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Sun, 06.28.1903

George Padmore, Pan-Africanist born

George Padmore

*George Padmore was born on this date in 1903.  He was Afro Caribbean Pan-Africanist, journalist, and author.  

Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse, better known by his pen name George Padmore, was born in the Arouca District, Tacarigua, Trinidad, of the British West Indies. His paternal great-grandfather was an Asante warrior who was taken prisoner and sold into slavery in Barbados, where his grandfather was born.  His father, James Hubert Alfonso Nurse, was a local schoolmaster who had married Anna Susanna Symister of Antigua, a naturalist.  

He attended Tranquility School in Port of Spain before attending St Mary's College for two years in 1914. He transferred to the Pamphylian High School, graduating from there in 1918. After that, he worked for several years as a reporter with the Trinidad Publishing Company.   In 1924, he came to the United States to study medicine at Fisk University in Tennessee. He married earlier that year, and his wife Julia Semper would join him in America. She left behind their daughter Blyden, who was born in 1925. According to Nurse's instruction, she was named in honor of the African nationalist Edward Blyden of Liberia. Nurse attended New York University but soon transferred to Howard University. During his college years, Nurse became involved with the Workers (Communist) Party.

When engaged in the party business, he adopted the name George Padmore (compounding the Christian name of his father-in-law, Constabulary Sergeant Major George Semper, and the surname of the friend who had been his best man, Errol Padmore).  He officially joined the Communist Party in 1927 (when he was in Washington, DC) and was active in its mass organization targeted to black Americans, the American Negro Labor Congress. In March 1929, he was a fraternal (non-voting) delegate to the 6th National Convention of the CPUSA, held in New York City.  Padmore was selected by Communist Party trade union leader William Z. Foster as a rising star. He was booked to Moscow to deliver a report on the formation of the Trade Union Unity League in 1929. Following his presentation, Padmore stayed in Russia to head the Negro Bureau of the Red International of Labor Union. 

He was elected to the Moscow City Soviet, the Soviet (It was a workers' council) of the capital city.  As head of the council's Negro Bureau, he helped to produce pamphlet literature and contributed articles to Moscow's English-language newspaper, the Moscow Daily News. He was also used periodically as a courier of funds from Moscow to various foreign Communist Parties. In July 1930, Padmore organized an international conference in Hamburg, Germany.  

He also lived in Vienna, Austria, where he edited the monthly publication of the new group, The Negro Worker. His German interlude came to an abrupt close by the middle of 1933, however, as the offices of the Negro Worker were ransacked by ultra-nationalist gangs following the Nazi seizure of power.  Disillusioned by what he perceived as the councils flagging support for the cause of the independence of colonial peoples in favor of the Soviet Union's pursuit of diplomatic alliances with the colonial powers, Padmore abruptly severed his connections late in the summer of 1933. When he refused, the ICC expelled him from the Communist movement in February 1934.  

As a result of his membership in the Communist Party and working for it in the Soviet Union and Germany, Padmore was barred from re-entry into the United States. He was a non-citizen, and the government did not want to admit known communists; Padmore remained a socialist.  He sought new ways to work for African independence from imperial rule. Relocating to France, he began to write a book: How Britain Rules Africa. With the help of former American heiress Nancy Cunard, it the book was published in 1936. A Swiss publisher distributed a German translation in Germany.  In 1934 Padmore moved to London, where he became part of a community of writers dedicated to pan-Africanism and African independence. His boyhood friend C. L. R. James, also from Trinidad, was already there, writing, and had started International African Friends of Ethiopia in response to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia.

That organization developed into the International African Service Bureau (IASB), a center for African and Caribbean intellectuals' anti-colonial activity. Padmore was chair, the Barbadian trade unionist Chris Braithwaite was its organizing secretary, and James edited its periodical, International African Opinion. Ras Makonnen from British Guiana handled the business end. Other key members included Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya and Amy Ashwood Garvey.  They published small periodicals, which were sometimes seized by authorities when they reached the colonies. They published articles in other people's periodicals, for instance, the Independent Labor Party's New Leader. They published pamphlets. They wrote letters to the editor; thanks to the support of publisher Secker & Warburg, they published Padmore's Africa and World Peace (1937) and books by both Kenyatta and James.  

When Nkrumah arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study law, Padmore met him at the station.  Padmore was then organizing the 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress attended by W. E. B. Du Bios. The Manchester conference helped set the agenda for decolonization in the post-war period.  Padmore used London as his base for more than two decades. He and Dorothy Pizer, a white English writer, and his domestic partner and co-worker shared a flat that became a center for African nationalists. Padmore maintained connections worldwide, sending articles to international newspapers and keeping up correspondence with American writers and activists Du Bois and Richard Wright.  

At Padmore's urging, Wright traveled to the Gold to explore the buildup to independence; he wrote Black Power (1954).  When Wright published, independence neared for the Gold Coast.  With Dorothy Pizer (a writer and secretary), Padmore encouraged the leader to write his autobiography. Nkrumah published his autobiography in 1957 when the Gold Coast became independent in Ghana. Padmore accepted Nkrumah's invitation to move to Ghana, but his time there as Nkrumah's advisor on African affairs was difficult. He was talking with friends about leaving Ghana to settle elsewhere when he returned to London for treatment for cirrhosis of the liver.

At University College Hospital in London, George Padmore died on September 23, 1959, aged 56. After his death, Nkrumah paid tribute to him in a radio broadcast: "One day, the whole of Africa will surely be free and united, and when the final tale is told, the significance of George Padmore's work will be revealed." His ashes were buried at Christiansburg Castle in Ghana on October 4, 1959. The ceremony was broadcast in the USA by NBC television.  On June 30, 1963, the George Padmore Research Library in the neighborhood of Ridge, Accra, Ghana, is named after him. Kwame Nkrumah spoke at the opening of the building dedicated to Padmore as a memorial library. In 1991, the George Padmore Institute (GPI), based in North London, was founded.  On June 28, 2011, the Nubian Jak Community Trust unveiled a blue plaque at Padmore's former address, 22 Cranleigh Street, in the London Borough of Camden. Also, George Padmore Road and George Padmore Lane, in Hurlingham, Nairobi, Kenya, are named after him.  


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