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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 0th Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0312570750
ISBN-10: 0312570759
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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“In 1960, Boniface Odero, an Airlift student from Kenya, came to  live with my family in our house in Riverdale, New York. Due to her  education by Cora Weiss, (executive director of the African American Students Foundation, the airlift organizers) my mother took to this idea like a dove to its mate. After all, she and Cora were fast friends and co-activists, and during the years when my sisters and brother and I were all underage, it was not atypical of my mother, Andrea Simon, to invite students and actors, poets and political protesters for a  'little stay' at our boisterous, busy and crowded house. Boniface stayed a year. I am so proud of this book, proud of the history of  the unique initiative which brought Odero and his fellow students to  this country, and proud of our lasting humanitarian program and the  hearty spirit which drives it.”

--Carly Simon


"A little more than half a century ago when I was in college, the few Africans on campus felt isolated by Negro students, most of whom were running as fast as they could away from African students and from any hint of our own African ancestors.  Due in large measure to the thawing spawned by the far-sighted and brilliantly executed African Airlift, African and American brothers, sisters, cousins and ancestors, have since produced enterprises in commerce, politics and education enriching to parties on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a noble and far-sighted endeavor."

--Roger Wilkins, a former board chair of the Africa America Institute, is Clarence J. Robinson Professor Emeritus of the Clarence J. Robinson program at George Mason University.

“[This] bold initiative charted a new course in the preparation of African leaders, created new relationships with United States institutions of higher education, and helped pave the way for increased access by African-Americans to colleges and universities whose closed doors were opened by those who came under the auspices of the program.  These airlift students returned home to become builders of the newly independent East African nations and helped unravel the threads holding colonialism together.  I am proud that Adelphi gave scholarships to three of the participants.”

-- Dr. Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University


“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.”





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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312570759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312570750
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,097,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Shachtman has written or co-authored more than thirty-five books. His latest is GENTLEMEN SCIENTISTS AND REVOLUTIONARIES (2014), and his best-known are RUMSPRINGA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE AMISH (2006), ABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD (1999), and three books with FBI chief profiler Robert K. Ressler, including the international bestseller WHOEVER FIGHTS MONSTERS. He has also written documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and BBC, and has taught at New York University and lectured at Harvard, Stanford, Georgia Tech, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian's National History Museum.
AMERICAN ICONOCLAST: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ERIC HOFFER was published in November 2011. Presidential historian Herbert S. Parmet called it "as complete and masterful a biography as could be imagined."
His most recent award, in February 2010, was the American Institute of Physics' sciencewriting prize for his script of the two-hour documentary, ABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD (PBS, 2008), based on his book of the same name. The New York Times Book Review characterized that book as written "with passion and clarity," the Library Journal called it "a truly wonderful book." In print in four languages, it is cited in many compilations of the best popular science books.
Publishers' Weekly labeled RUMSPRINGA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE AMISH, Publishers Weekly "not only one of the most absorbing ... ever written about the Plain People, but a perceptive snapshot of the larger culture in which they live." The Christian Science Monitor wrote, "Shachtman is like a maestro, masterfully conducting an orchestra of history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and journalism together in a harmonious and evocative symphony of all things Amish."
Earlier Shachtman books in use as secondary texts include TERRORS AND MARVELS (2002), about science and technology in World War II; THE INARTICULATE SOCIETY (1995), about mass media and culture, recently re-issued in paperback; SKYSCRAPER DREAMS: THE GREAT REAL ESTATE DYNASTIES OF NEW YORK (1991), which Business Week characterized as "A fascinating history, showing how the city has been molded by the edifice complexes of risk-takers" and by The New York Times Book Review as "Superb reporting on the industry's wheeling and dealing"; and DECADE OF SHOCKS, 1963-1974 (1983).
AROUND THE BLOCK (1997), a socio-economic study of a single block in Manhattan over the course of a year, was called "a near-classic" by The Economist, by The New Yorker "a grand idea, splendidly executed," and by The Washington Post Book World a "thoughtful, interesting ... good and useful book."
Among his documentaries are six programs in the CBS science and technology series THE 21ST CENTURY. Documentaries that he also directed and produced, notably the CHILDREN OF POVERTY trilogy of one-hours about inner-city children, won first prizes at San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York International festivals, a half-dozen New York area Emmys, and were shown in Congress and at the White House.
He is a former chairman of The Writers Room in Manhattan, a trustee of the Connecticut Humanities Council, a founding director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, and is currently a consultant to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's science and technology initiatives.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Timothy P. Koerner on December 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of the legacies of W W II was acceleration of the disintegration of colonialism in Africa and Asia. Colonialism, of course, did not end overnight, and it took longer to collapse in some countries than in others. The book AIRLIFT TO AMERICA looks, generally, at the end of colonialism in eastern Africa and, specifically, at an interesting and little known "crusade" or initiative whose main purpose was to prepare a country emerging from British rule to independence by providing higher education for its future leaders. The country was Kenya.

The crusade referred to in the previous paragraph was the so-called African "Airlift" to the USA. Beginning in 1959 and continuing for the next several years, and supported by people from both Africa (Tom Mboya) and the US (Harry Belafonte, Jackie Robinson, Bill Scheinman), approximately eight hundred east African students flew to the US to continue their education at a wide variety of colleges and universities all over the country, from community colleges to Ivy League schools.

Most of these students earned undergraduate and/or graduate degrees and returned to their African homes to take up positions in government, education, agriculture, and business, as their country prepared and attained self-rule (granted to Kenya in 1963). Some chose to stay in the US.

The airlift venture inevitably became connected to and involved in both the international cold war (the Soviets were also recruiting African students to come to schools in Moscow) and domestic US politics (the presidential election of 1960). These connections are discussed by the author in some detail. He also supplies profiles of numerous airliftees, i.e. the individual students, and their experiences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MarianneM on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as my father and others I know were involved in the Airlift to America. At the time it came out, it was just after Obama was elected President of the United States and has made history as the first African-American person, literally, to hold this office. His father, Barack Obama the elder was from Kenya and came to the U.S. to get a college education and ended up at The University of Hawaii, where he met President Obama's mother. Hawaii had not been a state for very long. If this had not happened, Barack Obama, the younger would never have been born and as such, would never have become President. Barack Obama the Elder did not actually come over on one of the chartered planes, but did receive some small grants from them for expenses. Also important is how a the African Students Airlift secured a private grant from the Joseph Kennedy Foundation when the State Department did not give them the money. This was during the 1960 Presidential Campaign, and may have had some impact on the outcome of this election.

However, this book, in my opinion, is not particularly well-written. It is important that there now a written record of the Airlift to America for those who are interested in such subjects.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S Musoke on July 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the stuff that history is made of. Every kid in the world ought to know the story of the African Student Airlift. It is the story of a vision of the world that was shared and lived out by a group that included a young Kenyan leader named Tom Mboya; Ralph Bunche, who was the first person of colour to win the Nobel Peace Prize; the singer and civil and human rights activist Harry Belfonte; the premier civil right leader in the US, Martin Luther King Jr; Jackie Robinson, the first black person to play in the major league baseball; John and Robert Kennedy and the Kennedy family; and I am sure many less known others.They recognised education as the great builder and uniter of persons, peoples and nations and communities; the great equaliser and guarantor of justice; the undeniable bulwark against backwardness, underdevelopment and poverty. As colonialism came to an end in Africa, they put mechanisms in place to send hundreds of African students to study in American universities. Working with the the African-American Students Foundation in the US, at first, the expenses were met out-of-pocket by the above gentlemen, or from families, friends and the Kennedy Foundation. In cases, individual American families pitched in and sponsored or supported students in which ever way they could.

Later, undoubtedly seeing a winning horse, the US Government, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and others joined the effort. Although initially centred around Kenya students, the wave of education opportunities spread to all of Africa, and spawned programmes that continue until today. I obtained my own Masters and Doctorate degrees under one of successor programmes implemented through the African American Institute.
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