The American Society of African Culture: The CIA and Transnational Networks of African Diaspora Intellectuals in the Cold War

  • Hugh Wilford
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


In February 1967, the US Cold War effort suffered a major setback. The west coast magazine Ramparts revealed that the CIA was secretly funding the ostensibly independent American student organization, the US National Student Association, via an array of “pass-through” foundations. The New York Times, which previously had sat on stories about the covert US effort in the Cold War battle for “hearts and minds”, followed up the Ramparts revelation with a series of articles exposing concealed Agency subsidies to a variety of other supposedly private citizen groups with overseas programmes. This unwanted publicity profoundly damaged the image of the organizations in question, effectively destroying some, and dealt the reputation of the CIA itself a blow from which it arguably never recovered.


African Culture National Tension African Diaspora Transnational Community American Delegation 
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  1. 1.
    For example, Ruth Feldstein’s study of jazz musician Nina Simone placing her in a transnational context mentions her visiting Nigeria on an AMSAC-sponsored tour in 1961 yet fails to mention the organization’s CIA backing. Ruth Feldstein, “‘I Don’t Trust You Anymore’: Nina Simone, Culture, and Black Activism in the 1960s”, Journal of American History 91 (2005), pp. 1370–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Penny M. Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 157.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Gerald Horne, Communist Front? The Civil Rights Congress, 1946–1956 (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1988), ch. 6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 201.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For more on DuBois, Robeson and other African American anti-colonialists, see Penny M. Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anti-colonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Hazel Rowley, Richard Wright: The Life and Times (New York: Henry Holt, 2001), p. 474.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    James Baldwin, “Letter from Paris: Princes and Powers”, Encounter 3 (1957): 52–3.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    It is interesting to note that there were other attempts by the US public– private apparatus to cultivate Alioune Diop: in 1957, he was a recipient of a US Foreign Leader grant. See Giles Scott-Smith, Networks of Empire: The U.S. State Department’s Foreign Leader Program in the Netherlands, France and Britain, 1950–70 (Brussels: PIE Peter Lang, 2008), p. 351.Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (London: W.H. Allen, 1969), p. 499.Google Scholar

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© Hugh Wilford 2014

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  • Hugh Wilford

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