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American Committee on Africa | Amistad Research Center

Name: 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).

Sources:

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. http://africanactivist.msu.edu (Accessed 6 May 2012).

Note Author: Christopher Harter





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