In This Review

American Intellectuals And African Nationalists, 1955-1970
American Intellectuals And African Nationalists, 1955-1970
By Martin Staniland
Yale University Press, 1991, 309 pp

Africa was relatively uncharted territory a generation ago when American academics and journalists began trying to interpret its mysteries to wider audiences. Crude ideological maps served to impose order and meaning on facts selected from the unfamiliar political landscape. Liberals, radicals, conservatives and African-Americans all tended to shape their interpretations to align African reality with their preferred premises about such things as human nature, progress, tradition, nationalism and the lessons of American history, only to find with the passage of time that most of these cherished assumptions were poor guides to what was actually taking place. This is a penetrating and provocative study of many of the foibles and illusions that have undergirded the relationship of Americans to Africa.