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3. Return to Africa

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In this module, we think about a second key theme of Pan-Africanism – the idea of Africa as the homeland to which people of African descent will return. We focus on: (i) early evidence of this desire to return amongst enslaved and formerly enslaved Africans in the Americas; (ii) the growth of this idea in the early twentieth century, and Marcus Garvey’s crucial role in its development; (iii) Garvey’s efforts to promote and practically facilitate return, most notably his founding of the Black Star shipping line between Africa and the Americas; (iv) other manifestations of the notion of return, such as Rastafarianism as its religious expression and its adoption by contemporary African states.


In this course, Dr William Ackah (Birkbeck, University of London) explores Pan-Africanism across four key themes. In the first module, we consider how we might define Pan-Africanism, outlining its different manifestations, historical development, and core concept that people of African descent across the world are united. In the second and third modules, we think about the first two key themes of Pan-Africanism – its emphasis on pride in Africa’s history, culture and achievements, and its notion of the continent as the homeland to which people of African descent will return. We then turn in the fourth and fifth modules to the themes of, firstly, liberation and unity of struggle amongst people of African descent, and secondly, African unity – that the continent should comprise a unified political and economic entity. We then conclude with a final module on Pan-Africanism today and how it might develop in the future.


Dr William Ackah is Senior Lecturer in Black and Community Geographies at Birkbeck, University of London. He has a broad range of expertise exploring culture, religion and politics in Africa and the African diaspora, including a particular emphasis on Pan-Africanist political activism. His recent publications include Religion, Culture and Spirituality in Africa and the African Diaspora (2017, co-editor), Pan-Africanism: Exploring the Contradictions (2016), and Churches, Blackness and Contested Multiculturalism: Europe, Africa and North America (2014, co-editor).

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APA style

Ackah, W. (2022, May 30). Pan-Africanism - Return to Africa [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ackah, W. "Pan-Africanism – Return to Africa." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 May 2022,

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