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Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined
Unformatted Document Text:  2 This paper finds that far from seeing their publications as only political propaganda, nationalists saw the press playing more complex roles. They believed it could provide a forum for voices which were usually ignored by the settler-oriented mainstream press. They thought it would encourage self-reliance among a people whose self-worth was denied by the colonial institutions and people who governed them. They envisioned it creating a sense of community, and the nationalists did believe the press could raise political consciousness by giving voice to the complaints about and criticisms of the colonial government. Ultimately, they believed that the press should provide a nonviolent means of resistance to the colonial government. Historical Background The African press only began to develop in Kenya after certain significant upheavals were brought about by the impact of colonialism. The arrival of the British colonizers in the late 19th century set in motion immense changes in Africans’ work patterns, their educational system and their social structures. With their land confiscated by white settlers, Africans moved from villages to the urban areas, especially Nairobi and Mombassa, in search of work. Nairobi’s population nearly doubled between 1938 and 1947, increasing from 40,000 to 70,000. By 1952, the number of Africans in Nairobi reached 95,000. 3 The move to the cities shifted Africans from a subsistence to a money economy, creating a growing labor force that worked for wages. In 1936, 60 percent of Africans registered for employment were in European agriculture and 40 percent other spheres. By 1946 percentages were reversed and African wage labor was no longer predominantly agricultural. 4 In the cities, Africans began to create new organizations to replace the social structures they left behind. 5 In addition, some African children began 3 Carl G. Rosberg, Jr. and John Nottingham. The Myth of Mau Mau; Nationalism in Kenya (New York: Meridian Books, 1970), 209. 4 Rosberg and Nottingham 209. 5 Ibid 211.

Authors: Wall, Melissa.
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2
This paper finds that far from seeing their publications as only political
propaganda, nationalists saw the press playing more complex roles. They believed it
could provide a forum for voices which were usually ignored by the settler-oriented
mainstream press. They thought it would encourage self-reliance among a people whose
self-worth was denied by the colonial institutions and people who governed them. They
envisioned it creating a sense of community, and the nationalists did believe the press
could raise political consciousness by giving voice to the complaints about and criticisms
of the colonial government. Ultimately, they believed that the press should provide a
nonviolent means of resistance to the colonial government.
Historical Background
The African press only began to develop in Kenya after certain significant
upheavals were brought about by the impact of colonialism. The arrival of the British
colonizers in the late 19th century set in motion immense changes in Africans’ work
patterns, their educational system and their social structures. With their land confiscated
by white settlers, Africans moved from villages to the urban areas, especially Nairobi and
Mombassa, in search of work. Nairobi’s population nearly doubled between 1938 and
1947, increasing from 40,000 to 70,000. By 1952, the number of Africans in Nairobi
reached 95,000.
3
The move to the cities shifted Africans from a subsistence to a money
economy, creating a growing labor force that worked for wages. In 1936, 60 percent of
Africans registered for employment were in European agriculture and 40 percent other
spheres. By 1946 percentages were reversed and African wage labor was no longer
predominantly agricultural.
4
In the cities, Africans began to create new organizations to
replace the social structures they left behind.
5
In addition, some African children began
3
Carl G. Rosberg, Jr. and John Nottingham. The Myth of Mau Mau; Nationalism in
Kenya (New York: Meridian Books, 1970), 209.
4
Rosberg and Nottingham 209.
5
Ibid 211.


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