Resolutions of the National Congress of British West Africa

(1920)

Context

At the beginning of the colonial period, the British implemented a management style in Africa that reflected their way of thinking about colonial administration. The tropical environment rich in unfamiliar diseases had turned the African colonies into a “white man's grave,” so hardly any whites were found there. Accordingly, British indirect rule reflected the view that Africans should retain their own culture and assimilate British culture only when it benefited their rule. The British used the indigenous leaders, legitimate heads of their own communities, to control the population at the local level, a practice considered good management because it allowed the colonized people to maintain local rule. Meanwhile, to ensure their unchallenged control, the British continued to apply a policy of “divide and conquer” so as to isolate each community.

The system of indirect colonial administration required junior administrators and civil servants, many of whom were drawn...

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Marcus Garvery, who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, with branches in West Africa (Library of Congress)

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