Henry who you say? His name may have slipped through the annals of history but Henry Sylvestre/Sylvester* Williams was a man whose work back in the day is still echoing over a hundred years after his death. Hence his life and work merit the number two spot in this series of Five Great, British and Black Moments which is movingblack’s contribution to black history season.
Well, that and it’s in chronological order (number one is here)
The Short Version:
1) Henry Sylvester Williams coined the term ‘Pan-African’.
2) When considering the biographies of Sylvestre Williams, WEB DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Edward Wilmott Blyden, a group of final-year students at l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane voted him the Father of Pan-Africanism last year, so it’s official.
3) He organised the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900, sowing seeds which would yield extraordinary fruit half a century later, long after he’d been forgotten. Assembled to organise for an end to colonial exploitation and racism, and for self-determination, their warm, formal reception by the British establishment – including a tea with prominent MPs on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament – is basically unthinkable to those agitating for such things today. The conference was attended by eminent black activists from all over the world, as well as a number of the British political bigwigs of the day – Liberal Party people, Fabian Society folk, the Cobden girls – who believed social justice was for everybody. Continue reading