The delegates to the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in peace. How could it be otherwise when for centuries the African peoples have been victims of violence and slavery. Yet if the Western world is still determined to rule mankind by force, then Africans, as a last resort, may have to appeal to force in the effort to achieve Freedom, even if force destroys them and the world.
- George Padmore, The Challenge to the Colonial Powers, 1947
The Fifth Pan-African Congress took place in Manchester in October 1945, five months after the end of the Second World War. The Congress demanded that European powers liberate hundreds of millions of Africans living under colonial rule, and passed radical measures condemning imperialism, racial discrimination and capitalism.
The fifth was the most influential of the seven Pan-African Congresses. It brought together key activists who would go on to shape liberation struggles, including Jomo Kenyatta, the first leader of Kenya after independence, and Kwame Nkrumah, who later led anti-colonial resistance in Ghana. Leading American civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois travelled from the USA to attend.
Although the British press scarcely covered the meeting, extraordinarily Picture Post sent celebrated Soho photographer John Deakin (1912-1972) to document the event, his only assignment for the magazine in his entire career. This exhibition is the first time these rarely seen photographs have been shown together as a body of work.
The exhibition features over thirty photographs by John Deakin, a selection of rare ephemera and materials associated with the Congress, as well as one of the last formal portraits of the pioneering Afro-Trinidadian writer and historian C.L.R. James, photographed in Brixton by Steve Pyke shortly before his death in 1989.
A Pan-African Film Installation will accompany the exhibition, screening a programme of films exploring Pan-African history and ideals guest curated by June Givanni. Screenings will include The First World Festival of Negro Arts (1966, dir. William Greaves), W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (1996, dir. Louis Massiah), and Aimee Cesaire: A Voice for History (1994, dir. Euzhan Palcy). Two films from The CLR James Lectures will also be shown: The Caribbean and Africa' (both1983, dir. H.O. Nazareth).
The Fifth Pan-African Congress is curated by Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP.
Black Chronicles III: The Fifth Pan-African Congress represents the third exhibition in Autograph ABP’s Black Chronicles series dedicated to excavating archives to research black photographic history and reveal ‘missing chapters’.
Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. The Fifth Pan-African Congress is produced in collaboration with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images, who own the Picture Post archive. Supported by the Working Class Movement Library and Penumbra Productions Ltd.
About Autograph ABP:
Established in 1988 with the mission of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices, Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights.
Image: John Deakin, Jomo Kenyatta, 1945. Courtesy Getty Images. © John Deakin/Picture Post/Getty Images