Political movement for the unification of Africa (Pan-Africanism) and for national self-determination. Early African political organizations included the Aborigines Rights Protection Society in the Gold Coast in 1897, the African National Congress in South Africa in 1912, and the National Congress of West Africa in 1920.
African nationalism has its roots among the educated elite (mainly returned Americans of African descent and freed slaves or their descendants) in West Africa in the 19th century. Christian mission-educated, many challenged overseas mission control and founded independent churches. These were often involved in anticolonial rebellions; for example, in Natal in 1906 and Nyasaland in 1915. The Kitwala (Watchtower Movement) and Kimbanguist churches provided strong support for the nationalist cause in the 1950s.
After World War I nationalists fostered moves for self-determination. The Fourteen Points of US president Woodrow Wilson encouraged such demands in Tunisia, and delegates to London in 1919 from the Native National Congress in South Africa stressed the contribution to the war effort by the South African Native Labour Corps. Most nationalist groups functioned within the territorial boundaries of single colonies; for example, the Tanganyika African Association and the Rhodesian Bantu Voters Association. One or two groups, including the National Congress of British West Africa, had wider pan-African visions.
By 1939 African nationalist groups existed in nearly every territory of the continent. Africa's direct involvement in World War II, the weakening of the principal colonial powers, increasing anticolonialism from America (the Atlantic Charter in 1941 encouraged self-government), and Soviet criticism of imperialism inspired African nationalists.
© RM 2014. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.