Anti-colonialism, Afro-Arab solidarity, and the Politics of Liberation

Edna Bonhomme
Edna Bonhomme
  Princeton University


Anti-colonial movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) intensified after World War II thus strengthening relations between colonized people. More specifically, Black people from sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and North America were inspired and collaborated with Arabs from MENA. Afro-Arab solidarity reflected a broader political shift whereby internationalism, liberation, and working class politics were central to the anti-colonial and resistance movements. Moreover, Afro-Arab solidarity happened along intellectual, cultural, and political lines that resulted in formal conventions and personal journeys. Some of the major sites of unity occurred during the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference in Cairo (1957) and the Bandung Conference in the Soviet Union (1955). Between 1945 and 1965, Cairo was a major locus for Afro-Arab solidarity whereby Blacks such as Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Kwame Nkrumah, and Malcolm X made grave efforts to strengthen their alliances with Arabs. These coalitions were particularly deep when Egyptian communist parties and trade unions were providing the ideological and material conditions to transcend ethnic and/or racial differences. I argue that Afro-Arab solidarity in Egypt was strongest during the early 1950s when there was a broader anticolonial and anti-capitalist struggle and diminished by the late 1960s when rank and file Egyptian leftists were systematically suppressed by the Egyptian state. Using archival materials, personal letters, and newspaper articles, I will show how the anti-colonial apex generated genuine leftist struggle whereby inter-ethnic conflict was rescinded and Afro-Arab unanimity was promoted. Thus, Afro-Arab liberation politics were strengthened when there were independent socialists inserted into mass movements in Egypt.

Middle East and North Africa - Arab - Black - Anti-colonialism - Socialist