The Long March to Unity

From a group of black people with aspiration for the integration of the black society all over the world to the establishment of OAU, the later AU, Pan Africanism has come a long way through centuries. Here are the milestone happenings in the history of Pan Africanism.


In 1787, a young black Methodist minister, Richard Allen, along with another black clergyman, Absalom Jones, established the Free African Society, a benevolent organization that held religious services and mutual aid for “free Africans and their descendants” in Philadelphia.



In the 1800s Ethiopia’s African Diaspora religious symbolism grew among blacks in the United States and the Caribbean, through a reading of Psalm 68:31, “Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth its hands unto God,” as a prophesy that God would redeem Africa and free the enslaved. In the late-1800s in southern Africa, Ethiopianism assumed institutional form following visits from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, especially Bishop Henry McNeal Turner.


On August 14, 1893 the first Pan African Conference, Chicago Conference on Africa, was convened. Lasting a week, it drew, among others, Henry McNeal Turner and Alexander Crummell, the Egyptian Yakub Pasha, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church bishop Alexander Walters. Topics of discussion included “The African in America,” “Liberia as a Factor in the Progress of the Negro Race,” and “What Do American Negroes Owe to Their Kin Beyond the Sea.”


1896: Ethiopia become the only country to successfully defend its sovereignty against a European invasion after defeating Italy at the battle of Adwa, 12 years after European powers met in Berlin at the summit which comes to be known as: Scramble for Africa.


From July 23 to 25, 1900 Williams organized a Pan African conference, which met in London’s Westminster Town Hall. This conference drew to London approximately thirty-two delegates from Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe (the largest contingent being African Americans, while only four delegates represented Africa). The London Pan African Conference produced the Pan African Association (PAA), which replaced the African Association.


In September 1897, Henry Sylvester Williams established the African Association (AA) to “encourage a feeling of unity [and] facilitate friendly intercourse among Africans,” and “promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part, in British Colonies and other place, especially in Africa.


February 19–21, 1919, at the Grand Hôtel, W. E. B. Du Bois, the renowned scholar and intellectual who headed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s publicity department, where he edited its magazine, called for the Pan African Congress to meet in Paris, and it was convened. The approaching Paris Peace Conference would decide the future of Germany’s African colonies.


In 1927, the fourth PAC, organized by the Women’s International Circle for Peace and Foreign Relations (a black women’s club in New York led by Addie W. Hunton, Nina Du Bois, and Minnie Pickens,) was held.


May 25, 1963, Organization of Africa Union was established in Addis Abeba with 32 signatory governments and adopted its charter, with Hailesilassie I elected as its first chair.


In 1971 the OAU strongly criticized Israel’s handling of the Palestinian issue. By the end of 1973, all but four (Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Mauritius) of the OAU member sates had broken relations with Israel.


June 17–19, 1974 Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere convened the last Pan African Congress, in Dar es Salaam. Commonly known as the Sixth PAC, this was the first congress held in Africa.


On May 28, 1975, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded


In 1984 Morocco withdrew from OAU, following the Organization’s decision to recognize Western Saharawi to join the organization.


At a January 1986 assembly of heads of state and government, an agreement was signed which officially launched the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), now Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Soon after its formation, the mandate of IGAD widened, becoming a vehicle for regional security and political dialogue.


On June 3, 1991, a treaty was signed for the establishment of the African Economic Community (AEC).


June 6, 1994, South Africa joined the organization, getting rid of Apartheid.


In December, 1994, Common Market for Easter and Southern Africa (COMESA) was established replacing Preferential Trade Area (PTA), which had existed since 1981, among member states stretching from Libya to Zimbabwe.


In July 2001, The New Partnership for Africa's Development NEPAD was adopted at the 37th session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Lusaka, Zambia.


July 2002, the Organization for African Unity (OAU) was changed to the Africa Union (AU).


In 2005, AU sent 7000 peace keeping forces, many of whom were from Rwanda and Nigeria, to Darfur, Sudan in response to an ongoing conflict in the country.


In March 2007, AU soldiers started to arrive in Mogadishu for a peace keeping mission against the long lasting civil war in Somalia.


In July 2009, The African Union ceased cooperation with the International Criminal Court, refusing to recognize the international arrest warrant it had issued against Sudan’s leader, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in 2008 for war crimes.


On July 9, 2011, South Sudan joined the Union after gaining independence from the Republic of Sudan.


August 2012, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Ph. D., became the first woman Chair Person for the Africa Union Commission (AUC) after she won an election against the incumbent.


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