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The Underground Meetings that Liberated Africa

In 1960 alone, 17 African countries celebrated their independence from former colonial overlords. From Mauritania to Madagascar, national movements won the day, nearly doubling the number of people on the African continent living in independent nations. No sea change like that is a coincidence, and none starts at an exactly pinpointable moment. But to understand 1960, you have to go back to a conference that took place in December 1958. December 8 in Accra saw the opening of the first-ever All-African People’s Conference (AAPC). And the connections made, anger stoked and rallying done in the subsequent week would bear fruit just two years later in the form of a global power shift. Hundreds of delegates from 28 African countries and colonies attended the AAPC. At least 65 national liberation movements were represented. It was the first time many independence movements’ leaders were meeting each other, networking and drawing strength and strategy from each other. Participants crafted slogans like “Hands Off Africa” to signify their willingness to take action to reverse colonialism. Within a decade, almost the entire continent had declared independence.