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The Padmore Network: The Man Behind the Scenes of Pan-Africanism

Ahmed Ayed

photograph of leslie james

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The Padmore Network: The Man Behind the Scenes of Pan-Africanism

About Dr. Leslie James and this TKS episode:

Dr. Leslie James is a Senior Lecturer in Global History at Queen Mary University of London. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, we discuss imperial history, anti-imperialism, the Cold War, and the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. We focus particularly on the life and activism of George Padmore, where Dr. Leslie James discusses her work that questions why he still receives little attention in comparison to other revolutionaries.

 

A brief synopsis:

Dr. Leslie James begins by explaining where her interests stemmed from, tracing this back to reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in high school. From here she talks about how she began studying revolution histories. During her studies she discovered George Padmore, a leading pan-Africanist who developed an anti-colonial network worldwide, uniting struggles across the Caribbean, Africa, and India.

Leslie and Hussain go on to discuss his life, work, and activism. She explains that Padmore was born in Trinidad, and moved to the US, where he joined the Communist Party. She talks about his time in London, where he spent 20 years of his life. Among many other achievements, he became a major nexus for anti-colonial resistance in London. He was one of the foremost political thinkers behind the pan-African movement. Leslie explores why, despite all this and more, he still receives such little attention:

George Padmore doesn't get enough recognition as he was much more interested in the background organising work. That is why I think he doesn't get the attention other anti-colonial organisers have received. We need to acknowledge this as a starting point to recognise that his intellectual work was organising and delivering the necessary tools to fight the colonial system.

Dr. Leslie James

 

Leslie expands on the model of pan-Africanism George Padmore promoted, and how this brought people together and organised them. She explains how he worked to attack the moral basis of late colonial rule. She draws this out further by highlighting the disputes and tensions between Padmore and Marcus Garvey on the subject of pan-Africanism. Leslie discusses these topics through her research, and notably her book George Padmore and Decolonization from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire, 1939-1959 explaining how Padmore has shaped her career. 

I didn't start my work or career thinking that I would call myself an intellectual political historian. But recognising Padmore's intellectual work made me realise that what I wanted to do with my work was to acknowledge and expand intellectual histories.

Dr. Leslie James

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episode, we are given a rare insight into the life and role of George Padmore in anti-colonial activism and pan-Africanism. His merits played a significant role in the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean. It is clear that we need to acknowledge and recognise his work. This way, we broaden our views and understandings on the history of colonialism to fully understand how it impacts the present day, ways to organise against it, and the ways this knowledge can be used to identify and combat neo-colonialism.

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