This article explores the late flowering of ‘black loyalism’ during the visit of the British royal family to Southern Africa in the summer of 1947. Whereas most accounts of post-war African politics emphasize the radicalization of political organizations, the growth of nationalism, and grassroots insurgency, this account of African engagement with the royal tour indicates that professed faith in the British monarchy as the embodiment and guardian of the rights and liberties of all peoples living under the crown was more widespread and longer lived than is generally assumed. However evanescent the phenomenon, extensive participation in the ceremonial rituals associated with the tour and the outpouring of expressions of black loyalism underlines the fluidity and unpredictability of black politics in this decade. At such a highly charged moment internationally, with India on the cusp of independence, and political turmoil at home, there was reason to hope that the loyalty of Africans during the Second World War might just be rewarded by the extension of political rights. This article traces the complex legacies and contested expressions of ‘black loyalism’ in what was effectively its swansong.
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