Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 June 2020
This chapters surveys the place of human rights in African nationalist thought during the 1940s and 1950s. Responding to the shifts in recent human rights historiography, it seeks parity for voices that have been cast to the narrative periphery. Locating African nationalist icons, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Touré, and Julius Nyerere, within the debate, rather than accessories to it, the chapter finds an indissoluble connection between collective and individual liberty. Human rights were embedded in African nationalist discourse, but with a different inflection. Genealogies which select their evolutionary line derived from a particular Western variant of the discourse necessarily narrow the concept and its meaning, applying a selection test which is potentially more normative than it is historical. African invocations of human rights, which emerged in a setting of colonial hypocrisy and collective political marginalization, were less animated by individual protection from the state – their lodestar was securing a state to protect their rights.