African Series Sample Documents
Volume IX: June 1921--December 1922
W. E. B. Du Bois to
Charles Evans Hughes,^1 U.S. Secretary of State
NEW YORK, June 23, 1921
In 1919 there was held in Paris the first Pan-African Congress. I am enclosing the resolutions which were passed by that Congress. These resolutions were brought to the attention of Colonel House of the American Peace Commission and received his general approval.
A second Pan-African Congress will be held in August and September at the time and place indicated by the bulletins enclosed.^2 I am writing to appr[i]se you of these facts because of some public misapprehension of our aims and purposes. The Pan-African Congress is for conference, acquaintanceship and general organization. It has nothing to do with the so called Garvey movement and contemplates neither force nor revolution in its program. We have had the cordial cooperation of the French, Belgi[an] and Portuguese governments and we hope to get the attention and sympathy of all colonial powers.
If there is any further information as to our objects and plans which you would wish to have I will be very glad to write further or to come to Washington and confer with any official whom you might designate. I am, sir, with great respect Very sincerely yours,
W. E. B. DU BOIS
DNA, RG 59, 540C2/original. TLS, recipient's copy. On Crisis stationery.
1. Charles Evans Hughes (1862--1948) was secretary of state during the Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge administration (1921--1925). He had earlier been the governor of New York from 1907 to 1910 and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1910 to 1916. He was a candidate for president of the United States in 1916, but lost the election to Woodrow Wilson. After serving on international tribunals in the late 1920s, he was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1941. Hughes was involved in the State Department's monitoring of Garvey's activities in the Caribbean during the UNIA leader's organizing tour of that area in 1921, including efforts to deny him a visa to reenter the U.S. (NYT, 28 August 1948; MGP 3--5).
2. The Second Pan-African Congress convened in three sessions in London, Brussels, and Paris between 28 August and 6 September 1921. It followed a first congress, which had been held in Paris in February 1919 on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Conference. Both met at the initiative of W. E. B. Du Bois, who held the title of secretary of the 1921 congress; Blaise Diagne was its president. The international organizing committee was made up of individuals from the U.S., England, France, and Guadaloupe, with no formal African representation. More than one hundred delegates attended: thirty-nine from Africa, a similar number from the U.S., and the remainder from Europe and the Caribbean. Paul Panda Farnana, founder of the Union Congolaise in Brussels, was also instrumental in the Brussels session (Herbert Aptheker, ed., A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, 1910--1932 [Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1973], pp. 335--346; PAM, pp. 234--248; MGP 3:459 n. 2, 480).
Enclosure: Resolutions Passed
at the 1919 Pan-African Congress
Paris, 19--21 February 1919
The Negroes of the world in Pan-African Congress assembled at Paris February 19, 20, 21, 1919, demand, in the interest of justice and humanity and for strenghtening the forces of civilisation, that immediate steps be taken to develop the 200[,]000[,]000 of Negroes and Negroids; to this end, they propose:
- ---That the allied and associated Powers establish a code of laws "for the international protection of the natives of Africa," similar to the proposed international code for Labor.
- ---That the League of Nations establish a permanent Bureau charged with the special duty of "overseeing the application of these laws to the political, social and economic welfare of the natives."
The Negroes of the world demand that hereafter the natives of Africa and the Peoples of African descent be "governed according to the following principles."
- ---The Land: The land and its natural resources shall be held in trust for the natives and at all times they shall have effective ownership of as much land as they can profitably develop.
- ---Capital: The investment of capital and granting of concessions shall be so regulated as to prevent the exploitation of the natives and the exhaustion of the natural wealth of the country. Concessions shall always be limited in time and subject to State control. The growing social needs of the natives must be regarded and the profits taxed for the social and material benefit of the natives.
- ---Labor: Slavery and corporal punishment shall be abolished and forced labor except in punishment for crime; and the general conditions of labor shall be prescribed and regulated by the State.
- ---Education: It shall be the right of every native child to learn to read and write his own language, and the language of the trustee nation, at public expense, and to be given technical instruction in some branch of industry. The State shall also educate as large a number of natives as possible in higher technical and cultural training and maintain a corps of native teachers.
- ---Med[i]cine and Hygiene: It shall be recognized that human existence in the tropics calls for special safeguards and a scientific system of public hygiene. The State shall be responsible for medical care and sanitary conditions without discouraging collective and individual initiative. A service created by the State shall provide physicians and hospitals, and shall spread the rules of hygiene by written and spoken word. As fast as possible the State will establish a native medical staff.
- ---The State: The natives of Africa must have the right to participate in the government as fast as their development permits in conformity with the principle that the government exists for the natives, and not the natives for the government. They shall at once be allowed to participate in local and tribal government according to ancient usage, and this participation shall gradually extend, as education and experience proceeds, to the higher offices of State, to the end that, in time, Africa be ruled by consent of the Africans.
- ---Culture and Religion: No particular religion shall be imposed and no particular form of human culture. There shall be liberty of conscience. The uplift of the natives shall take into consideration their present condition and shall allow the utmost scope to racial genius, social inheritance and individual bent so long as these are not contrary to the best established principles of civilisation.
- ---Civilized Negroes: Wherever persons of African descent are civilized and able to meet the tests of surrounding culture, they shall be accorded the same rights as their fellow citizens; they shall not be denied on account of race or color a voice in their own government, justice before the courts and economic and social equality according to ability and desert.
- ---The League of Nations: Greater security of life and property shall be guaranteed the natives; international labor legislation shall cover the native workers as well as whites; they shall have equitable representation in all the international institutions of the League of Nations, and the participation of the blacks themselves in every domain of indeavour shall be encouraged in accordance with the declared object of article 19 of the League of Nations, to wit: "The well being and the development of these people constitute a sacred mission of civilisation and it is proper in establishing the League of Nations to incorporate therein pledges for the accomplishment of this mission."
Whenever it is proven that African natives are not receiving just treatment at the hands of any State or that any State deliberately excludes its civilized citizens or subjects of Negro descent from its body politic and cultural, it shall be the duty of the League of Nations to bring the matter to the attention of the civilized World.
For the Pan-African Congress, composed of 57 members from 15 countries, inhabited by 85[,]000[,]000 Negroes and persons of African descent---to wit:
|French West Indies and French Guiana||13|
W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS,
Deputy from Senegal, Commissioner
General charged with oversight of
French colonial interests, President of
DNA, RG 59, 540C2/original. PD. Portions translated from French.
1. Blaise Diagne (1870 or 1872--1934), Senegalese politician, was born into an African Catholic family on the island of Gorée and received his education at the Brother of Ploermel School, Saint-Louis, Senegal, with the support of a wealthy métis, Adolphe Crespin. He joined the French colonial customs service in 1891 and soon gained a reputation among his supervisors as a militant on racial matters. He was frequently transferred and held posts in several locations, including Réunion and Guyana. During this period Diagne came in contact with important black French West Indian politicians.
In 1914, in the midst of a deep political crisis in Senegal, Diagne ran for the French legislature. The Creole and French commercial oligarchies, which had shared power in Senegal for much of the nineteenth century, were competing to establish control; meanwhile, enfranchised Africans---the majority of the electorate---were becoming politically active. In the span of a few months, Diagne succeeded in rallying around him all the significant African groups: the Young Senegalese, Senegal's first African political action group; the Lebu of Dakar and Rufisque, who had special land grievances against the French; and Islamic groups such as the powerful Mouride sect. Diagne also gained the support of some poorer French settlers in Senegal, including the journalist Jean Daramy d'Oxoby, editor of the newspaper La Démocratie du Sénégal (later L'Ouest Africain Français). Diagne won the election by a landslide and became the first black representative in the French Chamber of Deputies.
His election, which was rightly seen as a triumph for the urban African elite in Senegal, posed the problem of the status of the originaires, the urban-born Africans of the "Four Communes" of Dakar, Saint-Louis, Gorée, and Rufisque, who had possessed the franchise since 1848. Many in the French political establishment contested this right on the grounds that most Senegalese kept their "personal status," i.e., their right to have recourse to Islamic law in matters of marriage (i.e., polygamy), divorce, and inheritance. The coming of World War I provided Diagne with a golden opportunity to consolidate the rights of the originaires by demonstrating their loyalty to France. He urged them to volunteer for the war---in French regiments rather than in the colonial regiments known as tirailleurs sénégalais (Senegalese sharpshooters). In 1916 Diagne's efforts were rewarded by a law in the French parliament recognizing the French citizenship of originaires, who nevertheless retained their personal status. In 1918 Diagne was given a cabinet post in the national emergency government of Georges Clémenceau. He was named commissioner for recruitment of African troops and departed for French West Africa on a recruiting mission that resulted in the enrollment of sixty thousand Africans. One reason for the success of the mission (previous attempts had been unsuccessful) was that Diagne was able to promise a measure of change for disfranchised Africans in the interior, notably the end of the hated administrative justice system known as the indigénat, for veterans and their families.
The postwar years were the climax of Diagne's political career. He consolidated the African political victory in Senegal in the local elections of 1919 and 1921, during which Africans took over the majority of seats in Senegal's local government. In France he was selected by the French parliament to head the Chamber's Committee on Colonies, which oversaw the activities and policies of the Colonial Ministry.
In 1919 he was instrumental in convening the first Pan-African Congress in Paris. Soon after, however, his position came under increasing threat both in France and in Senegal. On the left, the Diagne mission of 1918 had raised hopes among Africans for an extended franchise and greater participation in the administration---considerations that France was not at the time prepared to grant. On the right, a campaign was launched in conservative French colonial milieux to discredit Diagne by accusing him of being a Communist and separatist. In 1919 French conservatives marked an important victory with the nomination of Henri Merlin as governor-general of French West Africa. Merlin's tough anti-Diagne stance resulted in serious incidents, such as the 1921 Kaolack demonstration, in which Diagne and his followers came close to open rebellion. In 1923 Diagne succeeded in having Merlin transferred to another colonial position---but at the price of a compromise settlement with the colonial administration and French commercial interests that Diagne had previously opposed. The 1923 Pact of Bordeaux marked the beginning of a shift toward the right for Diagne, a shift that climaxed in 1930 when he defended the use of forced labor by the French colonial administration in front of the International Labour Conference. By this time a powerful opposition movement in Senegal had developed against Diagne, led in part by his former aides, including Galandou Diouf. Diouf probably would have triumphed in the legislative elections in 1928, and especially in 1932, if the colonial administration had not exerted pressure and even rigged elections in support of Diagne. Diagne was the undersecretary of the Ministry of Colonies from June 1931 to February 1932, the first black person to hold a French ministerial post. He died at Cambo-les-Bains, France, in 1934 (Irving L. Marovitz, "The Political Thought of Blaise Diagne and Laminé Gueye," Présence Africaine 72, no. 4 : 26; G. Wesley Johnson, "Commémoration du centenaire de la naissance de Blaise Diagne," Notes africaines, no. 135 [July 1972]: 57--95; François Manchuelle, "Métis et colons: La famille Devés et l'émergence politique des Africains au Sénégal, 1881--1897," Cahiers d'études africaines 24 : 477--504; idem, "Origines républicaines de la politique d'expansion coloniale de Jules Ferry, 1838--1865," Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer 75 : 185--206; G. Wesley Johnson, "The Senegalese Urban Elite, 1900--1945," in Africa and the West: Intellectual Responses to European Culture, ed. Philip D. Curtin [Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1972], pp. 139--187; idem, "The Impact of the Senegalese Elite upon the French, 1900--1940," in Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism, ed. G. Wesley Johnson [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985], pp. 159--166; idem, "African Political Activity in French West Africa, 1900--1940," in History of West Africa, ed. J. F. A. Ajayi and Michael Crowder, vol. 2 [Harlow, England: Longman, 1974], pp. 542--567; EBPS; Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Sénégalais in French West Africa, 1857--1960 [Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1991], pp. 44--46).
Henri Jaspar, Minister of Foreign Affairs,