Date: Fri, 28 Mar 97 17:50:20 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Women and the Pan-African Congresses (excerpt)
/** 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
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
The degrading and illegal compounded system of
native labor in vogue in Kimberly and Rhodesia.
The so-called indenture, i.e. legalized bondage of
native men and women and children to white colonists.
The system of compulsory labour in public works.
The "pass" or docket system used for people of
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
Difficulties in acquiring real property.
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
Claiming that the Conference had no deep roots in
Africa, DuBois explained that the Pan-Africa idea died
for the a generation (1978).
Forward Ever - Backward Never
A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n N e w s S e r v i c e
Deborah K. Floyd, M.A., Publisher
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