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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 interested in Africa. The records document the founding of Americans for South African Resistance (AFSAR), the organization that was the predecessor of ACOA, and the subsequent administrated activities and policies of ACOA itself.

The collection is arranged in five series. The first consists of administrative records, including interoffice memoranda, minutes, reports, financial records, personnel and legal records, photographs, lists, and various notes and worksheets by staff. Series 2-4 consist of documents related to ACOA program and activities in the United States and Canada (Series 2), in various African countries (Series 3), and throughout the rest of the world (Series 4). These three series include correspondence, program records, and collected materials related to liberation movements and political change across Africa as states became independent.

Correspondence in the collection consists of extensive letters between ACOA members, particularly Executive Director George M. Houser, with various leaders worldwide, especially those in various African countries and in the United States. The program activities records make up about one quarter of the collection and document the various activities of the ACOA from its inception as a committee. These records include those created by the ACOA’s Speaker’s Bureau, Africa Fund, Request for Aid Program, United States Political action, and lobbying efforts, fund raising activities, and other items. The collected printed items are estimated to be about one-half of the total collection and reflect the diversity of the many institutions, organization and countries interested in the development of Africa. Collected items include newsletters and other serials, press releases and clippings, brochures, texts of resolutions, and speeches, writings, photographs, conference literature, lists, sound recordings and motion picture film.


  • Created: 1948-1987
  • Other: Date acquired: 02/01/1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

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).


146.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Physical Access Requirements

Audiovisual materials stored offsite. Please contact the Reference Desk of the Amistad Research Center for inquiries. As of 9/20/2023, portions of this collection will be inaccessible to researchers until August 2024 due to a digitization project. Contact the Reference Desk for further information.

Source of Acquisition

American Committee on Africa

Method of Acquisition


Accruals and Additions

Original donated received in 1983 with accruals prior to 1988.

Existence and Location of Originals

Portions of series 1 and the South Africa correspondence and subject files from series 3 have been microfilmed.

Related Materials

The Amistad Research Center houses an addendum to the American Committee on Africa records, as well as the records of The Africa Fund and the Campaign Against Bank Loans to South Africa (COBLSA). In addition, the Center houses the George M. Houser collection and an oral history interview with Houser. The Center's library contains an extensive collection of newspapers, books, pamphlets, and other publications formerly kept by ACOA and The Africa Fund.

Other Descriptive Information

Selected materials from the American Committee on Africa have been digitized as part of the African Activist Archive project and are linked from this finding aid.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Kenneth Coleman in 1988.

American Committee on Africa records
Kenneth Coleman, Christopher Harter, Diane Galatowitsch, Nika Carter
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222