Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Origins of Pan-Africanism

Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora, 1st Edition

By Marika Sherwood


354 pages

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Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora recounts the life story of the pioneering Henry Sylvester Williams, an unknown Trinidadian son of an immigrant carpenter in the late-19th and early 20th century. Williams, then a student in Britain, organized the African Association in 1897, and the first-ever Pan-African Conference in 1900. He is thus the progenitor of the OAU/AU. Some of those who attended went on to work in various pan-African organizations in their homelands.

He became not only a qualified barrister, but the first Black man admitted to the Bar in Cape Town, and one of the first two elected Black borough councilors in London. These are remarkable achievements for anyone, especially for a Black man of working-class origins in an era of gross racial discrimination and social class hierarchies. Williams died in 1911, soon after his return to his homeland, Trinidad.

Through original research, Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and the African Diaspora is set in the social context of the times, providing insight not only into a remarkable man who has been heretofore virtually written out of history, but also into the African Diaspora in the UK a century ago.


'This book is a great improvement on the previous biographies of Williams, being a fuller and more thoroughly researched piece of work, and will no doubt stand for many years as a definitive work.' David Killingray, Goldsmiths and ICS, London

'In Origins of Pan-Africanism, Marika Sherwood has provided the most complete inventory to date of Williams’s life. Her meticulously researched book enables us to look again at Williams’s life, and to situate it within the wider contexts of imperial politics and pan-Africanism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.' Caribbean Review of Books

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. From Childhood to Teaching 2. Somewhere in North America 1891 – 1896 3. The First Years in London, 1896 – 1899 4. The African Association 5. Preparations for the Pan-African Conference 6. The Pan-African Conference, July 1900 7. The Pan-African Association August 1900 – February 1901 8. Spreading the Word 9. London, September 1901 – September 1903 10. Struggles in South Africa 1903 – 1904 11. Back in London, 1905 – 1908 12. Williams the Elected Politician 1906 – 1908 13. Working for Africans and West Indians 14. Involved with Liberia, 1907 – 1908 15. Returning Home

About the Author

Marika Sherwood is Hungarian-born, and has researched and published on various aspects of Black British history, especially on Black political activists and on education issues. In 1992 Marika and her colleagues founded the Black & Asian Studies Association, to encourage research and disseminate information on this history. She edited BASA’s Newsletter until2007 and chaired BASA until c.2005.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Modern British History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Africa / General
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
HISTORY / Social History