Amílcar Cabral, (born 1921, Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea—died Jan. 20, 1973, Conakry, Guinea), agronomist, nationalist leader, and founder and secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde; PAIGC), who helped lead Guinea-Bissau to independence.
After receiving his early education in Cape Verde, Cabral pursued university studies in Lisbon, where in 1948 he helped to found the Centro de Estudos Africanos. Employed by the Portuguese colonial authorities as an agronomist, in the early 1950s he traveled widely in Guinea in order to conduct a survey of the land and its resources. In September 1956 he and five associates formed the PAIGC, and in December of that year he cofounded a liberation movement in Angola with Agostinho Neto.
Cabral rapidly emerged as the leader of the PAIGC. The group organized early political resistance to the colonial power in the form of workers’ strikes—calling for better wages and improved conditions; however, when the Portuguese fired on demonstrators during a dockworkers’ strike in early August 1959, the need for a different approach became evident. Resistance activity was subsequently shifted to the countryside and was altered to make use of guerilla-style tactics.
Beginning in 1962, Cabral took his party into an open war for the independence of Portuguese Guinea, and in the late 1960s Cabral was the de facto ruler of the parts of Portuguese Guinea not occupied by army units from Portugal. In 1972 he established the Guinean People’s National Assembly as a step toward independence. On Jan. 20, 1973, Cabral was assassinated outside his home in Conakry, where his party had established its headquarters. In September of that year the PAIGC unilaterally declared Guinea-Bissau’s independence, a status formally achieved on Sept. 10, 1974.