Founded in London August 1925 by Ladipo Solanke and Herbert Bankole-Bright, a member of the National Congress of British West Africa, the West African Students’ Union (WASU) became the key political, social and cultural organisation for West Africans in Britain and the main African organisation in the country for over thirty years.
The WASU developed out of the activities of earlier student organizations such as the Union of Students of African Descent and the Nigeria Progress Union, established by Ladipo Solanke and Amy Ashwood Garvey in London in July 1924.
The WASU campaigned against racism in Britain and against colonialism and for independence in West Africa. Its activities included producing a journal, Wasu, and founding four hostels in London to provide lodgings and a ‘home from home’ for West African students and other African visitors at a time when as a result of racism and the ‘colour bar’ it was difficult or impossible for them to secure accommodation.
The WASU acted as a training ground for future West African politicians and from the late 1930s established branches and distributed its journal throughout West Africa and internationally. Through its branches and individual links it was a major influence on the anti-colonial movements in Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. Its members included individuals who would play key roles in the anti-colonial struggles in West Africa, not least Kwame Nkrumah who led the Gold Coast/Ghana to independence in 1957.
In Britain the WASU maintained links with a host of organisations from the League of Coloured Peoples to the Communist Party and had its own parliamentary committee of MPs through whom it lobbied on African concerns in the House of Commons. It was one of the most important political organisations in Britain from the 1920s until the 1960s.