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The Unofficial Secretary of State : Claude Barnett and Pan-African Internationalism during the Cold War, 1947-1957

Title data

Edeagu, Ngozi:
The Unofficial Secretary of State : Claude Barnett and Pan-African Internationalism during the Cold War, 1947-1957.
Event: Cold War Disconnections and the Transformation of Internationalisms , June 8-10, 2022 , LMU Munich.
(Conference item: Workshop , Paper )

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Project information

Project title:
Project's official title
Project's id
Writing Back to Empire: Newspaper, Non-Elites and Decolonisation in the Global Public Sphere 1937-1957
No information

Project financing: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst

Abstract in another language

As the United States began to see Africa's importance during the Cold War, African Americans played a leading role in the new relationship between Africa and the United States. As “cousins” and “brethren” of those in Africa, “they frequently crafted a discourse positing themselves as suitable consultants and advisers on African issues.” Claude Barnett, founder and Director of the Associated Negro Press (ANP), while understated in discussions of Pan-African Internationalism during the Cold War, stands out as a formidable Pan-African news broker during the height of the Cold War. With over 40 years experience running the ANP, Barnett was conversant with the various ideological movements and political activities in several parts of Africa. Through his news subscription service, which collated news from multiple sources and supplied same in the form of bi- (and later tri-) weekly news releases and features to predominantly African and African American newspapers, he became arguably one of “the leading Pan-Africanists of the twentieth century.” From 1919, the ANP began providing “sketchy but substantial” coverage of Africa to the attention of America’s black reading public, long before it became fashionable to do so. These releases, in particular, criticised European colonialism and drew palpable parallels between the plight of domestic and colonial victims of oppression. This paper traces the neglected role of Barnett as ‘unofficial secretary of state’ within the interstices of the Pan African leadership transfer to Africa in 1945 with the Manchester Pan-African Congress and the “golden age of Pan-Africanism” (1950s-60s). Barnett’s 1947 historic visit to West Africa included Nigeria, which he confessed “was probably more in the minds of the Americans than any other colonies.” Among other aims, he sought the extent to which African leaders were employing communist ideology in their fight against imperialism. Barnett’s projection of himself as an African expert undermined one of his stated goals—amplifying the voices of non-elite colonial Nigerians “fighting effectively for their rights—at a time when Cold War rivalries, decolonization and competing efforts to bring about ‘development’” became entangled.

Further data

Item Type: Conference item (Paper)
Refereed: No
Additional notes: Workshop attendance sponsored by the Käte Hamburger Research Centre
Keywords: newspaper; African American; USA; Cold War; Nigeria; decolonisation
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Professor History of Africa > Professor History of Africa - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Joël Glasman
Graduate Schools > BIGSAS
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies
Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Professor History of Africa
Graduate Schools
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 900 History and geography > 900 History
900 History and geography > 960 History of Africa
900 History and geography > 970 History of North America
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2022 10:00
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 10:00