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UBC Theses and Dissertations

West African pan-Africanists and the memorialization of Edward Wilmot Blyden Wilford, Aaron

Abstract

This thesis examines the debates between West African intellectuals over Pan-Africanism and African nationalism in the early twentieth century. It focuses on intellectuals in three major port cities: Freetown, Lagos, and Cape Coast. These intellectuals practiced different forms of Pan-Africanism that suited the political circumstances of their respective cities. In 1912, they asserted their separate Pan-African visions through the memorialization of Edward Wilmot Blyden, the “Father of Pan-Africanism,” after his death the same year. West African intellectuals published newspapers which acted as forums for public discourse and political organization. When Blyden died, newspapers published obituaries that discussed his career and the significance of his life. Each city, and each newspaper, had a slightly different portrayal of Blyden. The different versions of Blyden printed in West African newspapers reflected different strains of Pan-African thought. Intellectuals manipulated Blyden’s legacy, highlighting certain aspects of his work and criticizing others, to communicate and legitimize their own views, on empire, race, and nationalism. In 1913 and 1914, intellectuals detailed their preferred courses for West Africa’s future at public ceremonies commemorating Blyden. There were multiple Pan-African conversations in West Africa.

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