Airlift to America: How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours [NOOK Book]

Overview


This is the long-hidden saga of how a handful of Americans and East Africans fought the British colonial government, the U.S. State Department, and segregation to transport to, or support at, U.S. and Canadian universities, between 1959 and 1963, nearly 800 young East African men and women who would go on to change their world and ours. The students supported included Barack Obama Sr., future father of a U.S. president, Wangari Maathai, future Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as well as the nation-builders of ...

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Airlift to America: How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours

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Overview


This is the long-hidden saga of how a handful of Americans and East Africans fought the British colonial government, the U.S. State Department, and segregation to transport to, or support at, U.S. and Canadian universities, between 1959 and 1963, nearly 800 young East African men and women who would go on to change their world and ours. The students supported included Barack Obama Sr., future father of a U.S. president, Wangari Maathai, future Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as well as the nation-builders of post-colonial East Africa -- cabinet ministers, ambassadors, university chancellors, clinic and school founders.

The airlift was conceived by the unusual partnership of the charismatic, later-assassinated Kenyan Tom Mboya and William X. Scheinman, a young American entrepreneur, with supporting roles played by Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The airlift even had an impact on the 1960 presidential race, as Vice-President Richard Nixon tried to muscle the State Department into funding the project to prevent Senator Jack Kennedy from using his family foundation to do so and reaping the political benefit.

The book is based on the files of the airlift's sponsor, the African American Students Foundation, untouched for almost fifty years.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the true global cultural exchange programs that paid huge dividends, the African American Students Foundation (AASF), is the timely topic of Shachtman's (Rumspringa) new book. The brainchild of Kenyan politician Tom Mboya and American businessman William Scheinman, the AASF's goal was to bring top African students to America between 1959 and 1963 in order to establish a group of accomplished young Africans to staff government positions and the educational system in their native countries upon the fall of colonialism. Called the “airlift generation,” prized students from Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Rhodesia, among them President Obama's father, Barack Sr., and Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize, were chosen to study in American colleges and universities. Shachtman relates the political controversies surrounding the program and U.S. government involvement, as African nations gained independence and became proxies in the cold war. A memorable and poignant recounting of a significant endeavor that is still scoring successes around the world, this book is not to be missed by African and American history buffs. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
A Kenyan student, one among a large group of students airlifted to the United States in 1959 by the African American Students Foundation, has a son who, 50 years later, becomes the President of the United States. It is upon that stunning truth that Schachtman (Rumspringa: To Be or Not To Be Amish) builds his premise: the airlift, which brought hundreds of Kenyan students to American colleges and universities, changed the face not only of America but of American politics. Central to this story is Kenyan Tom Mboya, here portrayed as a heroic figure fighting the colonial powers that still ruled Kenya in the 1950s and 1960s. His rising international prominence enabled him to meet notables, such as Harry Belafonte, who would help him fund the airlifts, and he used the presidential election of 1960 as leverage to finesse funding from John F. Kennedy's family foundation. Whether that affected Kennedy's election, as Schachtman posits, is not so clear. But this little-known period of African and American history ultimately had a profound effect on American life, especially in race relations and politics. VERDICT A well-written and fascinating account that all students of history will appreciate.—Jane B. Marino, Great Neck Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
The story of communal American liberality 50 years ago and how it affected today's world, retrieved from the files of an almost forgotten nongovernmental organization. In 1959, many Africans and African-Americans saw their circumstances as connected, with colonialism and segregation mirroring each other. "Uhuru! Freedom Now!" was the cry in sub-Sahara Africa, and if education was the key to black freedom and independence for both populations, education in America-rather than England or the Soviet Union-was seen as crucial for Africans. The African American Students Foundation, whose founders included charismatic Kenyan activist Tom Mboya, sought to arrange transportation to the United States for young East Africans who had secured scholarships at American colleges. The organization's first airlift brought President Obama's father and 80 more bright, eager students from a dozen tribes. Though some were inadequately prepared for their new lives as American scholars, most succeeded remarkably, Shachtman (Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish, 2006, etc.) demonstrates in revealing character sketches. Ultimately, the students returned home to become doctors, academics and government officials in their newly formed nations. The airlift effort became a political football between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign, with both candidates seeking to somehow take credit for its success. Though the AASF was strongly supported by Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr., among other luminaries, raising money for the charter flights was difficult until the government took over funding the flights in 1964. Nonetheless, the efforts of the AASF proved to be a crucial element in thedevelopment of numerous students who would become significant figures in their home nations. Shachtman's text, gleaned from the organization's files and interviews with principals, offers a compelling portrait of nation-building abroad and nation-changing at home. A valuable case study of the effectiveness of NGOs when they are operated with care and confidence. Agent: Mel Berger/William Morris Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429960908
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,137,174
  • File size: 468 KB

Meet the Author


Tom Shachtman is an author, filmmaker, and educator. He has written or co-authored more than thirty books, as well documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, and has taught at major universities. Publishers Weekly lauded his most recent book, RUMSPRINGA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE AMISH (North Point Press/Farrar Straus) as “not only one of the most absorbing books ever written about the Plain People, but a perceptive snapshot of the larger culture in which they live and move
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Read an Excerpt


From the Prologue:

“As with the story of [Barack] Obama’s rise, the [1959-1963] airlifts were an expression of a quintessentially American trait, an aspect of what America had so consistently offered to the peoples of the rest of the world: an open, helping hand, and the experience and understanding of what it means to be free, to be educated, and to conceive personal dreams that have a substantial chance of being realized.

This book tells that story, recounting the creation, execution, and achievements of those airlifts, including their important effects on the presidential elections of 1960 and 2008, as well as on the integration of American campuses, on the way that foreign students were recruited for the U.S. and treated once here, and on the health and survival of the independent nations of East Africa in their most formative years.”

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