Founding of African and American Universities Program

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In a post Civil Rights America, flaws in the education system both nationally and internationally came into focus. Nationally, the necessity for Africa and African American studies had never been greater. Images of Africa, prior to this period had been controlled and disseminated largely by colonialist eyes and perspective, creating a biased and inconclusive representation. Although Ethiopia had never been conquered, the rest of Africa had been under colonial rule for the majority of the modern era. In 1957, however, Ghana was the first nation to gain its independence and subsequently ushered in a new era. With this a seeming a domino effect occurred: revolution fever struck. African independence movements erupted and within 50 years, an independent continental Africa emerged composed of 57 nation states. African run and controlled, these nation-states emerged from of the shells of colonial power. With this political liberation came a subsequent ideological liberation. Independent African universities began chartering and opening. This created a new academic opportunity for African countries. Previously squelched by colonial academia, there was a newfound liberation of thought. These institutions could now create curriculums that focused on Pan Africanism and indigenous African lifestyles. With assistance, these revolutionary schools had an opportunity to rewrite academia as it was know in Africa- they could approach the study of Africa with an intracontinental approach.

With continental Africa now making an invested effort to create an academic dialogue based on African history, not colonial history, international approaches towards academic studies additionally had to change. Beginning in the 1960's, major universities across the US began reevaluating and redrafting their approaches towards African history, working in conjunction with these new African universities. Spearheading a new project, Edwin S. Munger, a geography professor at California Institute of Technology began a project that would focus on enabling the growth of new African universities. Tentatively titling the group African and American Universities Program, Munger went on a search to find allies in his cause. Looking to other academic institutions, Munger found allies at the University of Chicago. Under President Beadle, the University of Chicago invested itself in many interesting and new causes. Therefore, University of Chicago, being a leading national university, was at the forefront in developing a cross continental dialogue between universities in Africa and the US. Therefore, when introduced to this idea, the project seemed like a no-brainer. It was a win- win- University of Chicago could help in bolstering these new universities on the one hand, and increasing US understanding of Africa and African studies on the other.
Therefore, they worked to make this idea into a reality. Created in 1958, the African and American Universities Program was a joint venture between the University of California, Los Angeles and University of Chicago. The goal of this program, according to a summary from former Chancellors Beales archives, was to 'increase US proficiency and knowledge in African affairs and to assist in the development, staffing and strengthening of African Universities." Also, the mission was defined in the following way:

"The primary objective of the program is to strengthen Africa's new institutions of higher learning during these critical formative years. This was achieved by providing advanced training for outstanding Africans selected by African universities as perspective members of their faculties; by providing for visiting appointments of American scholars to meet instructional needs identified by the heads of African institutions as urgent; by facilitating contacts between scholars from African institutions and American institutions through short-term visits of the former to this country; and by sending American scholars for varying periods to one or more of the African institutions to assist in ongoing research programs initiated by scholars at these institutions. The secondary objective is to strengthen American competence in African affairs"

The organization received a grant to complete their efforts. Initially, the Ford Foundation issued a $245,000 grant, but in 1961, the Ford Foundation increased their grant to $750,000. With this significant funding, the AAUP wanted to establish a formal framework to mandate and allocate these funds. A board was established out of six major universities: including Yale University, Northwestern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University. As stated in the AAUP charter, the reason for such a small board was to have "minimum bureaucracy and maximum efficacy". There were a total of 52 universities involved however, 23 universities from 16 African countries and the remaining universities located in the US. The goals, as defined by the groups charter were as follows: create and enable the best possible academic setting and education experience for African university students by enabling professors to gain additional education in the US, increasing funding to African Universities from the US and finally enacting effective US University policies in African universities to create a better overall and more efficient academic environment. Additionally, the AAUP made provisions for teachers from America to go to African Universities while teachers from African Universities studied in America.

This was a fascinating exchange program that had a huge potential to really improve the African education system. As was stated in the charter, these academic institutions were at a critical point in their formation and this bit of aid was essential for growth and proper progress. Forty-eight total professors, from both Africa and US, in a range of disciplines, agreed to participate in the program. Professors came from diverse disciples, everything from sociology to business management and mathematics. The US professors came from University of Chicago, Fisk University, UCLA, Portland State, University of Illinois, University of Michigan and Atlanta University to name a few. African Universities involved included Basutoland, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Monrovia/ Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Rhodesia, Sudan, Tanganyika and Uganda. Additionally, there is a list of over nineteen people who actually traveled between the US and Africa through this program.

Like many movements of the 1960's, the progress of the movement was based on grassroots communication. Dialogue between universities, professors and students was done through word of mouth and communication by active participants, there was very little publication on this organization. Participants who were given portions of this grant money had to be selected by their institution and pass through a rigorous interviewing process. Essential to the AAUP was that these individuals be selected by a group of their peers as representative of the best in their field. Also, akin to the idealism of the 1960's, this group believed that through communication, cultural barriers could be reduced and overall understanding could be increased. Furthermore, and something extreme important to the AAUP was the personalization of the process. So often grants get caught up in politics, their money, which could be invested in a worth cause, ends up squandered off in bureaucracy. However, in a final summary the AAUP boasted a minimal 8% of their total grant money being used towards administrative costs.

The Ford Foundation grant officially ended on July 9, 1965. The office of the AAUP however remained open until December 31, 1965. For the twelve active participants who were still remaining, assistance was granted to them by the Inter-University Committee of the AAUP. The committee petitioned for a continuation of their grant, but I could not find any information as to a follow up from either the University of Chicago or the Ford Foundation.

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