September 23, 1959
The political activist and journalist Malcolm Nurse adopted the name George Padmore in 1927. He was born in rural Arouca, Trinidad, in the British West Indies. However, his childhood and teenage years were spent in a middle-class suburb in the island's capital, Port of Spain. At the age of nineteen he briefly served as a reporter for the Trinidad Guardian, a daily newspaper. Due to frequent arguments with the newspaper's editor, Padmore resigned and in 1924 departed for the United States.
A desire to pursue a career in medicine and later law led him to Fisk University, New York University, and Howard University. While working among blacks in Harlem, Padmore edited a newspaper, the Negro Champion (later known as the Liberator ). He joined the Communist Party in 1927 and began contributing articles to the Daily Worker in New York. He also worked with the Communist Party's American Negro Labor Congress.
In 1929 Padmore went to Moscow and lectured on the trade union activities of blacks in the United States. Soon he was appointed head of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW), an arm of the Red International of Labour Unions, or Profin-tern. In June 1930 the ITUC-NW began publishing the widely read Negro Worker, which Padmore edited. The ITUC-NW was a vibrant group and in July 1930 organized an international conference of Negro workers in Germany.
Padmore's role as a voice for the oppressed and exploited working class was evident in numerous books and pamphlets, including The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers, How Britain Rules Africa, and Africa and World Peace.
Padmore began to display a phenomenal organizational ability after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. He assisted fellow Trinidadian C. L. R James in forming the International African Friends of Ethiopia. In March 1937 Padmore transformed this anti-imperialist group into the International African Service Bureau (IASB) and served as its chair.
By 1944 the IASB had been dissolved and Padmore, along with other Pan-Africanists, formed the Pan-African Federation (PAF) in England. In 1945 Padmore was the mastermind of the Fifth Pan-African Congress, held in Manchester, England.
Although Padmore was a staunch Pan-Africanist, his work incorporated other ethnic groups. By 1946 he was instrumental in establishing the London-based Asiatic African Unity Committee, comprising Indians and Africans with the intention of building a united front against imperialism. He had a close fraternal relationship with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India.
In 1945 Padmore met Kwame Nkrumah (then a student from Ghana) in London. Nkrumah assisted in the Pan-African Conference in 1945 and served as the regional secretary of the PAF. Nkrumah never forgot Padmore's friendship and commitment to African unity, and in 1957, when he had become the prime minister of Ghana, he appointed Padmore his political advisor.
At the time of his death, the indefatigable Padmore had sown the seeds of anticolonialism and laid the foundation of an indestructible anti-imperialist movement that resulted in many British colonies gaining political independence.
Birmingham, David. Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998.
Murapa, Rukudo. "Padmore's Role in the African Liberation Movement." Ph.D. diss., Northern Illinois University, De-Kalb, 1974.
Padmore, George. The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers, 2d ed. Hollywood, Calif.: Sun Dance Press, 1971.
jerome teelucksingh (2005)
George Padmore (c. 1902-1959) was a Trinidadian leftist political activist and author as well as a noted pan-Africanist ideologue.
George Padmore, whose given name was Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse, was educated through secondary school in Trinidad. In 1924 he went to the United States, where he studied at Columbia University, Fisk University, New York University Law School, and Howard University. He had been at first attracted to the study of medicine but then developed an interest in law. In 1927 he joined the Communist party, and his political involvement diverted him from completing his law degree. In 1928, as part of his Communist party activities, Padmore began editing the Negro Champion, later called the Liberator, in Harlem.
In 1929 Padmore was summoned to the U.S.S.R., where he became the head of the Negro Bureau of the Red International of Labor Unions. In 1931 he was sent to Germany to head the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW). He edited this organization's journal, Negro Worker, and wrote extensively. His first major work appeared at this time, Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers, which dealt in some depth with working conditions of blacks around the world. Steeped as he was in Communist ideology, he was very critical of black leaders whom he considered of bourgeois inclination, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, and the political leadership of Liberia and Ethiopia.
In 1933 Padmore's position shifted dramatically. The rise of Hitler forced the termination of ITUC-NW activities in Germany. The threat of fascist Germany also forced the reworking of certain policies in Soviet Russia, including an easing of critical attacks on the imperialism of Britain and France. Padmore soon found the Communist party willing to condemn only the imperialism of Japan. Unable to subscribe to this shift in political tactics, he left the party and in 1934 was officially expelled and denounced.
During the subsequent 20 years Padmore resided primarily in England. Almost immediately after leaving the party, he moved into the pan-Africanist camp, for which he had always shown some affinity. By 1935 he had contacted his former adversary W. E. B. Du Bois and was contributing articles to Crisis. From this date he never joined another nonblack organization.
Padmore's Africa and World Peace (1937) examines the Ethiopian crisis as well as Hobson's and Lenin's views of African-European relations. That year Padmore organized the International African Service Bureau (IASB), designed to promote the pan-Africanist cause. In 1938 he began editing the IASB's journal, International African Opinion. During the latter years of World War II he worked on a new book, How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to Imperial Powers. His purpose was to describe the Soviet method in developing the minority nations of the U.S.S.R. as a model for the Western empires. Conceived at a time when the Western powers were closely allied with Russia, the book appeared at the end of the war; and as the developing cold war hardened relations, it was coolly received.
In 1944 Padmore merged the IASB with several other organizations into the Pan-African Federation. The following year he was influential in planning the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England. By this time he had formed a close relationship with Kwame Nkrumah. Padmore's Africa: Britain's Third Empire (1949), a very critical study, was banned in Kenya and the Gold Coast. By now Nkrumah had returned to the Gold Coast, and Padmore's attention was drawn more and more to the process of the emerging independent state of Ghana. On Nkrumah's invitation he wrote The Gold Coast Revolution (1953), a study of that colony's struggle to achieve self-government. Pan-Africanism or Communism? (1956) is perhaps his most significant work.
In 1957, when Ghana became fully independent, Padmore moved to Accra to become Nkrumah's personal adviser on African affairs. Padmore's return to a position of political influence was marred by the resentment some Ghanaians held toward non-Ghanaians in government. Despite these difficulties, Padmore remained in Accra in an attempt to press forward his pan-Africanist ideals. During a conference in Liberia in 1959 he was struck with acute dysentery. He flew to London for medical care but died shortly thereafter. He was buried in Christianborg Castle, Accra.
A good account of Padmore's life is James R. Hooker, Black Revolutionary: George Padmore's Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (1967). □