The emblem of the festival was the royal ivory mask of Benin. The hosting of the festival led to the establishment of the Nigerian National Council of Arts and Culture, Festac Village and the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Most of the events where held in four main venues: the National Theatre, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos City Hall and Tafawa Balewa Square.
The inspiration for convening FESTAC can be traced to the development of ideas on Négritude and Pan-Africanism. In 1940s, Aimé Césaire and Leopold Sedar Sénghor inspired by DuBois' Pan-Africanism and Alain Locke's concept of the New Negro started a journal and publishing house in Paris called Présence Africaine, both men were also members of the Société Africaine du Culture. Présence Africaine and the Society of African Culture were facilitators of two congresses, one in 1956 and the other in 1959, the forums were convened with the intention of promoting black culture and civilisation. The first congress was the Conference of Black Writers in Paris and the second was a black writers forum in Rome. Attendees of the forums included writers of African and Afro-descendant heritage such as Alioune Diop, Cheikh Anta Diop, Léopold Senghor, and Jacques Rabemananjara, Richard Wright, Césaire, George Lamming, Horace Mann Bond, Jacques Alexis, John Davis, William Fontaine, Jean Price Mars, James Baldwin, Chester Himes, Mercer Cook and Frantz Fanon. Members of both forums were engaged with discussing ideas about the resurgence of African culture and the convocation of a festival of arts. In 1966, with leadership provided by Leopold Senghor and subsidies from outside, notably France, and UNESCO, the First World Festival of Black Arts was held in Dakar, Senegal, 1–24 April 1966. At the end of the first festival, Nigeria was invited to hold the second festival in 1970 so as to promote a continuation of black unity through cultural festivals. The host nation would be responsible for providing the necessary infrastructure and facilities for a successful staging of the festival. However, a Civil War and changes in government led to the postponing of the festival to 1977.
Preparation for the Festac took off in Lagos on 3 October 1972, when the International Festival Committee met for the first time and decided that the festival would be held in November 1974. The name of the festival was changed from "World Black Festival of Arts and Culture" to "Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture" so as to accommodate the realities of African unity. The date was further changed to November 1975. The organizers divided countries into 16 geographical zones, each zones having a committee made up of representatives of peoples of African descent; the chairman of each zone would become a member of the International Festival Committee. The committee acted as the administrative arm of the Festival. The desire to improve on the Dakar festival led to Nigeria's intention to create an extravagant show fuelled by new-found oil money. A new regime replaced the Gowon administration and the date for the festival was thus changed to 1977.
To generate publicity for the festival, the international committee advised the zones to encourage preliminary festivals. Some mini-festivals did take place, such as Carifesta hosted by Guyana, the Commonwealth Festival in London, Ghana's national exhibition of arts and crafts and Nigeria's Nafest. The festival committee also chose a 16th-century Benin ivory mask as the festival emblem, the mask was last worn by Ovonramwen, a Benin king dethroned in 1897 by the Consul General of the Niger Coast Protectorate, Ralph Moor.
A housing estate known as Festac Village was constructed as accommodation for about 17,000 participants. However, the long-term objective of the village under the Federal Housing Programme was to relieve some of the housing pressure in Lagos. The housing estate was proposed for construction within two years, with more than 40 contractors working on different sites of the project. In total 5,088 dwelling units were built prior to the festival and an additional 5,687 were to be completed by the end of 1977. During the festival, the housing estate was the venue for performance rehearsals and interaction by participants as various troupes rehearsed their routines in the day and at night.