African HistoryENGLISH


Kenneth Kaunda interacting with people during the nationalist struggle in Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1960. Source :

African nationalism refers to a struggle by the Africans espeacially in Sub-Saharan countries for national self-determination against colonialism. African nationalism espeacially in Sub-Saharan Africa has been a political, economical, as well as social struggle which initially focused on fighting for participation in governance, later for self-determination that would help in decolonizing the whole of Africa.

Sub-Saharan African nationalism as a movement can be said to have started in the late 19th through 20th century. However, the struggle became momentum after the World War II, after which a well organized and formidable nationalists struggle started till the 1960s when nearly all of the African countries attained independence.


The idea of African nationalism among the black Africans have originated and started during the mid-19th century when some people began thinking of creating nation-state that would united the whole of Africa.

However, a modern and organized movement aimed at reviving and creating an African identity have started outside of Africa in the late 19th century through early 20th century. The movement called Pan-Africanism started among blacks living in the United States and the Caribbeans and it intended at reawakening the black Africans for a common brotherhood. Famous Pan-African leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and others have effectively worked tirelessly for the achievement of blacks freedom anywhere in the world. This was why due to their commitment, different international conferences were held for the emancipation of blacks. For example, the first Pan-African conference held in London in July 1900, the participants declared their stance against the maltreatment of Africans by white settlers in South Africa and Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe).

W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the greatest leaders of Pan-Africanism. Source :

Start of the African Nationalism


Pan-African movement which eventually turned into real African nationalism have started in Africa after the World War I when many of black Africans who went to study in Europe and the United States returned back home to Africa. Many educated Africans espeacially those who associated or influenced by the Pan-Africanist ideas began to emerge which paved the way for the beginning of the agitation of African nationalism. Many of these students such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nmadi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone, Leopold Sedar Sangor of Senegal, and many others have came back to their native countries leads nationalist struggle in their respective countries.

Kwame Nkrumah, regarded by many as father of the African nationalism

The early African nationalism which began in the early 1920s, have started with one motive which was the demanding for African participation in the way they were governed.

As the African struggle for participation in the process of governance gradually began to take shape, many colonial governments in different African countries started to come up with some political changes like creating a constitutions that would allowed the African participation such as forming of political parties, and being elected into a legislature. For example, in Nigeria a constitution which allowed the native Nigerians to be elected into a legislature and the formation of political parties was granted by the British colonial Governor Sir Hugh Clifford and came into effect in 1922.


African nationalism became formidable during the years after the Second World War. The Second World War in itself have played a major role in shaping the African’s ideas about self-determination. Because many Africans who participated as soldiers of their colonial masters have travel and witness nationalist struggles in many areas such as India. Therefore, when this African veteran soldiers returned to their homelands they joined nationalist struggle in their respective countries with new liberal ideas.

Externally, two years after the World War I in 1947 India achieved independence from Britain. This Indian achievement have significantly motivated the African nationalist in their struggle to send away the colonialism. That is why many believed that the Indian independence have played a major role in changing the attitudes African nationalist.

African nationalist formed many political parties with which they used all over Africa to fight for self-determination or decolonization of Africa.

African nationalism have been different in many parts of Africa. In some parts, the struggle was radical or even violent, while in some parts the struggle goes peaceful but tough. In places espeacially east and southern Africa, violent movements were carried out for the decolonization processes. For example, in the British East African Colony of Kenya, there was a Mau Mau nationalist movement which applied militancy in their struggle since the early 1950s till the Kenyan independence in 1963.

However, majority of the African countries achieved their independence through peaceful but tough means. In countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Guinea, and many others independence was achieved through peaceful table negotiations in which several conferences between the nationalists and the colonial leaders were held from the the early 1950s through 1960s.

In short African nationalism witnessed its first achievement when Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) attained independence in 1957. After Ghana opened the gate of independence, other African countries followed the lead from the late 1950s throughout 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s.

Ahmad Abdullahi, BA History

My name is Ahmad Abdullahi, I was born on 10th March, 1994 in Garun-Danga Town, Gabasawa L.G., Kano State. I attended FCE Demonstration Primary School from 2002 to 2007, FCE Staff Secondary School from 2007 to 2013, and Northwest University, Kano from 2013 to 2017, where I obtained bachelor degree in History.

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