The Story of Africa


- World War I


- The aftermath


- Nationalism and vision


- Socialism


- Newspapers


- Radio and writing


- Air and road


- Women


- World War II



Early newspapers

African newspaper
The first English newspaper on the continent of Africa was published in Cape Town in 1800. The following year in Sierra Leone The Royal Gazette and Sierra Leone Advertiser was published in Freetown. Both were European undertakings concerned with matters of government.

In 1826 Charles Force, an American freed slave, published the Liberia Herald. He died some months later, but the title was revived in 1830 by Edward Blyden, the anti-colonial thinker and academic, who moved from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas to Liberia. This marked the beginning of an African press which was critical of the European presence in Africa.

From the mid-19th century onwards a number of papers were published in Luanda, Angola, by a distinct group of educated, mixed race (mesticos) Angolans. Jose de Fontes Pereira and Joaquim Dias Cordeiro da Matta were regular contributors, writing articles highly critical of Portuguese rule.

West African newspapers

The first African produced paper in West Africa was Charles Bannerman's Accra Herald, produced in 1858 in the Gold Coast (modern Ghana). The following year the first Yoruba newspaper was produced, Iwe Ihorin ('The Paper with the News') which cost 30 cowrie shells. In 1863 a West Indian immigrant called Professor Robert Campbell brought out the Anglo African.

"We were favoured with sight of the beautiful baptismal present our beloved Queen has made to the infant of Mrs. J.P. L. Davies of Lagos, a lady well known as having enjoyed the high honour of being a protégé of her majesty... The cup and salver are both inscribed as follows: To Victoria Davies Queen Victoria." - Excerpt from the Anglo African newsletter, 3 Oct 1863, on the occasion of the birth of a baby born to the leading African trader J.P.L. Davies and his wife, who was goddaughter to the Queen.

In 1926 in Lagos, Nigeria's most enduring and popular newspaper, The Nigeria Daily Times was published. Its editor, Ernest Ikoli, was also head of the renowned school, King's College, Lagos, and considered an outstanding man in his day. The paper was published on a sound commercial basis, carrying a lot of expatriate advertising, but it could be critical of the colonial establishment:

"... the appointment of Mr. O Jibowu MA BCL Oxon as Police Magistrate in Lagos is no more than an experiment...It is astonishing that no African has been found qualified to be on the judicial staff in the newly constituted Protectorate Courts." - Daily Times, 12 Dec 1936.

West Africa magazine

The West Africa magazine was published in London in 1917 with the commercial backing from Elder Dempster Shipping Line and John Holt trading company. Although published in London, its editor set out to publish a magazine that was an open forum for the discussion of all questions affecting the welfare of people - both African and European. There were contributions from colonial officials and expatriates, but also from the educated African urban elite, including Gold Coast nationalist Kobina Sekyi.

Native or foreigner - which are you?

"There's many a difference quickly found,
Between the different races,
But the only essential differential,
Is living in different place.
Yet such is the pride of the prideful man,
From Austrians to Australians,
That wherever he is,
He regards as his,
And the natives as aliens."

- Published in Sierra Leone Weekly News, 19 Dec 1936.
The most dynamic and energetic West African journalist in the 1930s was the nationalist Nnamdi Azikwe, later to be first President of Nigeria. He had been educated in America and strongly influenced by black radical journalism there. He established the African Morning Post with I.T.A. Wallace Johnson. They described it as "independent in all things and neutral in nothing affecting the destiny of Africa."

In 1927 Azikwe established the West African Pilot in Lagos. Its lively mix of radical politics, gossip, plus a woman's page proved very popular. The Comet was another popular Nigerian publication. Edited by a radical Egyptian, Duse Mohammed Ali, who had been educated in London. The Comet kept a keen eye on events at home and abroad.

"Sin-possessed and intoxicated with authority, Mussolini, the Fascist Dictator with his "smash and grab" doctrine of civilisation has announced his East African spoils to the world. He is also said to be having his hands in the Spanish mists. This is as should be expected of a child of darkness - he must always be found in the misty corners of the world. There by him we find his brother Hitler, the German dictator, dreaming his usual daydreams - a German Empire, with Russia as his armrest; France as his footstool, England as his manufacturing nation, and the colonies as labourers to work in his Nazi vineyard. His continuous dream is of world subjugation..." - The Comet, 5 Dec 1936.

In French West Africa the press was dominated by French publishers. The first major African publication was La Voix du Dahomey in 1927. More papers followed in Ivory Coast and Senegal.

East Africa

Africans in East Africa were not as well served by the press as in West Africa. By the 1930s the English speaking press was dominated by the Standard Group, whose titles included the East African Standard (originally The African Standard started by the Asian journalist A. M. Jeevanjee), The Mombasa Times, the Tanganyika Standard and the Uganda Argus.

The African run-press in East Africa took off in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the earliest known newspapers in an African language was Sekanyola, published in 1920, written in Luganda and aimed at the Baganda in Uganda and Kenya.

The Kampala suburb Katwe was known as the Fleet Street of Uganda; other Luganda titles included Gambuze which came out in 1927 and Dobzi Iya Buganda in 1928. The first Gikuyu paper was Muigwithania which was initially published in 1925 and was edited by the future President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. He also sponsored other political publications in Gikuyu. The other notable Swahili title was Kwetu, edited by Muganda Eric Fiah.

South Africa

In South Africa, the first African edited paper was Isigidimi Sama Xhosa. It came out in 1876 with the backing of the Lovedale missionary press. One of its editors, John Tengo Jabavu, a devout Methodist and Pan Africanist, who was educated in Britain and America, then went on to publish and edit Imvo Zabantsundu in 1884. This was a bilingual paper with an English and Xhosa speaking readership.

In 1903, John L. Dube, later to be President of the ANC, published Ilanga Lase Natal. Once the ANC became established as the leading opponent to white rule, it voiced its concerns primarily through the publication Abantu Batho. It survived attempts to close it down by the authorities, but finally folded for financial reasons.

The fortunes of the African press in South Africa reflected the slow and uneven march towards segregation and the loss of rights experienced by black South Africans.

The main newspaper group to emerge in the 1930s was The Argus Group. It saw profit in publishing titles for black as well as white readers. It bought up the Bantu Press, which had a number of successful titles read by black South Africans, and removed all the Africans employed in management. By World War II there were only three black owned and edited newspapers, two of which were published by the Communist Party of South Africa, including the Socialist Worker. During the years leading up to the Second World War all the newspapers - both European and African - keenly observed events in Europe and debated the implications for Africa. When the war was in progress the newspaper in English and French colonial Africa broadly supported the Allies - only a few spoke out against supporting the war effort.

Enlist today!
Your country needs you!
Not for learning how to shoot the big howitzers
Or how to rat tat tat the machine guns
Or how to fly o'er peaceful countries
Dropping bombs on harmless people
Or how to fix a bayonet and charge at
The harmless workers of another clime

Your country needs you
For the rebuilding of your shattered homeland -
Your homeland ruined by exploitation
By the tyrants of foreign nations
Who would use you as their catspaw
While they starved you to subjection.

- George Padmore's pacifist poem, published in the African Standard, 28 July 1939, two months before war broke out.
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