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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 States and these colonial powers, as well as its role and policies toward the many minority regimes and the various political parties and coalitions of the indigenous independence movements in the region. The records are particularly strong with materials regarding the anti-apartheid movements in South Africa and Rhodesia and ACOA's many campaigns to assist these movements within each country, as well as within the United States and for the United Nations.

Main topics include: Anti-apartheid sanctions; consumer and cultural boycotts, demonstrations, and protests; enforcement of arms embargos; economic conditions and trade; detention, treatment, and release of African political prisoners; free and fair elections; human rights violations throughout Africa; liberation movements in southern Africa and post-independence civil war; divestment of public funds in banks and corporations dealing in southern Africa; and United States policy and legislative action.

Political parties and organizations represented in the records include: Angola's MPLA (People’s Movement for Liberation of Angola), FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola); Mozambique’s FRELIMO (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique); Guinea Bissau's PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde); Rhodesia's ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), ZAPU (Zimbabwe People's Union), and UANC (United African National Council); and South Africa's ANC (African National Congress) and PAC (Pan Africanist Congress).

The records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) addendum are divided into three main file groups for the paper-based portion of the collection (Administration, Projects, and Research), with additional series for oversize items and audiovisual materials. The file unit order for each group and sub-group is generally alphabetical by category, organizational name, or topic then descending chronological order within each group.


  • Created: 1949-2001
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1970-1997
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/09/1989


Conditions Governing Access

The records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) are open and available 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 Notes

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).


138.07 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

The addendum of the records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) is arranged into three main groups of files: Administration, Projects, and Research with additional sub-groups of files within the Administration and Research files. The file units are generally arranged alphabetically by topic, organization, or project name and in descending chronological order within the various alphabetical groupings.

Technical 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

The American Committee on Africa

Method of Acquisition


Appraisal Information

The American Committee on Africa (ACOA) records 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.

Accruals and Additions

The Amistad Research Center received additional deposits of records from the American Committee on Africa from 1989 to 2000.

Related Materials

The Amistad Research Center houses the initial deposist of 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's related holdings include, 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.

Separated Materials

The rare Africana publications, which accompanied the records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), were cataloged and housed within the Amistad Research Center Library Collection.

Processing Information

The bulk of the records (1948-1987) for the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) was previously deposited at the Amistad Research Center in 1983 and processed in 1988. The addendum for the records of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) were processed from March 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013.

American Committee on Africa records addendum
Laura J. Thomson
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

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