reminders of one of the most extraordinary human experiences: uprooted and transplanted into strange lands for a certain physical and cultural death, the African would show an unmatched level of resiliency.  The same African, who strength, must have been underestimated would not only finds ways to persevere, through extreme adversity, himself and herself.  They would come back to look for the one they left.

The significance of the reach of the Harlem Renaissance movement can perhaps be measured best by not only the eloquent literary, artistic and cultural expression that it afforded the Pan-African movement but also by the fact that it constituted a Pan-African political organization.  The most significant manifestation of the Harlem Renaissance movement as a Pan-African political organization rests certainly with the emergence of the overtly communist African Blood Brotherhood (ABB) in 1919 led by West Indian born journalist and political activist Cyril Valentine Briggs and Jamaican born Claude McKay.  The fact that soon after its birth, the African Blood Brotherhood attempted to organize within Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) constitutes an indication of the vision that they had for their organization. As an additional indication, the two major leaders of the African Blood Brotherhood took part in the UNIA-ACL’s 1920 and 1921 international conferences held in New York.

Later in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s an array of individual contributors and the organizations they founded had a profound impact on building black consciousness within the African Diaspora in specific reference to reinforcing their African identity. Chief among these was Kwame Ture (nee Stokely Carmichael), who was born in Trinidad in 1941 and died in Conakry, Guinea in 1998. His establishment of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party (AAPRP), which espoused Pan-Africanism, based upon “Scientific Socialism,” deeply influenced the evolution of a generation of Pan-Africanists, through speaking engagements at community organizations, at HBCUs and at Black student organizations on majority white campuses. The AAPRP also committed itself to initiating regular “work/study” meetings in urban centers throughout the USA and globally, where “political conscious raising” included primary source readings and discussions of texts such as Nkrumah’s Africa Must Unite, Julius Nyerere’s Uhuru Na Umoja, C. Wright Mills’ The Power Elite, etc. AAPRP was also a major sponsor of annual African Liberation Day marches and speeches in Washington, DC.

The HBCUs themselves have coalesced within several umbrella organizations, so as to optimize their collective sustainability, enhance their international footprint and facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative research, instruction, community engagement and advocasy. Such collectivities include the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which is primarily composed of private HBCUs; the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, whose membership includes public HBCUs; the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities’ (APLU)’s Council of 1890 Universities, which is a union of historically Black land-grant universities that were designated under the 2nd Morrill Act of 1890 in response the those majority landgrant institutions designated in the 1st Morrill Act of 1862 and signed by Abraham Lincoln, that would not accept African-Americans as students. A more broadly representative umbrella organization is the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), under President & CEO Dr. Lezli Baskerville, whose membership includes both public and private HBCUs, Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) and partnerships with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), Native American Tribal Colleges  and Universities – American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and with the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI).



If the black church provided the Pan-African movement with the cradling, nurturing and moral environment necessary for its growth and the black press provided the movement with the means to project itself across oceans, the fundamental contributions of black institutions of higher learning will stand for their unique role as the intellectual conduit for the movement.  In so doing, all three institutions have provided a scattered people with the formidable bridge to coordinate their efforts towards unity, liberation and an unfinished attempt at economic emancipation. he centrality of Black Institutions of Higher Learning resides perhaps in the fact that they are the closer thing to a central nervous system of sorts of the process. In a 2014 summer conversation with  a friend and a Tuskegee University professor, Clyde Robertson, I had an off the cuff answer to one of his usually thought-provoking questions as we analyzed the strategic choice of speakers that Historically Black Colleges and Universities, in general, and Tuskegee University, in particular, make for our commencements.  That response, which still hangs in writing by his office door – because for some reason something about it stuck with him as he insisted that I repeat it again so that he could immortalize those words – reads like this: give us someone who will speak to the intelligence of our students; not merely to their obedience. In retrospect, I can perhaps see the reason for my friend’s insistence as my administrative Assistant, Ms. Dawn Calhoun, recently reminded me a conversation that she had with one of our students on the subject. I still believe this to be the raison d’être of Black Institutions of Higher because they were create to liberate and to emancipate.




Adi, Hakim and Marika Sherwood.  2004.  Pan-African History: Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora Since 1787.  New York: Routledge.

Booker T. Washington to Olivia Egleston Phelps-Stokes, Dec. 3, 1909.  Phelps-Stokes Fund file S-O.

Clements, Keith.  1999.  Faith on the Frontier: A Life of J.H. Oldham.  Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Coleman, James Samuel.  Background to Nigerian Nationalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1971.

Kollie, Patrick.  2012.  “Proposed Bill to Elevate BWI to College Level.” The Daily Observer, Available online at (accessed November 29, 2018)

Mandela, Nelson.  1994. Long Walk to Freedom.  New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Mathurin, Owen C.   1976.  Henry Sylvester Williams and the Origins of the Pan-African Movement 1869-1911: Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Mbeki, Thabo. 1996.  “Address by President Thabo Mbeki at the Inaugural ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture.” Available online at

Myrdal, Gunnar.  1944.  An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.  New York: Harper and Row.

Rickford, Russell John.  2015.  African American schools.  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Rochon, Gilbert and Thierno Thiam.  2013.  “Democracy and Education: the Tuskegee University Governance Model.”  In Reimagining Democratic Societies: a New Era of Personal and Social Responsibility.  The Council of Europe Higher Education Series No. 18.  Eds. Sjur Bergan, Ira Harkavy and Hilligje van’t Land.

Simanga, Michael.  2015. Amiri Baraka and the Congress of African People – History and Memory. Palgrave Macmillan Press, New York, NY.

The Ethiopian News Agency.  2010.  “AARSE calls on African countries to coordinate offices on space affairs”

The Ethiopian News Agency.  2010.  “AARSE calls on African countries to coordinate offices on space affairs”

Wallace, Belinda.  2016.  “Accessing Pan-African Feminist Humanism: Unlocking the Metacolonial in the Poetry of Una Marson and Dionne Brand,: in Women, Gender, and Families of Color.  Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press: 222-249.



Web Sources

The African National Congress, available at (accessed September 30, 2018)



Note: This is a chapter of the book “Sustainability, Emerging Technologies and Pan-Africanism”  

          Dr. Therno Thiam, PhD. and Gilbert Rochon, PhD. Available at Amazon:

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