Biographies of Staff and Advisory Committee members
Richard Knight, Consulting Project Director
Richard Knight has been active for more than 30 years in the U.S. movement in solidarity with African struggles and has been working to build the African Activist Archive since its inception in 2003. From 1975-2001, Knight worked at the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and its 501(c)3 associate, The Africa Fund. ACOA provided important national leadership in supporting African struggles against colonialism and apartheid and the sanctions and divestment movements. Richard Knight served as a program associate for the state and municipal divestment program, maintaining a list of state and city divestment actions, and was primary assistant to the Projects Director, Dumisani Kumalo. Knight was in regular contact with numerous organizations and individuals in the solidarity movement and maintained a database of activists. As a senior researcher, he monitored companies doing business in South Africa and Namibia and authored three editions of the Unified List of United States Companies Doing Business in South Africa. From the mid-1980s-2002, Knight prepared ACOA and The Africa Fund materials for archiving at Amistad Research Center in New Orleans. His personal web site is www.richardknight.com.
Jamie Monson, Principal Investigator, Michigan State University
Jamie Monson is the director of the African Studies Center at Michigan State University, where she is also a professor of History. Dr. Monson received her MA in African Area Studies and her PhD in African History from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her current research focuses on Chinese development assistance to Africa. She is a specialist on the TAZARA railway, a development project built in Tanzania and Zambia with Chinese development cooperation in the 1970s. Her book, Africa's Freedom Railway: How a Chinese Development Project Changed Lives and Livelihoods in Tanzania (Indiana, 2009) has been widely acclaimed and has been recently published in Chinese (2015). Professor Monson's new research projects concern technology transfer and civil diplomacy in China-Africa engagement. She also has a strong background in African agricultural and environmental history, an interest she developed originally as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. She speaks Swahili, German and French and has been studying Chinese since 2009.
Christine Root, MSU Project Manager
Christine Root manages development of the digital repository and website of the AAAP. She also was a project manager of the multimedia online curriculum South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy created by MATRIX and the African Studies Center. Root was active in the African solidarity and anti-apartheid movement beginning in the early 1970s. She served as Associate Director of the Washington Office on Africa from 1973-1981, and in 1983 she staffed the legislative campaign of the Center for International Policy to stop U.S. support for IMF loans to South Africa. She also was active in local organizing of the D.C. Bank Campaign and DC Divest. She served for several years in the 1980s as Political Action Committee co-chairperson of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. In 1986, she served on the Democratic Research Staff of the Michigan House of Representatives, working on the state public employee pension funds divestment legislation. Root worked at MSU for 15 years on grant development at the International Studies and Programs, MATRIX, and the History Department.
African Activist Archive Project Advisory Committee Members
Marsha Bonner is Director of Programs, Community Grantmaking and Special Initiatives at the Annenberg Foundation. Prior to this, she was Vice President for Programs at the Marin Community Foundation, a Trustee of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation and Associate Director of the Aaron Diamond Foundation, a private New York City foundation that funded in the areas of AIDS medical research, minority education, arts and culture, civil liberties, and human rights. Bonner formerly served as Trustee of The Africa Fund. She was a student anti-apartheid activist at Princeton University in the People's Front for the Liberation of Southern Africa and an intern at the American Committee on Africa.J.D. Moore Crossey was Curator of the African Collection at Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library from 1963-1998. Under his direction the African Collection developed a particularly strong focus on Anglophone southern, central, east, and west Africa; Francophone and Lusophone countries are also strongly represented. He has extensive experience in the collection of ephemera both from Africa and U.S. He assisted Yale in acquiring collections from U.S. solidarity organizations. For many years Crossey was an active participant in the Cooperative Africana Microform Project run by the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago.
Prexy Nesbitt is a long-time African activist in Chicago with extensive national and international experience. He formerly served on the staff of the American Committee on Africa and the board of The Africa Fund. He founded the Coalition for Illinois' Divestment from South Africa and the Chicago Committee for the Liberation of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau (CCLAMG). He co-founded with Robert Van Lierop the Africa Information Service in New York, was the first national chair of the Committee to Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa and helped organize anti-apartheid campaigns in other key U.S. cities, including San Francisco, New York, Detroit, Nashville, Houston, and Seattle during the 1970s-80s. He ran the Mozambique Solidarity Office on behalf of the government of Mozambique. He worked in Tanzania for Frelimo's secondary school, the Mozambique Institute, in1968-1969. He also worked as a program officer for MacArthur Foundation and as program director of the Program to Combat Racism of the World Council of Churches. His writings include Apartheid in Our Living Rooms (1986). He currently conducts tours through Making the Road.
Kathleen Sheldon is an independent historian with a research affiliation at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for the Study of Women. She earned a certificate in African Studies as an undergraduate at Northwestern University and completed her M.A. in African Area Studies and her Ph.D. in history from UCLA. Sheldon was active in the Mozambique Support Network and was on the collective steering committee of its Los Angeles Chapter from 1987 to 1993. Her research focuses on Mozambican and African women’s history. Her most recent book is African Women: Early History to the 21st Century. Other publications include the second revised edition of the Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa (2016; first edition, 2005), a special two-part forum on Women and Gender in Africa for the African Studies Review, co-edited with Judith Van Allen, that appeared in December 2015 and April 2016, and Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique (2002). She is on the editorial board for the online resource, Oxford Research Encyclopedia in African History. She serves as an editor for H-Luso-Africa, an H-Net network on Portuguese-speaking Africa, and she has served as Board member and Treasurer of the African Studies Association.
David Wiley David Wiley is a retired Professor of Sociology and African Studies at Michigan State University and was the Director of the MSU African Studies Center from 1977 to 2008. Under his leadership, the Center developed extensive links with African universities and worked with educational and cultural heritage institutions in Africa to preserve the history of African struggles. He served as President of the African Studies Association in 1998-99. At MSU, he was active in the Southern African Liberation Committee, whose activities led MSU to divest in from companies doing business in South Africa in 1978 and organized pressure on the state legislature to adopt three sanctions laws on South Africa. Before coming to MSU, he was one of the organizing founders in 1965 of the New Jersey Committee on Southern Africa; was one of the organizers of the Southern African Committee of the National Student Christian Federation; and helped form the Madison Area Committee on Southern Africa in 1969. He was a founding board member, and co-chairperson in 1991-93, of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, a national activist organization formed at MSU in 1977.
The African Activist Archive Project acknowledges and thanks these individuals who contributed to the Project by serving on the Advisory Committee in the past.
Jennifer Davis (1933 - 2019), born in South Africa, became an active opponent of apartheid while at the University of the Witwatersrand. She left South Africa in 1966 with her family, under threat of possible house arrest. In 1967, she began work at the American Committee on Africa and The Africa Fund, where she became Executive Director in 1981. Under her leadership, ACOA strengthened alliances to build national campaigns that led many churches, universities, states, and cities to divest from companies investing in apartheid South Africa and, ultimately, the Congress to adopt sanctions. She wrote extensively and testified frequently before Congress and the United Nations on issues ranging from U.S. military support for Portuguese colonialism to the negative impact of U.S. corporate investment in South Africa. She also served as editor of Southern Africa magazine. Davis maintained close connections with a broad range of people, some of whom were transformed from political prisoners or so-called terrorists to internationally recognized Nobel Laureates and political figures such as Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel and Desmond Tutu. After leaving ACOA in March 2000 she served on the board of Shared Interest.
George M. Houser (1916 – 2015) was a founder in 1953 of the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and served as its Executive Director (1955-1981) and of The Africa Fund (1966-1981). Prior to his time at ACOA, he was an activist in the U.S. civil rights struggle, including as staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation for 13 years. In 1942 He was a founder with James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and served as Executive Secretary for 10 years. In 1947 he, with Bayard Rustin, was an organizer and participant in the very first freedom ride, the Journey of Reconciliation. Houser built on these foundations in creating valuable links between the African and African-American freedom struggles.
Houser's African solidarity work began in 1952 when he organized support in the U.S. for the ANC-led Defiance Campaign in South Africa. At ACOA he spearheaded numerous campaigns supporting African struggles for liberation and independence from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Beginning in 1954, he traveled to Africa more than 30 times, and his support of liberation movements led him to develop close ties with many African leaders including Amilcar Cabral, Julius Nyerere, Eduardo Mondlane, Kwame Nkrumah, and Oliver Tambo. He wrote numerous articles and two books, No One Can Stop the Rain: Glimpses of Africa's Liberation Struggle (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1989) and, with Herbert Shore, I Will Go Singing: Walter Sisulu Speaks of his Life and the Struggle for Freedom in South Africa (Cape Town: Robben Island Museum, 2000).
Dumisani S. Kumalo (1947 – 2019) was forced into exile from South Africa in 1977 for his anti-apartheid activities and sought asylum in the United States. He served as Project Director at the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and its sister organization, The Africa Fund from 1979 to 1997. He played a key role in mobilizing support for U.S. sanctions against apartheid, helping to build the movement that led 28 states, 24 counties, more than 90 cities, and 155 colleges and universities to divest from U.S. banks and companies that did business with South Africa. He visited almost every state in the union, testifying before state legislatures and city councils and speaking in communities and at countless colleges and universities. Before going into exile from South Africa, Kumalo worked as a political reporter for the Golden City Post, World Newspapers, DRUM, and the Johannesburg Sunday Times. After the end of apartheid, he returned to South Africa and, in 1997, was appointed Director of the United States Desk in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Kumalo served as South Africa's Ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2009 and then as the Chief Director of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and as the Special Representative to the Great Lakes. He was the first Chief Executive Officer of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, serving in that capacity from 2011 to 2015.
Canon Frederick B. Williams (1939 – 2006) served as Rector at the Church of the Intercession in New York City beginning in 1972 where he hosted African liberation leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a Trustee of General Theological Seminary and on the Advisory Council of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Beginning in 1966, Williams visited Africa many times. In the early 1970s he introduced Lea Tutu, then working with domestic workers in South Africa, to Marie Lewis, President of the Household Technicians Inc. He is a former board member of Africa Action and its predecessor the American Committee on Africa and was a founding member of the Religious Action Network for Peace and Justice in South Africa. He is also a founder of the International Conference on Afro-Anglicanism which brings together Anglicans of the African Diaspora once a decade. He was named an honorary canon of the cathedral in Gaborone, Botswana for his work in support of the liberation movements. He gave the opening address XIII International Conference on AIDS in Durban, South Africa in 2000.