By Robert W. July
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Extra resources for An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence
LO Presence Americaine One of Alioune Diop's chief activities during the Paris conference was to keep conflicting views under control, to head off ideological disputes that might split the delegates and thereby destroy a show of unity, so necessary for the concluding resolutions of the congress. This was no easy task, for there were many tensions in the hall, variations on the major theme of the relative merits of African and Western culture. On the second day, an outburst of irritation from the spectators 34 The Crisis of Independence forced Thomas Ekello, a clergyman from Cameroon, to abandon his talk on the influence of Christianity on African culture.
It was a reality. What, indeed, had colonialism made of the African, his culture, his dreams? Baldwin wanted to know. What of the fact that it had created men of two worlds, men like the speaker? At this conference, of all places, why had not Cesaire addressed this central questionj" Coming before the delegates the next day, Richard Wright moved to confront the issue of African civilization, its validity, and its relationship to the West. He did this with some diffidence, he said, because of the considerable void between his own thoughts and what he had heard during the preceding discussions.
This is barbarism achieved through cultural anarchy. And it is death for the colonized society," Such ringing declarations could not fail to bring down the house. PresenceAfricaine and the Expression of Cultural Freedom 27 The applause was long and enthusiastic. The speaker was surrounded with ecstatic well-wishers, James Baldwin reported, joyful in their shared enthusiasm for words that had so powerfully expressed both their frustrations and their convictions. In his address a day earlier, Alioune Diop had said much the same things, but Diop's discourse was more restrained, less volatile, and in the end less compelling.