PAC 1945: Introduction

It is a little known fact that in 1945, just a few months after the end of the Second World War, the 5th Pan African Congress (PAC) met in Manchester, UK. There were ninety delegates, twenty six from all over Africa. These included Peter Abrahams for the ANC, and a number of men who were to become political leaders in their countries, such as Hastings Banda, Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Jomo Kenyatta. Amy Jacques Garvey (Marcus Garvey’s 2nd wife) attended. There were thirty three delegates from the West Indies and thirty five from various British organizations including the West African Students Union. The presence of 77-year-old W.E.B. Du Bois was historic, as he had organized the First Pan-African Congress in 1919. Decisions taken at this Congress ultimately led to the liberation of several African Nations (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria) but despite the turnout, this conference scarcely got a mention in British press.

George Padmore (International African Service Bureau) was instrumental in bringing the  Congress to Manchester, as his close friend, TR Makonnen, Treasurer of the Pan-African Federation, had business interests in the city. The political consciousness in Manchester was very strong at the time and people in Manchester of African descent brought together delegates from all over the world.

The resolutions passed by the Congress addressed various forms of racial discrimination, and forced labour and called for trade union rights and the granting of universal franchise in South Africa and the colonies. (At the time the only independent nations in Africa were Ethiopa and Liberia).  The main resolutions were for:

  1. The complete and absolute independence for the Peoples of West Africa.
  2. The removal of British armed forces from Egypt.
  3. The granting of complete independence from Egyptian and British rule to the Sudan.
  4. The recognition of the demands of the indigenous peoples of Tunis, Algeria, Morocco and Libya from French and Italian rule.
  5. Democratic rights and self-government for the people of Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Nyasaland, Somaliland and Zanzibar.
  6. The non-incorporation of Bechanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland in South Africa.
  7. A West Indian Federation founded upon internal self-government based on universal adult suffrage.
  8. The withdrawal of the British Military Administration from Ethiopian soil.
  9. The independence or at least self-government for all of all British, French and Italian colonies in Africa and the West Indies.

Unlike the four earlier Congresses, the fifth Congress involved people from the African Diaspora; not just Africans, but Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Americans. The fifth Congress is widely regarded as the catalyst and launch pad for the political liberation of the African nations. By 1966 all but six African countries were independent nation-states. It therefore cannot be understated how important this event was to black people all over the world and what a source of inspiration it continues to provide.

At the end of the Second World War, this wasn’t just a turning point in Africa’s history, but in the European Empires also. It was a rejection of the imperial powers which had caused the Second World War and it represented the opportunity of a freer, fairer world for everybody regardless of so called race, nation, class, or creed etc.