Greensboro, North Carolina was an unlikely meeting place for anti-colonial and Pan-Africanist activists in the 1970s. Unlike much larger East Coast cities like New York and Washington, Greensboro was not a significant site of contemporary African immigration, nor was it the home of major international institutions like the United Nations or African embassies.
But two Greensboro-based organizations devoted to Black Power and Pan-Africanism drew black activists from all over the country to central North Carolina. The Durham-based activist Howard Fuller (later Owusu Sadukai) opened Malcolm X Liberation University with black students who had left Duke University in the fall of 1969. At the end of the 1969-70 academic year, MXLU’s students and faculty moved from Durham to Greensboro to offer classes to a small but growing number of devoted Pan-Africanist college students.
One of the main reasons MXLU’s staff made the move was to strengthen their coalition with Black Power activists involved in the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP). Nelson Johnson, a young black veteran and student of North Carolina A&T, had helped to launch GAPP, but in the early 1970s he founded a new group in Greensboro, the Student Organization for Black Unity. SOBU was a national network of African American students who agitated for black power in their own communities and campuses, while also organizing financial and logistical support for newly independent nations and anti-colonial campaigns in Africa.
In 1971, the organization launched the SOBU Newsletter, which it soon renamed The African World. Over its four-year run, The African World offered a fascinating mix of local reporting on black activism in North Carolina, stories on campaigns for Black Power throughout the U.S., and extensive coverage of anti-colonial struggles in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, and Zimbabwe. The newspaper became an important organ for the African Liberation Support Committee, which organized the first African Liberation Day in the U.S. in 1972 in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco that drew an estimated 50,000 demonstrators.
Media and the Movement has interviewed several activists who worked withThe African World and other pan-Africanist media in 1970s Greensboro, so stay tuned for more posts on this topic.