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Fri, 08.07.1925

The West African Students’ Union is Formed

The West African Students' Union

*The West African Students' Union (WASU) was founded on this date in 1925. WASU was an association of students from various West African countries studying in the United Kingdom.

WASU was founded in London, England, by twenty-one law students led by Ladipo Solanke and Herbert Bankole-Bright. The previous year, Solanke founded the Nigerian Progress Union (N.P.U.) for London-based students with a Nigerian background. With the support of Amy Ashwood Garvey, it had begun to campaign for improved welfare for all African students in London and assorted measures for progress in Britain's African colonies.

As early as 1923, Solanke had proposed that the Union of Students of African Descent (USAD). Many students joined to form WASU, and Solanke became the new organization's secretary-general, while J. B. Danquah became its first president. J. E. Casely Hayford was the new group's first patron, a post he used to promote African nationalism. The new organization made opposition to the color bar its priority, including promoting political research, supporting the NCBWA, and providing a student office, its founding aims. WASU began publication of a journal, Wasu, intended as a scholarly publication, circulated both in Europe and Africa.

WASU also undertook some political campaigns within Britain. In 1929, it successfully stopped plans for an African village exhibition in Newcastle, which it felt would be exploitative. During the 1930s, the group developed increasing links with communist groups, such as the League Against Imperialism (LAI) and the Negro Welfare Association, in particular in its campaigns against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The founding of an office was taken directly from USAD and the N.P.U. Many African students in Britain found it difficult to secure satisfactory lodgings. In 1934, this became Aggrey House. While in Africa, Solanke founded more than twenty branches of WASU.

WASU is affiliated with the International Union of Students (I.U.S.) on its foundation, and its members regularly attend the World Festival of Youth. In 1952, WASU began the publication of WASU News Service. Following further financial problems, it sold its hostel on the Chelsea Embankment and opened cheaper offices on Warrington Crescent in 1956. The same year, it underwent a major reorganization. It passed a motion disassociating it from all political organizations.

In 1958, it joined the Committee of African Organizations and lost importance, but it remained active into the early 1960s. In 2004, a new West African Students' Union based in Ghana was founded to unite students' unions throughout the region. The WASU Project aims to document the history of West Africans in Britain, especially those who campaigned to end colonial rule and against all forms of racism during the 20th century.

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