The African Students Association of America and Canada, 1941 – 1945

  • Marika Sherwood


In 1943 African-American Roi Ottley noted in his 1943 book, New World AComing, that it was ‘the African  Students Association [who] are keeping the issue [of the importance of Africa to the world economy] alive  among Amer can Negroes’. (p.326) Some twenty years later, historian James Coleman in his  magisterial book, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (1986) argued that ‘…developments outside Nigeria had important repercussions upon the growth of postwar nationalism. These centred mainly around the activities of Nigerian students abroad.’ (p.239). He then noted that the ‘twenty-eight African wartime  students in America, with one or two exceptions, became leaders in the nationalist movement of their respective countries’. (p.244) Though the work of the West African Students Union (WASU) in London has been chronicled, there is still no full write-up of the African Students Association of America and Canada  (ASA) formed in 1942 by these students. In fact, Coleman minimizes the numbers of Africans then studying in the USA during the 1930s and 1940. Who were these students? What were they studying in in  the USA, and when? Did they influence the USA or was the influence reciprocal? Is there any linkage between those early years and the increasing interest of the USA in Africa? Did their experiences in the USA influence the students’ subsequent political activism for self-government, and perhaps even for Ibo  independence? Did the students influence the newly established United Nations? This article is merely an introduction to the activities of the African Students Association. I hope opens the door for many  researchers. The article is chronological, with many references hopefully to aid full analyses of these Africans’ work while studying in the USA

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eISSN: 1596-5031