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American Committee on Africa


Historical Note

The American Committee on Africa (ACOA) was founded in 1953 to support liberation and anti-colonial struggles in Africa. ACOA developed out of the ad hoc Americans for South African Resistance (AFSAR), which was formed to support the Campaign of Defiance Against Unjust Laws led by the African National Congress (ANC). The co-chairmen of AFSAR were Reverend Donald S. Harrington of the Community Church of New York and Reverend Charles Y. Trigg of Salem Methodist Church in Harlem.

In 1953, following the end of the Defiance Campaign, AFSAR met to reassess its aims and function. The group reorganized as ACOA, an organization supporting the whole anti-colonial struggle in Africa. Based in New York, NY, ACOA had a national focus and a broad range of constituencies including students and elected officials, as well as labor, civil rights, religious and community leaders. In 1954, ACOA launched the magazine Africa Today, which in 1967 became independent under the control of Africa Today Associates and is now published by Indiana University Press.

In 1966, ACOA founded The Africa Fund, a 501(c)3 organization. The two organizations shared office space and staff, but had separate boards and budgets. In 1967, ACOA established a Washington (DC) Office. Five years later, the Washington Office was reorganized as an independent organization sponsored by five organizations including ACOA and renamed the Washington Office on Africa.

ACOA's scope included anti-colonial struggles throughout the continent, including Algeria, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Western Sahara, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. ACOA staff traveled extensively in Africa, attending all the All African People's Conferences, visiting newly independent countries and the Frontline States to meet with African leaders, attend conferences, and visit refugee camps. ACOA published newsletters including Africa-UN Bulletin, ACOA Action News, Student Anti-Apartheid News, and Public Investment and South Africa.

ACOA played a key role in campaigns related to South Africa, especially for sanctions and divestment, which resulted in churches, universities, states, and cities selling their stock holdings in companies that did business in apartheid South Africa. ACOA supported some post-colonial struggles such as for democracy in Nigeria during the dictatorship of Sani Abacha and against slavery in Mauritania and Sudan.

In 2001, ACOA, The Africa Fund and the Africa Policy Information Center merged to form Africa Action, which was based in Washington, DC. The New York office of ACOA was closed the next year. The Executive Directors of ACOA were George M. Houser (1953-1981), Jennifer Davis (1981-2000) and Salih Booker (2000-2001).

Author: Christopher Harter

George M. Houser. No One Can Stop the Rain: Glimpses of Africa's Liberation Struggle. (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1989).

George M. Houser. "Meeting Africa's Challenge - The Story of ACOA" in ISSUE: A Quarterly Journal of Africanist Opinion, Volume VI, Numbers 2/3 (Summer /Fall 1976).

African Activist Archive website. (Accessed 6 May 2012).

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

American Committee on Africa records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 012
Scope and Contents The records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) measure approximately 146 linear feet and document the foundation and development of a U.S.-based organization dedicated to support of anti-apartheid and anti-colonial movements throughout Africa during the mid to late 20th century. The records date from 1948-1987, and include administrative records, program records and materials collected by the committee from various institutions and organizations throughout the world involved and...
Dates: Created: 1948-1987; Other: Date acquired: 02/01/1983

American Committee on Africa records addendum

Identifier: 012-1
Scope and Contents The American Committee on Africa (ACOA) records addendum (1949-2001; bulk 1971-1997) covers the era of Africa's liberation (independence) movements against British, Dutch, French, German, and Portuguese colonialism and their imperialistic policy toward the continent, including aspects of both settler and exploitation colonialism, mainly in the African countries of Angola, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa. The records also document the relationship of the United...
Dates: Created: 1949-2001; Other: Majority of material found in 1970-1997; Other: Date acquired: 01/09/1989

Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA) records

Identifier: 736
Scope and Contents The records of the Campaign to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA) consist of research files, collected news clippings, presentation papers, publications, periodicals, and reports (1977-1983), as well as files generated during the tenure of National Coordinator Carole Collins (1981-1983). A smaller amount of material that the organization created includes correspondence, occasional minutes of meetings and reports, lists of bank lenders to South Africa and networking contacts. Of...
Dates: Created: 1967-1995; Other: Majority of material found in 1979-1983; Other: Date acquired: 07/01/2000

Marguerite Cartwright papers

Identifier: 72
Content Description The papers of actress, journalist and educator Dr. Marguerite Cartwright chronicle her personal life, career and academic endeavors. The collection encompasses 165.59 linear feet and provides an in-depth look at African Americans and world affairs, contemporary issues facing the United States in the mid-twentieth century, the anti-colonialism movement following World War II, and the United Nations through her work as an accredited UN correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier. She was...
Dates: 1912-1984

Carole J.L. Collins papers

Identifier: 748
Content Description The Carole J.L. Collins papers consist of collected research materials in the forms of articles, book chapters, conference and presentation papers, news clippings, press releases and statements, publications, speeches, and reports with occasional correspondence and manuscripts drafts for work authored by Collins and her spouse, journalist Steve Askin. The papers mainly focus on the African country of Zaire (1971-1997), its banking and economy, diamond and ivory trade, human rights...
Dates: Other: 1974-2003