But there were already men in West Africa
who had blazed a significant trail in this direction: Edward Wilmot Blyden,
Joseph Casely Hayford and John Mensah Sarbah. Many other Africans in
preceding generations helped to lay the basis of our present efforts to
project a new African image of Africa. One thinks of such figures as James
Africanus B. Horton and his "A vindication of the African
Race." (1868) and of Carl Reindorf, Attoh Ahumah,
Anthony William Amu, Samuel Johnson of Oyo, Blaise Diagne, Herbert Macaulay
and others in West Africa, of Duse Mohammed Effendi of the Sudan, Lewanika
of Barotseland, Apolo Kagwa of Buganda, and leaders such as John Tengo
Jabavu, Solomon T. Plaatje, and Clements Kedalie in South Africa. And let us
not forget the important contributions of others in the New World, for
example, the sons of Africa in Haiti, such as Antenor Firmin and Dr. Jean
Price-Mars, and others in the United States such as Alexander Crummell,
Carter G. Woodson and our own Dr. Du Bois.
All of those whose names I have mentioned believed in and urged the
necessity of writing about Africa from the point of view of African interests and African
assumptions and concepts - and not from the point of view of Europeans or others who have
quite different interests, assumptions and concepts, whether conscious or unconscious.
This is precisely what we mean when we say that the Encyclopaedia Africana
must be frankly Afro-centric in its interpretation of African history and of
the social and cultural institutions of the African and people of African
It is to be hoped,
therefore, that the work on the Encyclopaedia Africana
may provide both the forum and the motivation for the development of a
virile and salutary new trend in the writing of African history, writing
which will rank in scholarship with any other historiography, but which will
also be based upon a frame of reference that is independently African, and
will lead the way in independent thinking about Africa and its problems.
I am anxious that I should not be
misunderstood in my emphasis on an Afro-centric point of view for the Encyclopaedia Africana
. There are some who will say that his implies simply
reversing the faults and distortions of the colonialist minded writers on
Africa, painting everything white that they pictured as black, and
everything black that they pictured as white.
should like to assure our guests, the members of the Editorial Board,
that that is in no sense my conception of what the Encyclopaedia
Africana should be. Most certainly it must and will set the
record straight on many points of African history and culture. But it
will do this not simply on the basis of assertion backed by nothing more than emotion, but rather on the foundation
of first-class scholarship linked with the passion for scientific truth.
I will not romanticize or
idealize the African past, I will not gloss over African failings weaknesses
and foibles, or endeavour to demonstrate that Africans are endowed with
either greater virtues or lessor vices than the rest of mankind. There is
undoubtedly considerable evidence of much that is noble and glorious in our
African past; there is no need to gild the Lily nor to try to hide that
which is ignoble. But here again it is a question of whose standards and
values you are applying in assessing something as noble or ignoble, and I
maintain that the Encyclopaedia Africana
must reject non-African value-judgments of things African.
It is true that despite the great advances made during the
last twenty years in the various disciplines of African studies, so much of Africa's
history has yet to be unearthed, scientifically analysed, and fully comprehended. This
sometimes gives rise to the question whether enough is yet known to undertake at this time
the compilation of an encyclopaedia of the sort envisaged. Those who entertain such
hesitation and doubt only expose the extent of their ignorance about Africa's great past.
Before the colonial era in Africa, Europeans had had
many encounters with Africans on the cross-roads of history. They had married into African
royal families, received Africans into their courts as ambassadors and social equals, and
their writers had depicted African characters as great heroes in their literature. In
common with the rest of mankind Africans made extensive use of cereals, they learned the
art of raising cattle, adapted metal tools and weapons to their own use, and, to quote
"undertook mining and smelting and forging
on a continental scale, borrowed crops from other lands, introduced soil conservation,
discovered the medicinal value of a host of herbs and plants, and worked out their own
explanations of mankind and the universe. All this had happened before the first ships set
forth from Europe."
Let me give another quotation
even at the risk of boring you, this time from Leo Frobenius again, a
well-known historian who made 17 expeditions into African, North, East, West
and South, in order to learn at first hand of the culture of the African
peoples. Frobenius makes a basic statement in his book African Civilisation,
which unfortunately has not yet been translated into English. Doubtless,
there is reason why no complete translation has yet been made. From a
limited translation made by Anna Malise Graves, I quote:
"When they, European navigators, arrived in the Gulf
of Guinea and landed at Ouidah in Dahomey, the captains were greatly astonished to find
streets well laid out, bordered on either side for several leagues with two rows of trees,
and men clad in richly coloured garments of their own weaving. Further south in the
kingdom of the Congo, a swarming crowd dressed in silk and velvet, great states well
ordered and down to the most minute details, powerful rulers, flourishing industries,
civilised to the manner of their bones.
And the condition of the countries on the eastern coast,
Mozambique, for instance, was quite the same. The revelations of the navigators from 15th
to the 17th century gave incontrovertible proofs that Africa stretching south from the
edge of the Sahara desert was still in full flower - the flower of harmonious and
well-ordered civilisations. And this fine flowering the European conquistadors or
conquerors annihilated as far as they penetrated into the country."
Indeed, the history of Africa
goes back into the dim recesses of time and antiquity. There are even
scientists in our time who are beginning to claim that Africa was the very
cradle of mankind. The fossil remains of man discovered by Dr. L.S.B. Leakey
in Tanganyika have been dated by scientific processes as one and
three-quarter million (1,750,000) years old. From the head waters of the
Nile in Tanganyika let us move swiftly to its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea
and the Isthmus of Suez where the great civilization of Egypt was fostered
for thousands of years down to the Christian era. There, as we all know, man
rose to the phenomenal heights of statecraft, science and religion and the
excellence of the arts. Evidence from language, religion, astronomy,
folklore and divine kinship, as well as geographical and physical proximity,
confirms the basic African origin of this Egyptian cultural eminence.
This great flowering of the mind in Africa was unfortunately
scorched by the ravages of the slave trade which encouraged extensive destruction through
tribal warfare. Close upon this set in the evil of colonisation and the deliberate effort,
to which I have already referred, of painting the African block and backward as a valid
justification for colonial rule. I have endeavoured to touch on some of these questions
only as a means of making a clear case for justifying our attempts to provide Africa with
an Encyclopaedia portraying vividly the glory of Africa's great past.
this is where the work should be done...
sponsored by Africans,
of the Secretariat
Africana Project (EAP),
Accra, Ghana, West
I should now like to say just a few words on the vital
question of how this great undertaking is to be carried through to completion. I must say
at the outset that a broad policy having been laid down, the precise plans for achieving
it must be left to the Editorial Board and its staff of competent experts. My purpose is
only to call attention to the underlying principle - the principle of Pan-African
co-operation - which I believe to be indispensable in any concrete plans of work on the
As you are aware, the
preparatory work on this project has been carried forward for a little more
than two years by a Secretariat here in Accra, functioning under the aegis
of the Ghana Academy of Sciences. This Secretariat
has not been content to work in isolation; it has been continually active in
establishing contacts with scholars and institutions throughout Africa and
abroad. A motion declaring "that all African countries should
contribute to the work of the Secretariat" was unanimously adopted at a
Conference on the Encyclopaedia Africana
attended by some 150 persons from Africa and elsewhere in December, 1962.
Soon thereafter, the Secretariat undertook the establishment of Co-operating
Committees of scholars in various African countries.
The Secretary of the Secretariat, Dr. W. A. Hunton, met with
several of these Committees during a tour which he made in East and North Africa some
months ago. Following this came the nominations by the Co-operating Committees of their
respective representatives to serve on the Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia. In this
way the basis, at least, of Pan-African co-operation in this work has been established.
The members of the Editorial
Board now have before them the Secretariat's detailed prospectus of what the
should contain and how the material should be presented. This is merely a
blueprint of what is to be constructed. The Editorial Board members are
asked to examine this blueprint with great care, proposing whatever
alterations they consider would result in a more perfect plan for the
Encyclopaedia. Once this has been agreed upon, the stage will have been set
for the play to begin - that is to say, for the work of preparing and
assembling the Encyclopaedia articles to commence. I sincerely trust that
the deliberations of the Editorial Board at this first meeting will
successfully hit that mark.
The progress of the work from that point only will
depend in the first instance, as I see it, on the degree of whole-hearted and effectively
organised support that can be procured from African scholars in all countries, from the
many institutes of African studies and research agencies of various kinds which are to be
found today throughout our continent, and from the various independent African governments
which are ready to provide the fullest measure of financial support for this work.
So far, the financial burden
has been borne by the Government of Ghana alone. As I have already stated, I
have no specific proposals to present with regard to these matters. But I am
convinced that the task is not insuperable. The fact that we have advanced
this far in accomplishing, almost single-handedly, the formation of a
Pan-African Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia Africana
augurs success in the further stages of the work. I trust this project will
be welcomed by all the African Heads of State, and will have the full
support of the Organisation of African Unity. We must now
think in terms of continental political unity in everything we do for
Africa. Without such cohesion and unity none of us can survive the intrigues
and divisive forces of the imperialists and neo-colonialists.
The work of this
will take us one further
step towards the great objective to which we are dedicated - a Continental
Union Government of Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of the Republic
of Ghana and as Chancellor of our Universities, I can assure the members of the Editorial
Board that work on this Encyclopaedia will have the fullest co-operation of our
Universities, learned societies and research institutions in Ghana, as well as the
financial support of the Government of Ghana.
scholars and members of the Editorial Board of theEncyclopaedia Africana , on behalf of the Government
and people of Ghana and on my own behalf, I extend a warm welcome to
you. May this your first meeting mark the auspicious beginning of your
work in a great undertaking for the benefit of mankind.
Return to: First Annual Meeting:
EAP Editorial Board - Part 1
First Prime Minister of Gold Coast
First Prime Minister of Ghana
| Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah
(c. September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972)
While imprisoned for demanding
self-government for the Gold Coast, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party
(C.P.P.) won the February 1951 election.
was then released from prison to become a Leader of Government Business.
SOURCE: Encyclopaedia Africana: Dictionary of African Biography®™ Volume 1: Ethiopia &