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The All Colonial Peoples Conferences in Britain, 1945


By Marika Sherwood

[Published in a shorter, revised version in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 79 (Winter 2017/18), pp. 113-124]


In 1941 President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill signed what came to be known as the Atlantic Charter. One of its clauses promised the restoration of self-government to all those who had lost it.  Colonial peoples immediately asked for this to be applied to them; Churchill just as immediately repudiated this interpretation.

The demands continued and the founding of the United Nations in 1945 re-galvanised many activists. To further these aims, George Padmore[1] in London convened the well-known Pan-African Congress held in Manchester in October 1945[2], and two unreported  All-Colonial Peoples’ (or Subject Peoples’) Conferences held in London on 10 June 1945 and 10 October 1945.  There is almost no information on the activities in the UK of those who organised/attended the conferences. The National Archives has next to nothing on one of the main organisations behind these conferences, the Pan-African Federation, or these conferences themselves, or the major speakers![3]

Calling the Conference

‘Long live the international bond between the white and black workers’, is how Jomo Kenyatta[4], I.TA. Wallace-Johnson[5], Dr. Peter Milliard[6], Ras T. Makonnen[7] and George Padmore concluded their letter printed in the centre of the first page of the New Leader of 5 May 1945.  They, and the others reported on that page, were celebrating May Day, traditionally the International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day. In some colonies it was used for broader purposes: for example, at the huge May Day rally of the TUC in Lagos, a resolution demanded full adult suffrage for the people of Nigeria.

The long war was almost over. Hitler was declared dead. Kenyatta and his colleagues wanted to do what they could to ensure that ‘peace’ would also bring freedom and equality. Their letter continued:

'…For at this moment of rejoicing we must never forget that there are still hundreds of millions in Asia,                     Africa, and other subject under Fascist-like conditions, and that there can be no lasting peace and security for Europe and Africa while the ruling classes of these Continents continue to enslave the darker peoples of the world… It is the bounden duty and moral obligation of all who subscribe to human progress to support the struggles of the Colonial peoples for the right to Self-Determination.'

Padmore explained in the Chicago Defender (28/5/1945, p.5) that it was the first meeting of the United Nations that galvanised action by ‘the coloured races living under the sovereignty of various European powers’.[8]  As some delegates from the colonies were in Britain to attend the inaugural meeting of the World Federation of Trade Unions, Padmore and his colleagues discussed future actions with them. Padmore relates that meetings had been held to draft a manifesto and to call a conference:

'Plans are being made to convene a special United Front conference in London early in June 1945, for the purpose  of adopting the draft declaration as a United Colonial Charter… At this historic moment…the peoples of the world are being confronted with new and urgent problems… Of these problems none is of greater urgency…than the future of millions of subject peoples of Asia, Africa and other colonial countries. For them…the victory will have no real meaning if it does not lead to their own liberation from the tentacles of imperialist domination.'

The British organisations involved were: Federation of Indian Associations in GB; Kikuyu Association of East Africa; International African Service Bureau (IASB); Federation of Indian Associations in Great Britain;  Negro Welfare Association (NWA, London); Negro Welfare Centre Liverpool; Coloured Men’s Institute East London; United Colonial and Coloured Seamen’s Association of Cardiff; West African Students’ Union (WASU) and ‘several other progressive associations’.  Padmore goes on to report that ‘the movement to bring about world-wide unity among the coloured communities has also been endorsed by the Burmese and the Ceylon Students’ associations, the Malaya and East Indies Peoples’ League, West Indian Federation Committee and a number of colonial trade unions in Africa and the Caribbean.’ The actual reports of the conference add the following associations as having attended with full voting rights:  West African Youth League of Sierra Leone; Swaraj House of Indian Nationalists[9]; African Progressive Association, Negro Association, Pan-African Federation[10]; Friends of Africa Freedom Society of the Gold Coast; and ‘delegates from colonial labor parties and trade unions’.[11]

According to Peter Abrahams’ article, ‘The Congress in Perspective’, published in the account of the Pan-African Congress, the aim of the Subject People’s Conference was ‘the setting up of some permanent organisation for the co-ordination of the Colonial struggle’. Padmore reported that the aim was to ‘co-ordinate and unify the nationalist and progressive movement of subject peoples into a sort of “Colonial International”’. [12]

All-Colonial Peoples’ (or Subject Peoples’) Conference, 10 June 1945

Letters of invitation were sent out, but we do not know how widely. The only preserved copy is in the Labour Party files. This is a mimeographed letter from 32 Percy Street, signed by ‘H. O. Davies (West Africa)[13] and T. B. Subasinghe (Ceylon)[14] on behalf of the Secretariat’. The letter, dated 28 May, to the Secretary of the Labour Party invited him to send ‘fraternal observers’ to the Conference.  There would be two sessions: the morning topic was ‘the present condition of the Subject World’, the ‘afternoon session will be devoted to the future of the colonial peoples and the discussion of the Draft Memorandum, a copy of which is enclosed’. In the evening at a public meeting the ‘decisions of the Conference will be made known’.[15] The gathering was advertised in the left-wing newspapers Tribune on 8 June and New Leader on 9 June.

There were 40 delegates with full voting rights and 25 unofficial observers in the Holborn Town Hall for the conference. The event was unique, according to Padmore, not only because of the issues it addressed, but ‘by the democratic way in which it was conducted’: there was a different chairman for each of the sessions, ‘one from each part of the colonial empires’. This was done in order to emphasise ‘the equality of status among the various organisations and national liberation movements’.[16]  The speakers included Nigerian H.O. Davies, who described conditions in the British West African colonies. Jomo Kenyatta reported on the problems affecting the British colonies in East Africa; he argued that the ‘colonial peoples could only achieve freedom by getting together and presenting a united front against imperialism: “By means of unity, which we have created today, we can march forward successfully and achieve our goal.’” Peter Abrahams from South Africa ‘told of the deplorable status of the Bantu population’: African had no human rights – their position ‘could be compared with that of the Jews under Hitler’s regime’.  Edwin Du Plan[17], a Ghanaian living in Liverpool, emphasised that ‘it was the duty of all Africans to support the Indians in their fight for independence, for once India is free, Africa will soon follow’.

Dr Kumria, representing the Indian Congress[18], spoke on the ‘political deadlock in India’ and demanded the release of Nehru and other Congress prisoners (c.50,000) from prison. Barrister Stanley de Souza of the Ceylon National Congress is reported as stating that ‘for the colonial peoples the destruction of Nazism signified not the end, but only a beginning. In Ceylon, a brown oligarchy had been substituted in the place of the white oligarchy, which was denying freedom to the great mass of people.’  The Ceylonese peoples wanted full self-government and political democracy. Mr Raja Ratman[19] spoke on race relations and social and economic conditions in Malaya. Mr Maung Ohn[20] of the Burma Association condemned the imprisonment of Burmese nationalists by the British.[21]

‘Mr Blaine[22] of Jamaica told of recent political reforms in Jamaica, Trinidad and other Caribbean territories.’ George Padmore stated that the colonial peoples had ‘lost faith in all meaningless phrases’ such as ‘trusteeship and self-government’ that the ‘Big Powers’ were talking about in San Francisco at the UN meeting. He then quotes from the document prepared by the organising group: ‘In the words of the greatest champion of oppressed humanity, Jawaharlal Nehru, “freedom, like peace is indivisible”’. But how is this freedom to be obtained?  Not through the newly formed United Nations, as the ‘lofty declarations of statesmen at the UN’, whose ‘eloquent utterances’ n fact suggest ‘a reversion to the status quo ante’.[23]

Iqbal Singh,[24] in his presentation of the resolutions emphasised that what impressed him most about the conference was that, ‘though the voices were different and came from widely-separated countries, they told the same story. It was a story of degradation imposed upon the human spirit by imperialism… The colonial empires were nothing more than vast Belsen camps… But there was one bright spot in modern history…that within the colonial empires… movements were being born to gain independence and freedom and that these movements were gathering here…’ He concluded by saying that a ‘world colonial council’ should be set up at the Peace Conference, with ‘membership drawn from the colonial countries’.

The resolutions, which were those which the Provisional Committee had drafted, were seconded by ‘F.O. Larbi’, a barrister from the Gold Coast.[25]

  1. To formulate a policy and programme for the unconditional and immediate ending of all colonial systems within a definite and stipulated period.
  2. To supervise the establishment of representative and responsible constitutions based upon universal adult suffrage in the colonies, such constitutions to provide full statutory safeguards for minority rights.
  3. To ensure that none of the territories at present under Japanese control (Burma, Malaya, Indo-China, Dutch East Indies, Korea, etc) are permitted, to revert to a dependent colonial status after their liberation and that ex-Italian colonies in Africa are given full right of self-determination.
  4. To bring about the immediate abrogation of all racial and discriminatory laws such as at present· deprive Negroes in America, Asiatics and Africans in Africa, and subject peoples generally of full democratic rights of citizenship.[26]

According to the report in The Statesman (Calcutta, 12/6/1945, p.1) ‘the conference affirmed that ‘it is imperative that the Atlantic Charter should be consistently applied to all colonial peoples’ and suggested ‘that at the Peace Conference there should be set up an effective machinery in the form of a World Colonial Council consisting of representatives of the colonial countries themselves’.

Left (June 1945, p.417)  reported the ‘Manifesto issued by the ‘All Colonial Peoples’ Conference, representing Peoples’ Movement of India, Burma, Indo-China, Ceylon, the Near East, Africa and the West Indies’:

'this Council’s duty would be to (a) to end the colonial system within a stipulated period; (b) supervise the establishment of representative and responsible constitutions with universal adult suffrage (c) the immediate abrogation of all racial and discriminatory laws’. A ‘durable system for security and democracy’ were the ‘prerequisites for the liquidation of imperialism… There is nothing in the lofty statements of the UN on the future of colonies.’

In Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot printed a special report by George Padmore on the front page of its 2 and 3 July 1945 issues. Padmore reported that a Provisional Committee of United Colonial Peoples’ Federation had been set up. Dr Peter Milliard, the chairman,  had called for ‘fraternal greetings’ to be sent to political ‘sufferers… comrades in the colonial countries who have suffered, and are at this moment suffering imprisonment, persecutions and privations for their heroic part in the struggle for liberation of their countries’. The imprisoned men he listed were Jawaharlal Nehru in India, leader of the independence movement there; Uriah Butler, trade union leader jailed in Trinidad; I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson, trade unionist and founder of the West African Youth Leagues, jailed in Sierra Leone; and W. A. Domingo, socialist and political activist in New York, jailed on his return home to Jamaica. Emergency resolutions had been passed regarding the imprisonment and house arrest of political leaders in Burma and for the release of Indian nationalists sentenced to death. The demands of Syrians and Lebanese for complete independence were endorsed – and they were warned that the vague support offered by the British imperialists was only because they were seeking to undermine their French rivals.

At the end of the conference the Provisional Committee was turned into a ‘Continuation Committee’ for the ‘purpose of drawing up a program and constitution to bring into being as early as possible a “Colonial International”. This body will establish contact with all nationalist, political and progressive parties, trade unions and co-operative societies in all parts of the colonial world minority groups like the Afro-Americans, with the object of linking up their struggles and cultivating closer fraternal relations.’[27]

A public meeting was held in the evening, presided over by Peter Abrahams. The speakers included Dr N. Gangulee (then editor of Swaraj House’s India journal[28]), Stanley de Souza, Ernest Silverman[29] and Jomo Kenyatta.

Activity after the conference

On July 15 1945 there was a meeting in Conway Hall, called by the Pan-African Federation (PAF) and the ‘British Empire Subject People’s Conference’ to support the strike in Nigeria for an increased minimum wage, and to protest the government’s threats to imprison Nnamdi Azikiwe and shut down his newspapers. Among the speakers were Koi Larbi, H.O. Davies and Padmore.[30] Letters seeking support were sent to trade unions in the colonies as well the USA, Mexico and China. West African Pilot of 22 August 1945 reported that the ‘British Empire Subject Peoples’ Conference’ was one of the organisations arranging British and international support for the strike for a minimum wage in Nigeria. The British Trade Union Congress was asked to ‘intervene and help secure wages and conditions consistent with the San Francisco Charter’ for the Nigerian workers.[31]  A rally to support the Nigerian workers was also organised in Manchester by the PAF; £100 (c. £3700 today) was collected to send to the striking workers.[32]

All-Colonial (or Subject Peoples’) Conference, 10 October 1945

Within a few months, there was another conference, held on October 10 in the Memorial Hall on Farringdon Road in London.  The meeting was advertised in the Tribune on 5 October and in the New Leader on October 6: ‘Meeting to protest against the re-imposition of imperialism in South-East Asia… All colonial peoples and friends welcome.’ In his report published in Jamaica’s Public Opinion on October 29 (pp.2, 4) Padmore called the conference ‘a significant gesture of brotherhood between the coloured races of Asia and Africa, and marks a new development in world affairs’.

Again there were about forty delegates. In his speech as chairman, Dr. Gangulee said that

'if the principles of the four freedoms and the Atlantic Charter are not applied to the peoples of Asia, they would openly advocate the Japanese slogan “Asia for Asiatics”. We, subject peoples of Asia and Africa, renew our demands for our liberation. We strongly protest, not only against Dutch and French imperialism but against British imperialism in India, Burma and Malaya. The British Labour government is already condemned in our eyes for maintaining the status quo. We do not believe in their symbolic sympathy.'

Peter Abrahams ‘advocated the establishment of a colonial federation for the liberation of all colonial peoples’. Wallace-Johnson, the Sierra Leone activist now freed and just back from the WFTU conference in Paris, argued that the

'victory of the Labour Party had not changed the British imperialist attitude towards all colonial peoples…. The unity among the coloured races, the vast majority of whom are workers and peasants, may yet lay the foundation for the wider unity among all workers and exploited and oppressed communities.'

The representative of the Federation of Indian Organisations stated that it was ‘no longer possible for any imperial power to ride roughshod over the people in one colony without arousing the sympathy and support of all other subject peoples’.

According to the police report, 130 attended; Dr Kumria was the chairman and among the noted speakers were Iqbal Singh, Dr Gangulee, Padmore (‘a well-known extremist’) and Fenner Brockway. Padmore is reported as describing the economic condition in Java and Sumatra; he warned people not to believe the supposed ‘disinterest’ of America in colonial struggles, as ‘the Americans want to see Britain, France and Holland discredited in SE Asia; they know that whatever the outcome of the struggle, the victor would ultimately have to look to Wall Street for financial assistance’. He called for ‘solidarity of African peoples with those of India and SE Asia’. Very interestingly, another speaker was W.E.B. Du Bois, who was in Britain to attend the Pan-African Congress in Manchester; he is reported as saying that the ‘British socialist government is actively supporting the re-establishment of French and Dutch imperialism’.[33]

The ‘Conference unanimously adopted two resolutions: one demanded complete freedom for Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies, as well as for India, Burma and Ceylon; the other condemned the use of Indian troops to suppress liberation movements in Indo-China’. According to the police report, ‘resolutions were moved on congratulating the Chinese Republic on its anniversary and demanding the unconditional release of the imprisoned members of the Indian National Army’.[34]

Messages of support were sent to the leaders of the local movements. Another message, this time of thanks, was sent to the dock workers in Sydney, Australia, for ‘refusing to load  Dutch ships transporting troops and munitions to Batavia, the capital of Java, to be used in putting down the native republican government’. Fenner Brockway of the Independent Labour Party reported that his Party had sent a letter to the government condemning the use of British troops to suppress these liberation movements. This letter warned the current Labour government that its actions ‘will suggest to the Eastern peoples …that its policy is no different from that of its imperialist predecessor’.[35]

Activity after the conference

From 15-21 October in Manchester, the famous Fifth Pan-African Congress was held, but this event and its impact has already been discussed elsewhere, including in the pages of this Bulletin.[36]

On 9 November 1945 Tribune carried an advertisement for a protest meeting organised by Swaraj House at the King’s Hall in Commercial Road, East London, regarding the use of Indian troops against the peoples of South-East Asia. Gangulee, Brockway, W.E.B. DuBois, Padmore and Dr. C.A. Smith are the listed speakers.[37]

West African Pilot on 5 December 1945 reported that the Conference’s Co-Ordinating Committee was convening a protest meeting against the use of British troops in Java. In this article Padmore noted that this was a ‘significant gesture of brotherhood between Asians and Africans’. Wallace-Johnson reported that at the WFTU conference in Paris the ‘coloured workers had sent a telegram to the Colonial Office and the Nigerian Government supporting the strike. ‘Unity among coloured workers may lay the basis for unity among all workers and exploited and oppressed communities’, Wallace-Johnson argued.

On 9 December 1945 the PAF organised a meeting held in Trafalgar Square to demand the elimination of the colour bar in Britain; the withdrawal of troops from Java and the situation in Indonesia and Indo-China; and the freeing of imprisoned Indian National Army soldiers. (The colour-bar issue was probably re-invigorated by the refusal of a Jermyn Street restaurant in London to admit two Sikh soldiers wearing their VC medals.[38]) The large poster concluded with ‘Long live the freedom of all colonials! Long live unity between peoples of Asia and Africa.’ Speakers from ‘Africa, the West Indies, India, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya and other Territories’, called for a ‘united front’ on all these issues. A Resolution was sent to Prime Minster Attlee, calling upon the

'Labour Government to stop shooting down our coloured brothers and to immediately withdraw British and Indian soldiers sent to Java to help the Dutch and other capitalists re-impose their imperialistic domination over our Asiatic brothers.' [39]

The article in the New Leader (15 December 1945, p.8) noted that the meeting ‘drew attention to conditions in the Empire’, and demanded the withdrawal of the troops. The League of Coloured People’s January 1946 Newsletter reported the meeting and the resolution.

The end and a new beginning

The Colonial/Subject Peoples’ Conferences now vanish. Historian J. Adyodele Langley reports that the ‘Pan-African Federation kept a close watch on the affairs on the UN Trusteeship Council, particularly on matters concerning the British colonies’.[40] The Federation survived till about 1948, and published a quarterly journal, Pan-Africa, edited by T. Ras Makonnen.  This was declared a seditious publication and was banned from many colonies. It might have been this loss of income and readership that led to the demise of the Federation.[41]

It is possible that the role of both was taken over by the British Centre Against Imperialism. This had been formed in 1939 at a conference organised by Fenner Brockway and George Padmore.[42] Though dormant during the war years, it was resuscitated in 1945-6 and continued the struggle against imperialism as the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism in 1948; it was again re-constituted in 1954 as the Movement for Colonial Freedom, and is today known as Liberation.

Despite its short life, we must recognise the role of the Colonial Peoples’ Conference in uniting ‘colonial’ peoples – a unity which was to re-emerge in the Bandung Conference of 1955, where the nations which had been represented at the Conferences were present.[43]

Padmore’s assessment of the Conferences is important:

'This Subject Peoples’ Conference was largely an exploratory gathering aimed at the setting-up of some permanent organisation for the co-ordination of the Colonial struggle. Its success and the warm response to the World Pan-African Congress and officially organised Asian Relations Conference in India, bring international Colonial and Coloured unity in sight.'[44]


Hungarian-born Marika Sherwood has lived in many parts of the world. In England she taught in schools before undertaking research on aspects of the history of Black peoples in Britain, more particularly the political activists of the past hundred years or so. In 1991 with colleagues she founded the Black and Asian Studies Association, edited the BASA Newsletter until 2007. The author of a number of books and articles, her most recent books are After Abolition; Britain, The Slave Trade and Slavery from 1562 to the 1880s (2007)Origins of Pan-Africanism: Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa and the African Diaspora (2010); Malcolm X: Travels Abroad (2011); World War II: Colonies and Colonials (2013), and (with Hakim Adi, Dan Lyndon and Martin Spafford), OCR GCSE History Explaining the Modern World: Migration, Empire and the Historic Environment (Hodder Education, 2016).


[1] Trinidad-born Padmore, on resigning from the Comintern in 1935 migrated to London. He worked with C.L.R. James to establish the International Friends of Abyssinia (IASB) when Italy threatened to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia).  Mussolini succeeded and the IASB was turned into the International African Service Bureau (IASB) which in turn founded the Pan-African Federation (PAF).  Most of the newspaper articles quoted in the article were written by Padmore. On Padmore, see Leslie James, George Padmore and Decolonisation from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold war and the End of Empire (Basingstoke, 2015).

[2] See Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, The 1945 Pan-African Congress Revisited, London: New Beacon Books, 1995. This includes the original report of the Congress.

[3] The Colonial Office must have had many files on these organisations/event/activists. Could the destruction of such records be called a manipulation of history?

[4] Kenyatta, who was to become independent Kenya’s first president, had come to Britain in 1928 as the Secretary of the Kikuyu Central Association and campaigned for colonial independence. He was a close associate of Padmore’s.

[5] I.T.A. Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone, founder of the West African Youth League, had been imprisoned for his political activism by the colonial government during the War. See Leo Spitzer and LaRay Denzer, ‘I.T.A. Wallace-Johnson and the West African Youth League’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 6/3 and 6/4, 1973.

[6] British Guiana-born Peter Milliard qualified as a medical doctor in the USA and then the UK and practised in the Manchester area. There he founded the International Brotherhood of Ethiopia and then the Negro Association. He frequently addressed public meetings in the city’s squares on racial discrimination and colonial issues. In 1945 he was the chairman of the Pan-African Federation and became an Associate Editor of Pan-Africa in 1947.

[7] Makonnen was born George Griffiths in British Guiana.  He arrived in Britain in 1936 and changed his name to commemorate his opposition to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. A businessman and activist, he was the IASB’s Treasurer and General Secretary of the PAF.

[8] On attempts to influence the United Nations, see my articles ''India at the Founding of the United Nations', International Studies (India), 33/4, 1996; '"There is no new deal for the blackman in San Francisco": African attempts to influence the founding conference of the United Nations April - July 1945', International Journal. of African Historical Studies, 29/1, 1996; 'The UN: Caribbean and African-American attempts to influence the founding conference in San Francisco, 1945', Journal of Caribbean History, 29/1, 1996; '"Diplomatic Platitudes": the Atlantic Charter, the United Nations and colonial independence', Immigrants and Minorities, September 1996; and my forthcoming account of the African Students Association of America and Canada 1941-45.

[9] Swaraj House and the Conference both had their offices at 32 Percy Street in London

[10] Historians tend to claim that the Federation (PAF) was set up after WWII.  This is incorrect, as attempts to launch such a Federation were made during the 1930s. There is correspondence dated 1936 on PAF letterhead in the TUC papers, and in the Ralph Bunche Papers at the Schomburg Center. There was an advertisement in the New Times & Ethiopian News on 26/9/1936 for a Colonial Meeting in Trafalgar Square, called by the PAF for the next day, on the ‘Palestine situation’. The speakers were ‘Indians, Arabs, Africans and West Indians’.

[11] The conference was advertised in left-wing papers in the UK – eg, Tribune, 8/6/1945. The New Statesman listed the event in its ‘Lectures, meetings’ column on 9 June, but did not report on it.  Padmore’s reports are in the Pittsburgh Courier, 30/6/1945, p.9; Chicago Defender, 30/6/1945, p.10; West African Pilot, 30/5/1945, pp.1, 5 & 2/7/1945, pp.1, 2. There is a brief report in the New Leader, 16/6/1945, p.2.

[12] See n.2, p. 61, West African Pilot, 2/7/1945, p.1.

[13] H.O. Davies, one of the founders of the Lagos Youth Movement, came to study in Britain in 1934 and then to qualify as a barrister. An ex-president of the West African Students Union (WASU), in 1945 he was warden of WASU’s hostel. On his return to Nigeria he became involved in politics and served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Industries from 1963-1966. On WASU, see Hakim Adi, West Africans in Britain 1900-1960,  London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1998)

[14] An active member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (a Marxist political party) T.B. Subasinghe of Ceylon was studying at the London School of Economics at this time. Shortly after his return home Sri Lanka achieved independence (1948) and he was elected to Parliament representing the Party.  In the mid-1960s he was Ceylon’s Ambassador to Russia. (J.R. Hooker, Black Revolutionary, London: Pall Mall Press, 1967, p.43)

[15] Letter dated 28/5/1945 in Labour Party Archives, International Dept. Correspondence, 1936-45.

[16] West African Pilot, 2/7/1945, p.1; report by Padmore in Chicago Defender, 30/5/1945, p.10.

[17] Du Plan, probably an ex-seaman, had settled in Liverpool c.1935. He was one of the founders of the Negro Welfare Centre there and in Manchester and spoke at the 1945 Pan-African Conference.  In the 1950s he returned to the Gold Coast and worked with Nkrumah.

[18] Krishna D. Kumria had founded Swaraj (Freedom) House in 1942; it was through him that Padmore had met many Indian activists and organisations. (Hooker [n.13], p.47)  Kumria was a member of the India League and became the editor of the monthly The Indian at home and overseas: a political, cultural and trade review, which first appeared in 1950. (On the League, see C. Arora, Indian Nationalist Movement in Britain, 1930-1949, New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1992; list of members is in Appendix B.)

[19] Raja Ratnam had come to Britain to study law; became politically active, taking an anti-imperial, anti-British stance as a Marxist. He published with the New India Publishing Company and in journals Asian Horizon, Life and Letters Today, and Indian Writing. He returned to Singapore in 1948, initially working as a journalist and later in politics. He served as Minister for Foreign Affairs 1965-1980 (‎;‎)

[20] Maung Ohn was the London Representative of the A.F.P.F.L, the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, founded in 1945 to gain independence for Burma.  In London he worked closely with many Indian activists, according to the surveillance files among the India Office Papers held at the British Library. The Times published a letter from him on 28/10/1942 which pointed out that in the discussion on the possible forthcoming ‘allied offensive in Burma’ nothing had been said about Burma’s independence after the warHe was the Burmese representative at the 1947 meeting of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Burma’s Ambassador to the USSR in 1957. (For a brief account of the AFPFL, see Stephen Howe, Anticolonialism in British Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993, pp.153-157.) (

[21] The Statesman (Calcutta), 12/6/1945, pp.1, 4; West African Pilot, 2/7/1945, pp.1, 2.

[22] Frank Blaine was an active member of the Negro Association of Manchester and became an Associate Editor of the PAF’s journal Pan Africa in 1946.

[23] Chicago Defender, 30/6/1945, p.10; Pittsburgh Courier, 30/6/1945; Public Opinion, 25/7/1945; Calcutta The Statesman, 12/6/1945, p.1.

[24]  In 1936 Singh had been jailed in Bombay for belonging to the Communist Party of India. (The Times, 5/6/1936, p.11) and on release fled to England. A writer/journalist/broadcaster Singh lived in Britain until the end of 1945 when he returned to India. He was involved with Indian activists such as Surat Alley (Ali), Krishna Menon, the India League and Swaraj House; with writer Mulk Raj Anand; and British activists Ben Bradley and Reginald Bridgeman.

[25] Probably Koi Larbi. In 1945 Larbi was the legal advisor to the Gold Coast Cocoa Farmers Delegation visiting Britain and was active in the PAF and other Black organisations.

[26] Left June 1946, pp.417-419; George Padmore and Nancy Cunard, The White Man’s Duty, 2nd edition, Manchester: PANAF 1945, pp.42-3. A copy was sent by Subasinghe to the Labour Party on 16 June 1945. (Labour Party Papers: International Dept. Correspondence, 1936-36, A-G, ref. JD/IORR/IO6/4/11 (Ref. may be incorrect – very difficult to read.)

[27] West African Pilot, 2/7/1945, pp.1-2;  3 July, p.1; Public Opinion, 26/6/1945, pp.2-3. (It must be noted that these articles by Padmore are all labelled as ‘Censored’.) There is nothing in the National Archives, but there are brief reports in the India Office Papers, PJ/12/646: the report for October -December 1945 is very brief, merely noting the release of imprisoned Indian National Army soldiers. The second report, for January - May 1946 notes that Swaraj House’s ‘interests’ now include the Subject Peoples Conference.  That the reports in these India Office files contain extracts from Scotland Yard and Special Branch reports is noted in PJ/12/-658, ‘Swaraj House’.

[28] Dr Gangulee had been professor of Agricultural Economy at Calcutta University but his politics alienated the university to such an extent that on his return from a visit to the UK in 1932 the (British) government of Bengal refused him admission. He returned to the UK and continued his political activism, for example becoming a founder member of the British Centre Against Imperialism. In London he was a member of the India League (Arora, n.17)

[29] Ernest Silverman is described as ‘an English lawyer’ by Padmore in the 3 July Pilot article.

[30] Adi (n.12), p.125.

[31] West African Pilot, 22/8/1945. See also Adi (n. 12), p.125.

[32] West African Pilot, 22/8/1945.

[33] BL: India Office Papers, PJ/12/648 – ‘Swaraj House’.

[34] BL: India Office Papers: PJ/12/646 - SECRET report, 16/1/1946.

[35] Advertisement in Tribune, 5/10/1945. Article by Padmore in the Jamaican Public Opinion, 29/10/1945, pp.2, 4; The Statesman, Calcutta, 12/10/1945, p.9 (?) This Calcutta paper was printing reports from the Reuter news agency, which stated incorrectly that Abrahams was West Indian and had founded the Pan-African Federation, which in fact had been founded mainly by the IASB. It also claimed Trinidad-born George Padmore was West African! So how much can we trust Reuter’s reports?

[36] Adi and Sherwood, The 1945 Pan-African Congress Revisited; Christian Høgsbjerg, ‘Remembering the Fifth Pan-African Congress’, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, 77 (Winter 2015/16), pp. 119-139, online here:

[37] BL: PJ/12-658 –‘Swaraj House’: Scotland Yard report, 21/11/1945.

[38] The Times, 23/11/1945.

[39]. The meeting, chaired by Dr Milliard, was advertised in the Tribune, 30/11/1945. There are reports in West African Pilot, 14/12/1945 and Chicago Defender, 29/12/1945, p.10, by Padmore.

[40] J. Adyodele Langley, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in West Africa, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973, p.365.

[41] I have to presume that this was one of the hoped for/intended results of the banning of the journal.

[42] There are a few British Centre Against Imperialism letters dated 1939 in the ‘Britain’ collection, and ‘Indian Freedom Campaign’ correspondence dated 1943, in the  Catlin  collection at the McMaster University Archives. Padmore was on the Campaign’s Committee.

[43] There is a brief summary of the conference in Henri Grimal, Decolonization, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978, pp.287-90.

[44] Hakim Adi, Pan-Africanism and Communism: the Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939, Africa World Press, 2013.

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