Agostinho Neto (1922 – 1979)

António Agostinho Neto was born in 1922, in Icolo e Bengo, in the province of Luanda, Angola. In Angola, he served in the Portuguese Colonial Health Service, and in the late 1940’s he moved to Portugal to study medicine. While in Lisbon, he started to befriend several African students, and eventually founded the Anti-Colonial Movement that vehiculated some of the same ideas to the Négritude movement. His political activities got him arrested several times in Portugal, Angola, and Cape Verde, specially due to his anti-colonialist militancy. One of these arrests triggered a demonstration against the Portuguese administration, that killed 30 people. In 1962, Neto fled to Morocco and then to Zaïre, where he joined the Angolan independence movement, rapidly becoming the President of the Movimento Popular de Libertação Angolana (MPLA). Since Neto was a Marxist, the United States’ refused to endorse him, when he asked for support in the independence war between Portugal and Angola. Despite opposing the Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA) and the União Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), Neto’s ideas of socialism and racial-equality gained him an important popularity in Angola. After the Carnation Revolution in 1974 that resulted in Angola’s independence, the MPLA was able to hold the central part of the country with the help of Cuba. As a result, Neto became the first President of Angola, despite the Civil War that opposed the three parties until later than his death, in 1979. The legacy that remains from Agostinho Neto is that of a brilliant poet who wrote mainly about freedom, as well as that of a “National hero”. Indeed, after his death, José Eduardo dos Santos succeeded him as President of Angola and created the “National Hero Day” in his honor.

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