Maghreb Noir: Pan-Africanism and the Militant-Artists of North Africa

A Book Talk with Paraska Tolan
Oct 24, 2023 at - | Fisher-Bennett 401

Paraska Tolan

Upon their independence, Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian governments turned to the Global South and offered military and financial aid to Black liberation struggles. Tangier and Algiers attracted Black American and Caribbean artists eager to escape American white supremacy; Tunis hosted African filmmakers for the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage; and young freedom fighters from across the African continent established military training camps in Morocco. North Africa became a haven for militant-artists, and the region reshaped postcolonial cultural discourse through the 1960s and 1970s.

Maghreb Noir dives into the personal and political lives of these militant-artists, who collectively challenged the neo-colonialist structures and the authoritarianism of African states. Drawing on Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English sources, as well as interviews with the artists themselves, Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik expands our understanding of Pan-Africanism geographically, linguistically, and temporally. This network of militant-artists departed from the racial solidarity extolled by many of their nationalist forefathers, instead following in the footsteps of their intellectual mentor, Frantz Fanon. They argued for the creation of a new ideology of continued revolution—one that was transnational, trans-racial, and in defiance of the emerging nation-states. Maghreb Noir establishes the importance of North Africa in nurturing these global connections—and uncovers a lost history of grassroots collaboration among militant-artists from across the globe.


Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik is an Assistant Professor specializing in 20th-century transnational North African history. Her academic pursuits have focused on the intricate historical narratives of this region, shedding light on its complex past and its impact on the broader world. Tolan-Szkilnik's most recent achievement is the publication of her book, "Maghreb Noir: the Militant-Artists of North Africa and the Struggle for a Pan-African, Postcolonial Future." This work delves into the realms of Pan-Africanism within 20th-century North Africa, providing fresh insights into the struggles and aspirations of the region's militant-artists striving for a Pan-African, postcolonial future. Before joining her current academic institution, Paraska Tolan-Szkilnik held the position of Assistant Professor in the History Department at Suffolk University from 2021 to 2023. Her academic journey also includes a post-doctoral fellowship at the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania from 2020 to 2021. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.