African Nationalism and Determination

International Reaction to African Decolonization

An announcement for the Trinity College Conference on African Affairs hosted by the Trinity College Encounter Club from March 1 to March 2, 1963. The club organized the conference as a response to a growing need to be more aware of social and economic problems in Africa. Two hundred and fifty students were invited to attend the conference and interact with the invited guests including UN ambassadors to African states, a member of the US State department and Canadian scholars. This image was taken on September 28, 2016 at the Trinity College Archive provided by Sylvia Lassam. The announcement sheet can be retrieved from the Trinity College Archives located in Trinity College at the University of Toronto, Box #107, Folder# 985-0075/001 (03).

The 1960s in Africa represented a collective era of self-realization, nationalism and independence.[1] This single announcement sheet created by the Trinity College Encounter Club triggered an awakening of international awareness to the African nationalist movements during my grandfathers’ era. On March 1 to March 2, 1963, the Trinity College Encounter Club hosted the first Trinity College Conference on African Affairs in Trinity College located on the University of Toronto campus. The main aim of the Encounter Club was to foster ‘encounters’ with other cultures by holding a forum for discussions on national and international issues.[2] Therefore, several United Nations ambassadors from African states, a member of the US State Department and Canadian academic scholars were invited to speak to 250 students and staff on African affairs such as education, politics, religion, social and law.[3] This two-day conference offered a multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral seminar format that allowed participants to explore the after effects of decolonization on African educational, political and social systems in the 1960s. It can be speculated that the conference may have been organized as an international response to the strong wave of nationalism that swept throughout Africa in the 1960s.[4]

The Rising Tide of African Nationalism

The Black Government (1960) was one of four recommended readings to read prior to attending the Trinity College Conference on African Affairs. The book documents a discussion on African self-governance and nationalist movement in Northern Rhodesia between Colin Morris, an English Methodist preacher, and Kenneth Kaunda, the first Black African President of Zambia. The book is retrieved from Graham Library at University of Toronto.

Prior to the conference, the students were advised to read literature published after 1960 on Africa such as African Political Parties: An Introductory Guide (1961)<, Introduction to the History of West Africa (1962) and Black Government (1960). Despite limited resources and research, students would gain basic knowledge of African decolonization and nationalism. As a granddaughter of former African nationalists, I personally understood the diabolical power relationship between the colonial powers and colonies. Both of my grandfathers participated in the Somali nationalist movement of the 1950s.[5] A decade later, Somaliland declared its independence from Great Britain in 1960.[6]

Black Government (1960) perfectly captured the African rhetoric on the need to achieve state self-governance.[7] African leaders, like Kenneth Kaunda, the first Black African President of Zambia, argued colonial constitutions and legislatures were tailored to protect colonial national interests and colonial settlers, not the native population. Similarly, Somalilander nationalists felt colonial interests surpassed the needs of the native people. Subsequently, the African intelligentsia, including African leaders including Kaunda, my grandfathers and others, played a significant role in the nationalist movements that occurred throughout Africa.[8] Successively, the strong wind of nationalism that swept across the African continent resulted in 36 countries gaining their independence between 1950 and 1969, while 5 other countries followed the trend from 1970 to 1999.[9]

This conference gave the students an opportunity to encounter, participate and respond to African nationalist movements. It provoked discussions on the complexities of the decolonized African political systems, causes of economic depression and the deterioration of tribal societies in Africa and may have identified the need for in-depth research and study on African affairs.


Susan Jama received her undergraduate from York University in History and Psychology. She is currently a Museum Studies graduate student at University of Toronto. Her life goals are: to receive a PhD, and to rebuild the national museums in her parents’ country. Her current motto for grad school: Survive and success. Her life motto: opportunities come to those who actively seek it, not to those who sleep on it.

[1] Gilbert & Reynolds, 2008

[2] Lassam, 2016

[3] Lassam, 2016

[4] Huntnyk, 1994

[5] Cooper, 2009

[6] Ibid.

[7] Cooper, 2009; Huntnyk, 1994

[8] Cooper, 2009; Gilbert et al., 2008

[9] Cooper, 2009

[10] Direct Quote from “Trinity College Conference on African Affairs – Announcement,” (1968).

A group of undergraduates launched the Conference on African Affairs in response to a growing need to make North American university students aware of the modern social and economic problems in Africa.10