The beginnings of African associations, to which the liberation movement traced its roots, remained obscure in 1988. Luanda was known to have had recreational societies, burial clubs, and other mutual aid associations in the early 1900s. After the Portuguese republican constitution of 1911 increased freedoms of the press, opinion, and association in the African colonies, a number of African associations were formed, including the Lisbon-based African League in 1919. Sponsored and financed by the Portuguese government, partly in response to pressure from the League of Nations with which African League leaders had established contacts, the African League was a federation of all African associations from Portuguese Africa. Its avowed purpose was to point out to the Portuguese government injustices or harsh laws that ought to be repealed. In 1923 the African League organized the second session of the Third Pan-African Congress in Lisbon.
Assimilados (mestišo and African) dominated most associations, and their membership seldom included uneducated Africans. Because the associations were under close Portuguese control, their members were unable to express the full extent of their discontent with the colonial system. As a result, extralegal, politically oriented African associations began to appear in the 1950s. Far-reaching economic and social changes, the growth of the white settler population, increased urbanization of Africans, and the beginnings of nationalist movements in other parts of Africa contributed to the growth of anticolonial feeling. In 1952 some 500 Angolan Africans appealed to the United Nations (UN) in a petition protesting what they called the injustices of Portuguese policy and requesting that steps be taken to end Portuguese rule.
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