5. African Epistemologies Advanced Seminar Series on “Pan-Africanism. From Slavery to Reparations

Pan-Africanism can be defined as the efforts to promote the political, socio-economic, and cultural unity of Africa and its Diaspora. The ideology was historically a reaction by Africans in the Diaspora to the twin European plagues of slavery and colonialism. The 400-year transatlantic slave trade saw 12–15 million Africans forcibly transported to the Caribbean and the Americas. This was followed by a century of colonial rule in Africa. Fifteen years after the notorious Berlin Conference of 1884/85 at which the rules were set by European imperialists for the partition of Africa, the Pan-African movement was born when Trinidadian lawyer Henry Sylvester-Williams convened the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900. Between 1919 and 1945, five Pan-African Congresses took place in Europe and America. By the time of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945, the movement had shifted its centre of influence from the Diaspora to Africa but lost its civil society dynamism and close links to the Diaspora.

In light of the contemporary global anti-slavery and anti-colonial protests led by “Black Lives Matter”, a burning issue that has not been properly addressed is that of reparations for the victims of these two evil scourges in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa. How can Western nations who enslaved and colonised black people over five centuries repair this pernicious damage that has left these regions with the triple burdens of a lack of development, diseases, and deadly conflicts? This remains a festering wound that this lecture seeks to address.

As the 400th anniversary of American slavery was commemorated in 2019, calls for reparations for descendants of this exploitative system are growing louder. Democrats in the United States (US) legislature have now belatedly embraced the cause of reparations, while institutions like Brown, Harvard and Yale universities that benefited from the slave trade have initiated programmes of restitution. In the West Indies, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission continues to pursue compensation from European slaving nations – Spain, Portugal, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Sweden – for the Transatlantic slave trade, while Scotland’s Glasgow University agreed to raise £20 million to establish a joint Centre for Development Research at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to start to atone for having benefitted from Scottish slave traders in the Caribbean. All Souls College at England’s Oxford University also announced an annual scholarship for Caribbean students as part of this restitution.

In the African context, prominent Nigerian historian, Ade Ajayi, called for four key measures to achieve reparations: domestic education and mobilisation in African societies; documentation and research on the costs of slavery and colonialism; making a cogent case for reparations; and agreeing on the strategy, manner, and mode of reparations, having placed the issue on the agenda of the United Nations (UN). These are the issues with which this lecture engaged. The lecture was attended by 70 guests.

Video Link: https://fb.watch/61yj6ko0Ru/

Moderator: Dr. Chikezie Uzuegbunam, Postdoctoral Research fellow at the Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Lecturer: Professor Adekeye Adebajo, Director at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, (IPATC), University of Johannesburg.

Event Type


Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA)


26 May 2021


Professor Adekeye Adebajo


16:00 – 17:00