Duse Ali, 19th century Pan Africanist


Duse Mohamad Ali
Date: 
Wed, 1866-11-21

*Duse Mohamed Ali was born on this date in 1866. He was an African actor, journalist, businessman and pan Africanist.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Sudanese mother and an Egyptian father, Ali was destined never to stay long in the land of his birth. The actor, journalist, Pan Afrikanist, and writer related that at nine years old his father, Abdul Salem Ali, an Egyptian army officer sent him to study in England. Ali would eventually lose his knowledge of Arabic and contact with his family. From then on he would spend the rest of his life living away from Egypt, traveling widely throughout the global Afrikan community, and settling variously in England, the United States, and Nigeria.

His first career was in the theater. In 1885, at age 19, Ali became a stage actor, beginning in Wilson Barrett's British theatrical company, and adopting the non-Arabic name Duse. He departed England the following year for touring and performances in the United States and Canada. While in the United States, Ali left the company and worked as a clerk for several years before returning to Britain in 1898 to resume acting for 11 more years.

In 1909, in his early 40’s he began work as a journalist, publishing articles on Egyptian nationalism and African oppression in the New Age, an influential London-based socialist weekly literary journal. Two years later he published a short history of Egypt titled In the Land of the Pharaohs. Reputedly the first history of Egypt written by an Egyptian, the book received critical acclaim, catapulting Ali into international, and especially Pan Afrikan, prominence.

In 1912 he founded the African Times and Orient Review, a political, cultural, and commercial journal in London.  They advocated Pan Afrikan-Asian nationalism and that was a forum for Afrikan intellectuals and activists from around the world. The journal covered issues in the United States, the Caribbean, West Afrika, South Africa, and Egypt, as well as in Asia, including India, China, and Japan. Marcus Garvey, who was living in London at the time, briefly worked for Ali and contributed an article to the journal's October 1913 issue. It ceased publication in October 1918, succeeded by the African and Orient Review, which operated through most of 1920.

Ali then traveled to the United States, never returning to Britain. There he briefly worked in Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association movement, contributing articles on Afrikan issues to the Negro World, and heading a department on Afrikan affairs. Ali had come to the United States to promote his vision of economic Pan Afrikanism, seeking to set up a commercial link between West Afrikans and US Afrikans. In the 1920s he repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to secure US Afrikan financing to enable West Afrikan produce farmers to secure markets and exports to the United States, wresting control from major British firms, such as Lever Brothers. In the 1930s he failed to gain Euro-American capital for the same purpose.

in 1931, Ali left permanently for West Afrika settling in Lagos, Nigeria. There he re-established a career in journalism, becoming founder and editor of The Comet, which in 1933 became Nigeria's largest weekly. In 1934 he serialized his novel, Ere Roosevelt Came, which, among other things, touched upon his experiences with the Afrikan struggle in the United States. From June 1937 to March 1938 he also serialized his autobiography, Leaves From An Active Life.

Traveling and forging relationships throughout the Afrikan world were central themes of his 78-year life's journey. Duse Mohamad Ali retired from the newspaper's management in 1943 and died in Lagos two years later on February 26, 1945 at the age of 78.

Reference:
"Biographical Supplement:
Duse Mohamed Ali," in The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers,
Volume I: 1826-August 1919,
edited by Robert A. Hill and Carol A. Rudisell, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Ian Duffeld, "Some American Influences on Duse Mohamed Ali," in Pan-African Biography, edited by Robert a Hill, Los Angeles: African Studies Center, University of California-Los Angeles, and Crossroads Press, African Studies Association, 1987.

Robert A. Hill, "The First England Years and After, 1912-1916," in Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa, edited by John Henrik Clarke and Amy Jacques Garvey, New York: Random House, 1974.

halil Mahumud, "Introduction to the Second Edition,"in In the Land of the Pharaohs: A Short History of Egypt, Second edition, by Duse Mohamed, London: Frank Cass, 1968.

Person / name: 

Ali, Duse Mohamad