There has been considerable discussion in TNN about The Forty Years’ War, Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman’s book about foreign policy in the Nixon, Reagan, and both Bush eras. But it was not the only book Tom Shachtman published last year. St. Martin’s Press also published his Airlift To America, which tells the story of how Kenyan labor and independence leader, Tom Mboya, arranged with the help of American friends to sent many young East Africans to study in the United States between 1959 and 1963.
Most of the students came over on aircraft chartered by the African American Students Foundation, a group organized by Mboya and William X. Scheinman, with the help of both white and black sponsors, including Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Jackie Robinson. Although the late Barack Obama Sr., father of the forty-fourth President, did not travel to Hawaii on one of these flights (he came to Honolulu on a commercial flight, financed by two American teachers he’d met in Kenya), his stay in the Aloha State, where he met and married Stanley Dunham and fathered the future President, was made possible in large degree by scholarships from the AASF (at the recommendation of his mentor Mboya).
David Remnick’s recent bestselling biography of President Obama, The Bridge, has stirred up interest in this program again, and Shactman has a short article at the New York Times’s website discussing it. (See also this letter to the Times Book Review by Cora Weiss, who was executive director of the AASF.