GOFAD's focus on Professor Locksley Edmondson this week is as much to pay tribute to him as an internationally recognized scholar of Pan- Africanism as to highlight the launching of a volume of essays edited by Professors Carol Boyce Davis and N'Dri Therese Assie Lumumba of the Africana Studies and Research Center Cornel University in his honour.
Pan African Connections published by African World Press, 2021 is a fitting title for the book dedicated to Locksley Edmondson, a Jamaican, that emerged out of a symposium held four (4) years ago with contributions from a wide range of Pan African Scholars from the African Continent, the USA and the Caribbean. They assembled at Cornell University to pay homage to Professor Edmondson on the eve of his retirement. I was privileged to participate in the event to honor this distinguished scholar, gentleman and friend with whom I have been associated for over four (4) decades. We overlapped as colleagues at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona where he spent 7 years. His impact on the scholarly endeavors and the rearrangements of the programmatic and administrative directions include Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Coordinator of the exercise establishing the UWI Center of Tourism in The Bahamas and Co-chair of the symposium of regional and international scholars out of which emerged the renowned Consortium Graduate School of the Social Sciences in the Caribbean whose Directors included Professor Donald Harris, and the late Professors Raymond Smith and Norman Girvan. The voluminous tributes to Professor Edmondson's contributions are not confined to the institutions he served including University of West Indies (UWI), Jamaica, Makerere University, Uganda, Waterloo University, Canada and in the USA, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and Cornell University. His academic tributaries spawned connections with thousands of students, hundreds of colleagues-professors and researchers, and multitudes of public servants, political leaders, practitioners and community activists across the global arenas. These have contributed to his massive legacy that will surely remain undiminished.See Professor Edmondson's biography https://africana.cornell.edu/locksley-edmondson
Sketches of the Book
The essays in the volume explore important aspects of Professor Edmondson's enormous intellectual contributions. However, from among the labyrinth of his extensive body of work, I thought that it would be useful to provide a flavour of the book by confining my review to sketches of its contents with special reference to:
Some Pathways associated with his Work
First, the links between Trans-Atlantic Slavery and Racism. These provide the internationalization of race and underscore the philosophical moorings of Professor Edmondson’s interpretations that Africans, African Americans and the Afro Caribbean are united in ancestry, history of oppression and suffering under their European conquerors. He believes that the modern systems of slavery evolving from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had cumulative impact on racial, economic and religious factors and ultimately on white world/ black world relationships. This led secondly, to his thesis, that Racism is a Consequence of slavery. In this respect, he draws conclusions from critical reviews of the analysis and advocacy from among others, including Marcus Garvey, W.E B Dubois, Carl Degler, Winthrop Jordan, and CLR James. He is of the view that “when all is said and done, the common conclusion which may be adduced from these assessments is that in the absence of slavery, through which racial prejudice and discrimination were systematized, matters of race and color would not have been destined to play so important a role in modern political and socio economic thought and policy."
A third pathway establishes the view that The African Diaspora, Pan Africanism and the location of the African Diaspora in North America constitute a dynamic demographic group from Anglophone, Francophone, Portuguese and Spanish Africa. This is intricately linked fourthly to the Rise of Capitalism integrally related to racial exploitation. He draws on Eric Williams' historical treatise, Capitalism and Slavery and Walter Rodney's How Europe underdeveloped Africa to support his views of the role of slavery in capitalist exploitation and economic growth reinforced by religious considerations. These accordingly gave impetus to ‘racial slavery’ and ‘the development of racism’. He aptly sums up the balance of opinion on this issue: “Thanks to the Atlantic slave trade the formalization of the economic exploitation, dependence and underdevelopment along racial lines assumed international proportions hither unknown. For once slavery linked to the ongoing predominating transitions in the international economic system, was sustained by major actors in the emerging political system --- the stage was set for the internationalization of the linkages of race, economics and politics"
Related Challenges and Triumphs resulting from these Connections
The contributions in this volume provide a range of insights of Edmondson's triumphs and universal impact as teacher, researcher and mentor. Among them are:
Other contributions portrayed the essence of challenges with which he grappled:
Spin-offs from Professor Edmundson Research Beckons:
This brings us to speculate on some of the spin offs from the connections to which the trail of Professor Edmundson's research beckons. At the time of the Symposium, I was preoccupied with making the connections with some of the major policies challenging the UN System and therefore in my contribution, suggested the following:
We have provided sketches of the lessons learned from Professor Edmondson’s careful crafting of African- Afro Americans - Caribbean connections. There are so many underlining factors with which to grapple and so many directions in which his body of work leads us. The challenges and triumphs of this connection that his work identifies have established benchmarks for scholars, practitioners and policy makers. It is clear that this commemoration of Locksley Edmondson’s magnificent career, ensures the legacy of yet another Caribbean scholar to the cause of Pan Africanism and to the role of the African Diaspora cultures in international relations.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.