Revolutionary Papers

Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. Read More


Spearhead. The Pan-African Review was established by the South African lawyer and journalist Frene Ginwala in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanganyika (later Tanzania), just one month ahead of the country’s full independence in December of 1961. The newspaper was published monthly until May 1963, when Ginwala was expelled to Great Britain, likely due to conflicts with the Tanganyikan authorities.

The newspaper’s proclaimed mission was to discuss questions pertaining to the politics of the continent and to “build bridges from Cape to Cairo, from Dar es Salaam to Accra” with a clearly Pan- African and anticolonial standpoint. In the first of three regular sections, Spearhead provided “News” from all over the continent. In its regular second and third sections, it tackled all the major political themes of the early 1960s. In “Views,” and the “Seminar,” it discussed the best forms of democracy and trade unionism for postcolonial contexts, as well as African socialism, Pan-Africanism, and liberation struggles. The occasional section “Profiles” paid tribute to notable figures like Nelson Mandela, Tom Mboya, or Hastings Banda.

In the same spirit as other Pan-African journals produced in various African “hubs of decolonization” in the early 1960s, Spearhead discussed issues of postcolonial state-building and reported on anticolonial struggles on the continent. Yet, unlike other either fully or partially state-controlled journals such as Accra’s Voice of Africa and the Spark, or Cairo’s African Renaissance (Nahdat Afriqya), Spearhead was financially and editorially independent. The numerous advertisements in each issue certainly financed part of the newspaper’s operations. The range of sponsors included Twiga Soft Drinks, a Cantonese restaurant in Dar es Salaam, Radio Moscow and the Indian Ministry for Tourism. Letters to the editor came predominantly from Anglophone countries in East and Central Africa, although the subscription information for Spearhead was also provided to readers in Great Britain and “all other parts of Africa.”

Editing Spearhead, Ginwala could draw on a wealth of experiences and her continent-spanning network. Not long after finishing her law studies in the UK and the US, Ginwala worked as a correspondent for British media. She became involved with Ronald Segal’s Cape Town-based magazine Africa South, many of whose contributors would come to write for Spearhead. They were joined by scholars and journalists such as the Guardian’s Africa correspondent Clyde Sanger, South African communist Hermann Meyer Basner or Patrick McAuslan, a radical lecturer at Dar es Salaam’s newly established Law Faculty. The publication provided a platform for high-ranking African politicians and functionaries like Kwame Nkrumah, Sékou Touré, or Ghanaian trade union leader John Tettegah to promote their views on Pan-Africanism and postcolonial statehood. Leaders of liberation movements voiced their criticisms of colonial regimes and called for support, though there were also debates on varying strategies – for instance regarding the boycott of trade with apartheid South Africa… read more

Katharina Föger

Katharina Foeger is a graduate student and has studied history in Lodz, Prague, and Innsbruck. She has published articles on Comintern anticolonialism and Soviet posters on African decolonisation in the 1960s. She currently works on transnational networks of Austrian trade unions after 1945 and project collaborator in a research project at the University of Innsbruck […]

Eric Burton

Eric Burton is Assistant Professor in Global History at the University of Innsbruck. His work on the themes of development, socialism, and decolonization has appeared in the Journal of Global History, Cold War History, and the Journal of African Cultural Studies, among others. His first monograph on Tanzania’s African Socialism and the two German states […]