- Guest Editor Introduction
The idea for a special issue of Women, Gender, and Families of Color emerged out of a series of conversations we had as guest editors about the need for more scholarship on Pan-Africanism that not only centers women’s roles but also examines how gender informs Pan-Africanist movements and discourses of the twentieth century. Despite the proliferation of feminist scholarship over the last several decades, scholarly narratives on Pan-Africanist thought and practice tend to emphasize the contributions of men or overlook the significant relationship between gender and Pan-Africanism. Moreover, black women’s intellectual and political work remains undertheorized and underrepresented in studies on Pan-Africanism and black internationalism more broadly (for example, Walters 1993; Adi and Sherwood 2003; Edwards 2003; West et al. 2009; Falola and Essein 2014).
This special issue, which reflects our own research agenda, is part of an ongoing scholarly effort to capture the gendered contours of Pan-Africanism and to centralize black women as key figures in shaping, refining, and redefining Pan-Africanist thought and praxis during the twentieth century (Taylor 2002; Leeds 2013; Blain 2015). In so doing, the issue builds on a body of scholarship that grapples with the politics of gender in Pan-Africanist movements, centers black women’s ideas, and challenges us to reconceptualize the role of women in global black social movements (for example, Bay et al. 2014; Davies 1994, 2007; Gore et al. 2009; McDuffie 2011; McKittrick 2014; White 1990).
In the pages that follow, we define the highly contested ideology of Pan-Africanism as the belief that peoples of African descent throughout the [End Page 139] continent and in the diaspora share a common past and destiny. This shared understanding of the past and future informs how people of African descent mobilize against racial discrimination, colonialism, and economic, political, social, and cultural oppression (Adi and Shewood 2003; Esedebe 1994; Martin 2012). An insurgent political response to global white supremacy, Pan-Africanism has taken on different forms and manifestations at various historical moments (Adi and Sherwood 2003; Lemelle and Kelley 1994). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, expressions of Pan-Africanism could be found in various religious and social movements including, but not limited to, emigrationist efforts in the United States and the rise of Ethiopianism in South Africa (Moses 1978; Shepperson 1953; Vinson 2012). The 1893 Chicago Conference on Africa, which drew several black religious leaders including Henry McNeal Turner and Alexander Crummell, captured the spirit of Pan-Africanism that would serve as a driving force in later movements. At the dawn of the twentieth century, W. E. B. Du Bois, often referred to as the “father of Pan-Africanism,” attended the first Pan-African Convention (1900) in London, organized by Trinidadian Henry Sylvester Williams. From 1919 to 1945, Du Bois played a fundamental role in organizing a series of Pan-African congresses to call for an end to colonialism and white imperial control. The Fifth Pan-African Congress (1945) in Manchester, arguably the most significant of these gatherings, brought together a diverse group of anticolonial activists from various parts of the African Diaspora. Pan-Africanist feminists Amy Ashwood and Amy Jacques Garvey helped organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress with Du Bois, George Padmore, and others, and Ashwood and fellow Jamaican activist Alma La Badie participated in the sessions (Geiss 1974; Taylor 2002).
While the 1945 Pan-African Congress and the ones that preceded it are central to understanding the history of Pan-Africanism, this special issue moves beyond this pivotal event to capture the range and complexities of black women’s contributions to Pan-Africanism during the twentieth century. Utilizing interdisciplinary research methodologies and drawing upon various theoretical frameworks from multiple disciplines within the social sciences and the humanities, the essays in this special issue highlight the myriad ways African American, Afro-Caribbean, and other women of African descent shaped and were shaped by Pan-Africanist movements and discourses. Significantly, the essays employ an intersectional analysis—probing the intersecting dimensions such as race, gender, sexuality, and class; integrating the voices of individuals who have been historically excluded; and...