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Message-Id: <199703291901.OAA02708@listserv.vt.edu>
Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 97 17:50:20 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Women and the Pan-African Congresses (excerpt)
Article: 8110

/** headlines: 182.0 **/
** Topic: Women and the Pan-African Congresses (excerpt) **
** Written 9:57 AM Mar 27, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **

Women's Contribution to the Pan-African Struggle: Revisited

By M. Mason
27 March 1997


The above quote begins Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's article "Women's Contribution to the Pan African Struggle." Although Nyerere's summary of the position and resolutions considered by the Committee C of the Sixth Pan African Congress is commendable, the homage paid to forerunners named by Nyerere lacks historical significance in recognizing the movers and shakers in Pan-Africanism who were there from the beginning. Women addressed the attendees as well as served on prominent committees. They were sponsors, organizers, supporters and leaders. In this paper, which is entitled "Women's Contribution to the Pan African Struggle: Revisited," I hope to contribute to the scant documentation of their participation. Primarily the paper will focus on the Fourth Pan African Congress held in New York City, August 21, 22, 23 and 24, 1927. The Fourth Congress was organized, planned and financed by a group of women of African descent living the USA. Women who were members of the Circle for Peace and Foreign Relations under the dynamic leadership of Addie W. Hunton.

Pan-African Conference (1900)

The first organized effort to address the problems of African people worldwide was assembled in Paris, France in 1900 at the Pan African Conference. The 1900 Conference had been called and organized by Henry S. Williams, a Caribbean barrister practicing in London. However, DuBois would play a significant role of which he wrote:

I have lived to see a dream come true. I had a vision first in the last year of the Nineteenth Century when, on the way from the World Exposition in Paris, I stopped in London to attend a "Pan African Conference" called by a young West Indian barrister and attended by a handful of philanthropists, missionaries and various colored folk. Just what thoughts were back of the meeting, I do not know, but as I was made secretary, I wrote out my own ideas in the resolutions eventually adopted. They were simple and aimed at bringing together in regular meetings Africans, their friends and descendants to discuss and clarify their social problems (1960, 1033).
According to DuBois, "[t]his meeting attracted attention, put the word "Pan-African" in the dictionaries for the first time and had some thirty delegates, mainly from England and the West Indies, with a few colored North Americans" (DuBois, 1973).

With W.E.B. DuBois as ringleader for the delegation from America, the representation was noticeable. As we will observe with the Fourth Pan-African Congress, DuBois included and trusted women in the decision making process. Among the delegation which was led by DuBois, Anna Julia Cooper along with Anna Jones, a school teacher from Kansas City, Missouri, served on the Executive Committee as well as addressed the Conference of 1900. Cooper's presentation entitled "The Negro Problem in America" undoubtedly, revealed her unwavering battle to improve the inhumane conditions of Africans in the United States of America. A daughter of a former slave, Cooper was the first of her family to acquire education beyond the primary level (Hines, 227). Upon graduation from Oberlin, she became actively involved in the struggle to uplift the quality of life for Africans as an educator and social activist.

Accepting a position in 1887 as a teacher at the M Street School, Cooper resided in the home of the Rev. Alexander Crummell. She joined in residency her college alumnae, Ida B.Gibbs Hunt and Mary Church Terrell. Both Hutchinson (1981) and Hines (1993) mentioned the influence of Crummell on the life of Cooper. Hutchinson indicated that Cooper called him "Moses." Rev. Crummell was a prominent minister who would become president of the American Negro Academy, founded in 1897. Among its membership was W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois had been the Academy's first president. Later, Cooper would become the first elected and only female member to the Academy. DuBois was impressed with the social activism of the young ladies being nurtured in the home of Rev. Crummell would seek and gain Coopers support for his Pan-African cause. At the Women's Congress in 1893, she addressed an international body of women concerning "The Needs and Status of the Black Women."

Associates of Cooper would play an active role in DuBois' Pan-African Congresses as well. In a letter to her mother in July of 1898, Cooper wrote of her meeting with Anna Jones of Kansas City, Missouri at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (1898). Two years later they would both address the Pan-African Conference in 1900 as well as serve on the executive committee. Jones speech was entitled, "The Preservation of Race Individuality" (Hutchinson 111). In The Story of a Rising Race: The Negro in Revelation, in History and in Citizenship, a one sentence biographical sketch of her life states, "Miss Anna Jones, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is a brilliant linguist and a successful teacher in the Kansas City High School for colored persons" (Pipkin 444).

In addition to addressing the attendees, women served on important committees. Cooper was a member of the Committee which "drafted a Memorial to Queen Victoria that set forth 'acts of injustice directed against her Majesty's subjects in South Africa'" (Hutchinson, 114). According to Hutchinson, the Memorial contained the following:

  1. The degrading and illegal compounded system of native labor in vogue in Kimberly and Rhodesia.
  2. The so-called indenture, i.e. legalized bondage of native men and women and children to white colonists.
  3. The system of compulsory labour in public works.
  4. The "pass" or docket system used for people of colour.
  5. Local by-laws tending to segregate and degrade the natives such as the curfew; the denial to the natives of the use of foot-paths; and the use of separate public conveyances.
  6. Difficulties in acquiring real property.
  7. Difficulties in obtaining the franchise (114).

Responding to the Memorial the Queen's respondent wrote the following to Henry Sylvester Williams, the General Secretary for the Conference:

Sir: I am directed by My Secretary Chamberlain to state that he has received the Queen's commands to inform you that the Memorial of the Pan-African Conference requesting the situation of the native races in South Africa, has been laid before Her Majesty, and that she was graciously pleased to command him to return an answer to it on behalf of her government. Mr. Chamberlain accordingly desires to assure the members of the Pan-African Conference that, it settling the lines on which the administration of the conquered territories are to be conducted, Her Majesty's Government will not overlook the interests and welfare of the native races (Qtd. in Hutchinson).
It is unfortunate that Mrs. Cooper would later write of her role in the 1900 Conference was merely that of a globe-trotter. Most definitely, her role as a key player in the Conference left an impression that women are thinkers, movers, and shakers in the cause for human rights.

Claiming that the Conference had no deep roots in Africa, DuBois explained that the Pan-Africa idea died for the a generation (1978).

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