Voices of the African Diaspora: When Looking Back Helps Us Move Forward

The Voices of the African Diaspora is a collection of library resources that highlight the various cultures that cumulatively combine to be what we know as the African diaspora. Carter G. Woodson was a great man who started Black History Month, and it is important for us to know where he came from, how we got here and who we were before.

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated” (Carter G. Woodson).

Often when we celebrate Black History Month, we typically focus on African Americans, descendants of the enslaved and the victims of hundreds of years of human chattel slavery. Black history does not start at the Middle Passage. Our history is connected to our kinfolk across the sea, on a vast continent that was also a victim of human chattel slavery, colonialism, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. Africa is not a singularity or place; Africa is home to many different ethnic groups and cultures.

This collection provides the DePaul University community access to information about Africa, the many cultures of Africans, people of the diaspora, our journeys and where we landed, and our accomplishments, as told from our perspective. Therefore, we have limited the resources included in this collection to those authored by people who are part of the African Diaspora community.

The African Diaspora is a concept derived from the Pan-Africanism movement which was started by free Blacks in the United States, England, and the Caribbean in the 18th century. Pan-Africanism was promoted by Black people in America who wished to reconnect to their culture and homelands in Africa. The key goal of Pan-Africanism is to link all peoples of African descent who were dispersed globally in what would later be named the “African Diaspora.” Two key figures in African American history who pushed for Pan-Africanism are Prince Hall (1735-1738—1807), the founder of the first and oldest Black Freemasonry order. The other is Paul Cuffee (1759–1817) an abolitionist and shipbuilder who was one of the wealthiest men in the American colonies and sailed to Sierra Leone in 1811. Both, along with other notable African Americans (many who had gained freedom from European and white American slave owners), had pushed for the repatriation to the homelands of all people of African descent stolen for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Pan-Africanism is antislavery, anticolonialism, and anti-imperialism with an emphasis on African liberation. Pan-Africanism also recognizes the enslavement and displacement of people of African descent in the Middle East including modern day India, China, and other parts of Asia.

The African Diaspora is the forced displacement of millions of African people as part of the Trans-Atlantic and Arab slave trade. “Although scholars disagree about the extent, their consensus is that the Middle Passage failed to destroy African culture totally and that… all preserved at least some of their heritage” (Barnhill 2009). Our ancestors came to the Americas and Caribbean with our languages, arts, beliefs, and memories of Mother Africa. The African Diaspora is also known as the Maafa, “a Kiswahili term used to describe the continued suffering of Africans throughout the world” (Winbush 475). Africans in the Maafa have always resisted their forced removal from our homelands and they always maintained a cultural connection to African cultures. The Maafa often refers only to Africans who were captured and enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade. The Arab slave trade which began centuries before the European Transatlantic slave trade and millions of African people captured and transported to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the Americas as Zanj slaves. Zanj slaves (the Arabic term for Black people, Africans) were taken from central Africa and the eastern coast of Africa are also part of the African Diaspora.

When history is told from the perspective of the oppressors (non-Blacks), our ongoing resistance is disconnected or erased and replaced by narrative passive acceptance of enslavement. Some could argue that the earliest form of the Pan-African ideology was those who choose death by suicide as a path to reconnect with Africa over enduring the horrors of enslavement.

“Resistance was demonstrated by the members of the Igbo who, after being removed from the hull of a slave ship bringing them to the Georgia Sea Islands in 1803, marched slowly but deliberately into the cold Atlantic Ocean and drowned themselves rather than undergo the humiliation of enslavement” (Winbush 475).

Africans who escaped enslavement in America formed maroon societies as another form of resistance. The most famous of them was the Palmares state in Brazil. Palmares operated for roughly one hundred years in the 17th century (1590-1694?) during Portuguese colonial rule. The struggle of Black people in the African Diaspora ran concurrent to the ongoing resistance to the barbarism of European colonialism on the African continent. Pan-Africanism is the foundation of Black Nationalism and African Liberation movements. Paul Cuffee is considered the father of Black Nationalism. An important ideology in African American history, Black Nationalism is grounded in the core belief of cultural and political return of African people to a place that would allow for complete self-determination in all aspects of their lives. It is also accepted that any work towards this cause in a structurally racist political system as we have in America will not succeed.

African American history is firmly interconnected with the histories of all people of African descent scattered as part of the African Diaspora. Pan-Africanism gave birth to Black Nationalism which became the foundation of the Black Power and African Liberation movements. The Black Power Movement fueled similar movements by Black and Indigenous people in South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The Black Power Movement was different from the Civil Rights Movement because of the Black Power movement’s effort to establish a reunification with our ancestral heritage on the African continent. At its core, Black Power is about liberation and self-determination and those who yell Black Power simply desire to exist as autonomous beings without violence and subjugation of their personhood under the structural racism of colonial, imperial and neocolonial governments. The people of African Diaspora continued to resist and pushed towards African Liberation from European colonialism.

Pan-Africanism promoted the idea of “representing history from an Afrocentric perspective rather than the conventional Eurocentric perspective”(Napier 2013). Voices of the African Diaspora is a collection created as a realization of that ideology.

Selected titles

Key Library Resources

Kweli TV is a new streaming video collection that celebrates global Black stories through over 600 curated indie films, documentaries, web series and children’s programs representing North America, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Australia.

The African American Almanac is an online resource that highlights important events in African American history, African American firsts, bibliographies and history of the African Diaspora.

African American Voices is a collection of over 2000 library resources by creators who identify as Black or African American.

Black power encyclopedia: from “Black is beautiful” to urban uprisings is an online resource that documents the Black Power Movement in America from 1965 to the mid-1970s.

The Encyclopedia of Black Studies is a chronicle of black culture or black people that also highlights the emergence and growth of the intellectual field over the past four decades.

The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is an extensive online database of over 9,000 hours of full-text and video interviews with African-Americans distinguished in the fields of science, culture, politics, the arts, and public life.


Benson, Richard D., II. “African Liberation Support Committee.” Black Power Encyclopedia: From “Black Is Beautiful” to Urban Uprisings, edited by Akinyele Umoja, et al., vol. 1, Greenwood, 2018, pp. 5-11. Movements of the American Mosaic. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7641800015/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=60ae7c38.

Barnhill, John Herschel (non-BIPOC). “African Diaspora.” African American Studies Center, Oxford University Press, 2009, https://doi.org/10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.45185.

Encyclopedia of Black Studies, edited by Molefi Kete Asante, and Mambo Ama Mazama, SAGE Publications, Incorporated, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/depaul/detail.action?docID=1016411.

Hummons, Heather. “Prince Hall Freemasonry Archives.” Chicago Public Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, July 2017, https://www.chipublib.org/fa-prince-hall-freemasonry-archives/.

Horne, David. “Pan-Africanism.” Black Power Encyclopedia: From “Black Is Beautiful” to Urban Uprisings, edited by Akinyele Umoja, et al., vol. 2, Greenwood, 2018, pp. 599-603. Movements of the American Mosaic. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7641800127/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=7e0c831a. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Gomes, Flávio. “Palmares.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, edited by Colin A. Palmer, 2nd ed., vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2006, pp. 1713-1716. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3444700976/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=b24516ec.

Gomez, Michael A. “Migration in the African Diaspora.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, edited by Colin A. Palmer, 2nd ed., vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2006, pp. 1433-1440. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3444700842/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=eaf62bb7.

Karbo, Tony, and Tim Murithi. The African Union: Autocracy, Diplomacy and Peacebuilding in Africa. I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2017, https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350988422.

Mhunzi, Peter Muriuki. “Kiswahili.” Black Power Encyclopedia: From “Black Is Beautiful” to Urban Uprisings, edited by Akinyele Umoja, et al., vol. 2, Greenwood, 2018, pp. 434-438. Movements of the American Mosaic. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7641800094/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=770753c6.

Napier, Diane Brook (non-BIPOC). “Pan-Africanism.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2013, pp. 291-294. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX4190600338/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=71f15288.

Nwauwa, Apollos. “Decolonization, Sub-Saharan Africa.” Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450, edited by Thomas Benjamin, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pp. 294-299. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX2587300122/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=f67cc41f.

Poyner, Jane. “Cuffee, Paul.” African American Studies Center, Oxford University Press, 2007, https://doi.org/10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.47376.

Swan, Quito. “Black Power Abroad.” Black Power Encyclopedia: From “Black Is Beautiful” to Urban Uprisings, edited by Akinyele Umoja, et al., vol. 1, Greenwood, 2018, pp. 143-154. Movements of the American Mosaic. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7641800036/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=d7c92490.

Winbush, Raymond A. “Black Nationalism.” The African American Almanac, edited by Christopher A. Brooks, 11th ed., Gale, 2011, pp. 475-497. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX1911700017/GVRL?u=depaul&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=127345a2. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.

2 Replies to “Voices of the African Diaspora: When Looking Back Helps Us Move Forward”

  1. April, thank you so very much for such a thorough and comprehensive article to direct users to sources on African History, the Diaspora, and the environment in this nation. so important for everyone to know the past and how it has affected our present day life. Cogent and thoughtful. Kudos to you on this!

  2. April, the Voices of the African Diaspora collection that you have put together is excellent. Not only does this resource guide provide a wonderful introduction to the concept and scholarship of the African Diaspora, it is current, expansive and interdisciplinary. I will certainly direct my students and even other faculty to this brilliantly described and curated digital resource. Thank you for all the time, effort and care you put into this!

    Chernoh Sesay, Jr., associate professor, Religious Studies/African and Black Diaspora Studies, DePaul

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.