Airlift To America

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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 by Tom ShachtmanAIRLIFT TO AMERICA: HOW BARACK OBAMA SR., JOHN F. KENNEDY, TOM MBOYA, AND 800 EAST AFRICAN STUDENTS CHANGED THEIR WORLD AND OURS was published in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press. Reviews from the Washington Post and The Nation echoed pre-pub reviews by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. The foreword is by the great singer and social activist Harry Belafonte, who along with Jackie Robinson and Sidney Poitier signed the first appeal to the public for support for the airlift, fifty years ago.

“This book fills in a piece of Barack Obama’s background. Quite an important piece, in that the subject is the so-called airlift, between 1959 and ’63, of hundreds of young Africans to the United States, where they studied at colleges and universities …. The idea was to let promising young Africans experience firsthand the freedom and promise of American life. No less an analyst than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. thought the program would advance the cause of civil rights on both continents.” – Washington Post

“Airlift offers an intriguing tidbit of US history and a look back at a brief moment when Many Americans and Africans caught glimpses of a shared and hopeful future.” – The Nation

Kirkus Service lauded the book’s “revealing character sketches” of individual students and their fascinating lives, and summed up the book by saying it offers “a compelling portrait of nation-building abroad and nation-changing at home.”

Publishers Weekly: “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.”

BookBrowse –Editors Choice — “This thorough, patiently researched, and at times moving account of dedicated young people hungry for an education and those who helped them receive it will appeal to students of American history in the 1960’s in particular, and anyone interested in an important turning-point in the struggle for human rights in the U.S. and in Africa …. I came away with my idealism refreshed. The architects of the student airlifts believed in freedom, human dignity and self-determination; the students they helped believed that through education they could help a nation. By having the courage to act on those beliefs, and the determination to persevere through delay and defeat, they would change the world in ways they could never have imagined.”

AIRLIFT TO AMERICA is the never-before-told and quite heroic story of the 1959-1963 airlifts from East Africa that helped Barack Obama, Sr., father of the president, and Wangari Maathai, future winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, among hundreds of others, to study at American and Canadian colleges and universities. The airlifts and their graduates changed not only the future course of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and other nations of East Africa, but also the course of U.S. race relations. Jack Kennedy’s donation to enable the 1960 airlift became an important issue in that year’s American presidential election, and was a factor in swinging enough African-American votes into his column to give him the victory.

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