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1. What is Pan-Africanism?

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In this module, we think about the concept of Pan-Africanism in terms of its different forms of expression and historical development. We focus on: (i) some core characteristics of Pan-Africanism, most importantly its notion that people of African descent across the world are and should be united; (ii) its literary manifestations, particularly those associated with the Harlem Renaissance; (iii) early expressions of Pan-Africanist identity in the work of eighteenth-century anti-slavery activists Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano; (iv) the emergence of the formal political Pan-Africanist movement in the early twentieth century, under Henry Sylvester Williams and the Pan-African Congresses of 1900-45.


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 - What is Pan-Africanism? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ackah, W. "Pan-Africanism – What is Pan-Africanism?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 May 2022,

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