Liberation Archives: Shirley Graham Du Bois- The Mistake of the First African Summit Conference

The Mistake of the First African Summit Conference – Shirley Graham DuBois

This is an excerpt from a speech given by the great Shirley Graham DuBois at UCLA on November 13, 1970, almost a decade after the African Summit Conference in Ethiopia where Pan-Africanists from all over the world came together to sign the Charter of African Unity. You can listen to the section below here, or the entire speech here

Now 10 years ago, darker peoples everywhere and their friends were rejoicing because of the liberation of Africa. The United Nations declared 1960, the year of Africa because so many independent African states joined that body that year. And joyous independence celebrations were held throughout Africa. Then in May 1963 at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia came the first great African Summit Conference.

I was there. It was a magnificent pageantry of color and eloquence and passionate speeches. We hailed the Organization of African Unity. The Charter of African Unity was signed there and we wrote about it, how wonderful it was. I was one of the many people who wrote about how wonderful this was.

I know now that much that happened at that summit conference was really very foolish and very naive. Why do I say that? For, how sensible was it to stand up and proclaim our intentions to the world of imperialists, colonialists, neocolonialists, plunderers, and thieves, when we did not have the power to rebuild Africa in our modern world?

We boasted at that conference of an independent united Africa. A strong bountiful Africa. We told of the marvelous resources of this continent; of how we were going to take them and use them for the development of our own people. How we were going to be able to invite the children of Africa, wherever they were, to come back and share in the riches of this very, very rich continent. Beautiful continent. We got up there and told all of our plans. 

And before the ink on that charter was dry, the enemies of Africa had united to bring us down. And in a short time wave after wave of coup d’etat swept across the continent, and country after country fell under the man’s hammer. Imperialists, neo-colonialists, call them what you will, whether they come from west or east, or north or south, they are the same greedy exploiters.

Had my generation learned so much that we thought would liberate Africa by cooperating with the age old exploiters of that continent? They who had grown fat and slink and prosperous had no, never will have, and have not now, any intention of retreating in that predominantly cold gray vastness of their northwestern zones. 

They love our African sunshine. Beautiful broad rivers. Bright gold. Our sparkling diamonds. Our copper. Magnesium. Bauxite and oil. They do not love Africans or the children of Africa wherever they are.

More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth