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The Encyclopedia Africana & Pan-Africanism
This webpage contains links to sources related to W.E.B. Du Bois's Encyclopedia Africana as well as his works and activism relevant to Pan-Africanism.

W.E.B. Du Bois had long advocated and pursued an encyclopedia project. In his 1968 Autobiography he wrote:
I had planned an "Encyclopedia Africana" in 1909 but my leaving Atlanta for New York postponed this project and the World War prevented its renewal. In 1934 I was chosen to act as editor-in-chief of a new project of the Phelps-Stokes Fund to prepare and publish an Encyclopedia of the Negro. I spent nearly ten years of intermittent effort on this project and secured cooperation from many scholars, white and black, in America, Europe and Africa. But the necessary funds could not be secured. Perhaps again it was too soon to expect large aid for so ambitious a project directed by Negroes and built mainly on Negro scholar­ship. Nevertheless, a preliminary volume sum­marizing this effort was published in 1945. (p.302)
In 1961 Du Bois accepted President Nkrumah's invitation to move to Ghana and work on the Encyclopedia Africana project. The project was underway, but far from being completed by the time of Du Bois's death in 1963.

As mentioned in the above quotation, Du Bois hoped to create the Encyclopedia of the Negro. He sought funding from various philanthropic sources, including the Carnegie Corporation. He also encountered problems. Fredrick Keppel, the Carnegie Corporation president, came to support the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal as the lead researcher for a project on U.S. race relations and problems, not Du Bois. Shari Cohen described the decision reached by the Carnegie Corporation:
In opting to look for a foreigner to do the study, Keppel consciously overlooked another project that was being considered for funding at the time—the Encyclopedia of the Negro. The ambitious project, with W.E.B. DuBois as editor, was to be supervised by a board of leading black and white scholars and reformers. DuBois had hoped to use the project to "reformulate the problem of the century" (Lewis, W.E.B. DuBois [2000], p. 446). It did not however, meet Keppel's criteria of objectivity given DuBois' two decades of civil rights advocacy in the NAACP. Carnegie Corporation staff involved in the encyclopedia were also concerned about discord among the black and white collaborators.
Citation: Shari Cohen. "The Lasting Legacy of An American Dilemma." Carnegie Results [Carnegie Corporation of New York], Fall 2004, at p.9. [Download page].
Gunnar Myrdal was chosen by the Carnegie Corporation to receive its funding to conduct research on U.S. race relations. The resulting project produced Myrdal's An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944) [accessible online at].

Du Bois did publish a preliminary work entitled the Encyclopedia of the Negro, Preparatory Volume with Reference Lists and Reports (NY: Phelps-Stokes Fund, 1946), co-editing it with Guy B. Johnson (1901-1991).

This web page on the Encyclopedia Africana and Du Bois's Pan-Africanism is divided into the following sections:
  * Primary sources by Du Bois related to the Encyclopedia.
  * Secondary sources by other scholars.
  * The influence of Du Bois's encyclopedia idea on others.
  * Pan-Africanism resources: primary and secondary.

Note that the spelling "Encyclopaedia Africana" is also a possible spelling.
Robert W. Williams, Ph.D.  [Bio]  

LATEST LINK (As of 16 January 2016)
A Secondary Source on Du Bois' Pan-Africanism
Posted below is an external link to Adam Gearey's "W.E.B. Du Bois' Ambiguous Politics of Liberation: Race, Marxism and Pan Africanism" that was published in the Columbia Journal of Race and Law (2012).

Du Bois wrote and received much correspondence on the "Encyclopedia Africana" project and its predecessor, "The Encyclopedia of the Negro." Relevant items can be located via the Credo online repository of the Du Bois Collection of primary and secondary materials, which is archived at the University of Massachusetts Amherst library. Searching on Credo for either of those two terms results in numerous hits: "Encyclopedia of the Negro" and "Encyclopedia Africana."
    It is important to note that only a portion of the Du Bois collection is available online — although the amount has increased over time — and that only the metadata description can be searched (not the items themselves). More information is available at my intra-site About page.
Credo (Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst)
"A Statement Concerning the Encyclopaedia Africana Project." As Director of the Secretariat for the project, DuBois issued this statement on 1 April 1962 in Accra, Ghana.
Encyclopaedia Africana Project (Accra, Ghana)
Another source for this document at H-Nets' h-afrlitcine Discussion board
"Opening Address: A Proposed Conference on the Encyclopedia Africana." Du Bois made this address on 18 December 1962 in Accra, Ghana.
Encyclopaedia Africana Project (Accra, Ghana)

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah made a speech at the First Annual Meeting of the Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia Africana Project on 24 September 1964 at the University of Ghana. In the speech he praised Du Bois's efforts on the project:
 It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to inaugurate this first meeting of the Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia Africana Project . The presence on this Board here today of representatives from all parts of the Continent of Africa is yet another token of the African cultural renaissance which is manifesting itself side by side with the political resurgence of the African Continent.
 I must also confess, distinguished guests, that today I feel a great sense of relief and joy to think that at long last a first significant step has been taken towards the positive realisation and consummation of a long cherished dream. Years ago, I felt that Africa needs to buttress her unimpeachable claim to political independence with parallel efforts to expose to the world the bases of her rich culture and civilisation through the medium of a scholarly Encyclopaedia. I therefore invited W.E.B. Du Bois of blessed memory to come to Ghana to help us establish the framework for this great natural heritage.
 Dr. Du Bois was happy to come to Ghana in the very evening of his life to embark upon this task; he took Ghanaian citizenship, and immediately plunged headlong into the stupendous work of setting out the general aims of this project and securing the interest and support of eminent scholars throughout Africa for its realisation. To him this was an exciting States to produce such an Encyclopaedia. It is perhaps not without significance that Du Bois should have had to wait until the very sunset of his life to find and receive encouragement and support for this project, not in the abundance of the United States, but rather in an Africa liberated from the cramping and oppressive conditions of colonial rule.
Available at the Encyclopaedia Africana Project's Editorial Board Archive
"W.E.B. Du Bois and the Encyclopedia Africana" by Clarence G. Contee was published in the The Crisis, 77: 9 (November 1970 ): 375-379.
    This article is substantially the same as—and indeed, in many places it is a verbatim rendition of—Contee's similarly named "The Encyclopedia Africana Project of W.E.B. Du Bois" (see below). The Crisis article does not include the same concluding paragraph as the later essay.
Start page of the article at Google Books
"The Encyclopedia Africana Project of W.E.B. Du Bois" by Clarence G. Contee was published in the African Historical Studies (1971).
    Contee detailed the goals and difficulties faced by Du Bois over the decades in attempting to organize and create an Encyclopedia Africana. In addition to Du Bois's efforts, Contee discussed other projects of the era, such as Daniel Murray's never completed Historical and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Colored Race throughout the World and Carter G. Woodson's rival encyclo­pedia. Contee speculated about three possible sources of influence on Du Bois's conception of the Encyclopedia Africana:
 One possible source, more a model than an important impetus, was the Jewish Encyclopedia, first published in 1901. Du Bois, like many other Blacks, often compared the Black struggle for liberation with the Jewish experience.  [ . . . .]
    A second source of greater significance was obviously his own work. From 1898 to 1916 Du Bois directed the Atlanta University Studies, which were also edited in his name.  [. . . .]  Most of these studies contained historical and social references to the African background of Blacks, and Du Bois demonstrated his Pan-African sentiments in them.  [. . . .]
    The third, the most important, the most enduring, and the earliest source for the Encyclopedia Africana was he Black cultural nationalism of the Du Bois of that era.  (p.78)  [Contee cited here "The Conservation of Races" and The Souls of Black Folk.]
 [Citation: Contee, Clarence G. 1971. "The Encyclopedia Africana Project of W.E.B. Du Bois." African Historical Studies, 4:1; pp.77-91.]
"A Brief History - Encyclopaedia Africana: Dictionary of African Biography®™" by Raymond A. Winbush.
Herbert Aptheker in his "Notes on Du Bois's Final Years" (Souls, 2:4; Fall 2000; pp.76-79) related several personal vignettes about Du Bois's plans for traveling to Ghana. Aptherker indicated that Du Bois's decision to leave the U.S.A. was not based on despair, but rather on Ghanaian President Nkrumah's invitation to come to Ghana to work on the Encyclopedia Africana. Aptheker also mentioned some details of Du Bois's trial in 1951 for being a member and a participant in the activities of what the U.S. government had deemed a Communist front organization, the Peace Information Center.
Available at Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society (Fall 2000 TOC)
"WEB Du Bois, Encyclopedia Africana and Nelson Mandela", written by Henry Louis Gates Jr., is an essay within The Meaning of Mandela: A Literary and Intellectual Celebration, edited by Xolela Mangcu (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2004).
    Gates discusses Du Bois' long-term goal of an Encyclopedia project and relates it to Gates' Africana Encyclopedia project; along the way Gates details various aspects of their respective lives and endeavors. In the last sentence of the essay Gates mentions Mandela by name. Gates writes that his Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience is "dedicated to the memory of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, and in honour of Nelson Mandela." The essays by Cornel West and Wole Soyinka, also included in this anthology, discuss Mandela more directly and extensively.
At the HSRC Press  [Download page for the entire anthology]
[PDF: ~104 KB]

"Introduction" to the First Edition of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, edited by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (First Edition: NY: Basic Civitas Books, 1999. Second edition -- Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.) In this introduction, the editors detail Du Bois' abiding wish to research, compile, and publish a compendium of knowledge that "would, at least symbolically, unite the fragmented world of the African diaspora". The editors add:
 The publication of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience as a one-volume print edition aspires to belong in the grand tradition of encyclopedia editing by scholars interested in the black world on both sides of the Atlantic. It also relies upon the work of thousands of scholars who have sought to gather and to analyze, according to the highest scholarly standards, the lives and the worlds of black people everywhere. We acknowledge our indebtedness to these traditions of scholarly endeavor -- more than a century old -- to which we are heirs, by dedicating our encyclopedia to the monumental contribution of W. E. B. Du Bois.
At the Oxford African American Studies Center  [home page]
[The New York Times provides an online copy (free registration required).]
[Another copy -- one which is accessible at]
Encarta Africana. Encarta Africana is an encyclopedia project, prompted by Du Bois's Encyclopaedia, which was edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Kwame Anthony Appiah. Below are various links to different aspects of the Encarta Africana as they relate to Du Bois' project.
    Please note that the Encarta Africana, as discussed herein, is actually available as Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience [web site].
"Black to the Future: The Politics and Production of Gates and Appiah's Encyclopedia Africana" is a 2013 M.A. Thesis written by Natalie A. Bruford (Georgetown University). She covers the origins of the encyclopedia edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Kwame A. Appiah with a discussion of the historical context of Du Bois's Encyclopedia Africana project. She then details the steps that led to the creation of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience and Encarta Africana. Bruford also examines the controversies over Gates and Appiah's encyclopedia from the perspective of the current Encyclopedia Africana project that is housed in Ghana. In addition, transcripts of her interviews with Gates and Appiah are included. The thesis is both viewable at, and downloadable from, the Georgetown University Institutional Repository (~6.7 MB PDF).
"The making of Henry Louis Gates, CEO" by Craig Offman. Posted on, 16 June 1999
"Africana, and Encarta Africana" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in Black Collegian, v.30,n.1 (October 1999).  [start page]
"W.E.B. Du Bois and the Encyclopedia Africana." A speech by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. delivered at Calvin College in January 2002. [This is a link to an audio file in RealAudio format, which requires the free RealPlayer program.]
"The Making of Encarta Africana and the Digital Divide." A transcript of a speech by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at Harvard Graduate School of Education, 9 April 2001
"Encarta Africana: W.E.B. Du Bois to John Coltrane." Henry Louis Gates, Jr. delivered this speech at the Berklee College of Music (Boston) on 13 February 2003. The speech is available in audio and video formats.
* The announcement for Gates' speech
* Gates' speech in a Berklee News story by Sarah Murphy (posted 8 April 2003): "The Good Book: Henry Louis Gates, Jr, and Encarta Africana"

There are numerous materials related to Du Bois's Pan-Africanism in the Credo online repository of the Du Bois Collection of primary and secondary sources. As stated above, this repository is located at the University of Massachusetts Amherst library. Searching in Credo using either of these two terms yields similar search results: "Pan-Africanism" and "Pan-African".
    In the upper-left corner of the search-results page there are categories by which one can filter the results so as to narrow the scope of the inquiry. For example, one can filter by Du Bois himself, by "Pan-African Congress", and by the NAACP.
    I must note that only the metadata description can be searched; the content of items themselves is not searchable. More information on the Credo repository is available on the internal About page.
Credo (Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Jonathan Fenderson published "Evolving Conceptions of Pan-African Scholarship: W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson and the 'Encyclopedia Africana,' 1909-1963" in The Journal of African American History, 95:1 (Winter 2010): 71-91. Fenderson writes:
 This essay provides a new interpretation of the history surrounding the efforts of both W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson to produce encyclopedias on the experiences of people of African descent.[Note removed] It focuses on portions of the story that either have been misconstrued or, in some cases overlooked within the existing scholarship. By highlighting the manner in which the encyclopedia 'grew and changed' for Du Bois and Woodson, this essay explores how both scholars initiated work on separate projects at different times. yet were unable to combine their efforts. (p.72)
Viewable online via Dr. Fenderson's page on
"W.E.B. Du Bois' Ambiguous Politics of Liberation: Race, Marxism and Pan Africanism", written by Adam Gearey (faculty page) and published in the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, 1:3 (2012) at pp. 265-272. In the Abstract we read:
 W. E. B. Du Bois summons the restless and provocative spirit of a Pan Africanism that, despite its association with the collapse of Kwamah Nkumah's Ghanaian revolution, has not failed as an idea. Commentators have realised, to some extent, the ambiguities of Du Bois' Pan Africanism. However, they have not shown how Du Bois' deployment of the concept opens up a more radical political thinking. This Essay will trace the various twists and turns of Du Bois' Pan Africanism as narrated in the text Dusk of Dawn. Pan Africanism demands a social, economic, and political revolution that goes beyond the civil liberties struggle and its focus on constitutional recognition. In leaving America for Ghana, Du Bois committed himself to a very specific understanding of the African revolution. Using the ideas of Etienne Balibar and Jacques Rancière, this Essay will argue that Du Bois' Pan Africanism evoked energies of revolution that point at an unfinished, rather than failed, radical project.
Available at the Columbia Journal of Race and Law (journal site)
[Alternate location at the Academic Commons for Columbia University]
H.G. Pardy completed a Master's Thesis in Political Science entitled W.E.B. Du Bois and Pan-Africanism: His Place in its Early Development at McMaster University in 1967. In Chapter 1 the author writes:
The scope of this study is to examine the role played by W.E.B. Du Bois in the development of the Pan-African idea. Du Bois' direct influence was felt most prior to 1945 and to a great extent it was his leadership that provided the loose organizational structure that persisted through a series of Congresses. More importantly, however, it was Du Bois who provided the ideas that gave to Pan-Africanism a distinct ideology that to a large degree has persisted to the present. (p.2)
[ . . . . ]
The study is divided into three chapters. The first deals with those aspects of Du Bois' life that provided the impetus for him in seeking solutions to America's racial problems on a world-wide basis with particular emphasis on Africa. This chapter also discusses the attachment that Du Bois felt for things African and his strong sense of racial kinship with the African people. The second chapter discusses those ideas of Du Bois that became the nucleus of the Pan-African ideology. The third chapter examines the series of Pan-African Congresses that Du Bois was instrumental in summoning. (p.3)
Accessible online as a PDF file at McMaster University's Digital Commons
"Pan-Africanism as a Resource: The W. E. B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture in Ghana" was published by Katharina Schramm [faculty page] in African Identities, 2:2 (2004): 151-171. Schramm conducted field research in Ghana and examined the varied, sometimes conflictory, meanings of Pan-Africanism as they arose from the politics revolving around the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre housed in Accra. In the Abstract we read:
 This article deals with the recent homecoming of African Americans to Ghana and the resulting heritage politics, as it unfolds between the Ghanaian state on the one hand and Diasporan visitors and repatriates on the other. Through the concrete encounter with the ‘motherland’, homecoming ceases to be an imaginary construction, but is rather turned into a contested practice. Whereas the notion of a united ‘African family’ is rhetorically shared by the different protagonists of homecoming, it is nevertheless filled with various meanings that often contradict each other. Through the example of the W. E. B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture, a place where the complex network of relations underlying homecoming materializes, the author analyzes this practice in the theoretical framework of a strategic use of essentialisms.
Viewable online at Dr. Schramm's page on

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Robert Williams