Association of Concerned Africa Scholars Review (previously: Bulletin)
ACAS Bulletin 81: ACAS Thirty Years On

Summary of the Founding Meeting of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, Houston, Texas, November 3, 1977

February 2009

The meeting was chaired by Prof. Edris Makward, University of Wisconsin, Madison, who introduced the two main speakers: Prof. Immanuel Wallerstein and Mr. Edgar Lockwood, who spoke concerning “American Scholars and the Political Economy of Southern Africa” and “The Carter Administration and Southern Africa an Overview,” respectively. (See summaries elsewhere in newsletter.) A motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously to establish the Association of Concerned African Scholars (ACAS) as an organization to achieve the following goals:

1. To facilitate the articulation of scholarly analysis and opinion with the process of national and international policy formulation with special focus on the policy of the United States government.

2. To formulate and communicate alternatives to U.S. Africa policies to the peoples of the United States and Africa.

3. To develop a communication network among concerned Africanist scholars in order to (a) mobilize support on important current issues, (b) provide local sponsors for public education programs, (c) stimulate research on policy-oriented issues and to disseminate findings, and (d) to inform and update members on important international policy developments.

4. To coordinate activities with other national and local organizations in order to facilitate each other’s work and not to compete.

A motion was made to elect officers of ACAS for a period of one year, beginning with the completion of the officer slate at the New York Spring Meeting, 1978. Co-chairpersons were to be elected, one at this meeting and one at the Spring Meeting in New York. The offices and persons elected as the first co-officer in each case were:

Co-Chairperson: Prof. Immanuel Wallerstein, SUNY-Binghamton

Co-Chair, Committee for Research: Prof. Ann Seidman, U. Massachusetts

Co-Chair, Committee for Political Education and Action: Prof. Willard Johnson, MIT

Co-Chair, Committee for Membership: Prof. George Shepherd, Univ. of Denver

Co-Treasurer: Prof. Tom Shick, Vniv. of Wisconsin, Madison

Co-Newsletter Editor: Prof. Michael Bratton, Michigan State Univ., on behalf of a group of persons at MSU who are cooperating.

An interim organizing membership fee of $5 was established, pending establishing regular activities and annual dues. Approximately 80 persons paid this fee and joined at the end of the meeting.

We made two decisions right at the start. One was that we would call ourselves “Africa scholars” and not “Africanists.” It was a moment of sensitivity about terminology. And the second was that we wanted ACAS somehow to bridge the split between ASA and AHSA. The way we would do that was twofold: We would hold our meetings neither during an ASA meeting nor during an AHSA meeting but separate from both. And we would have co-chairs at every level, in order that we could draw one person linked with each of the two organizations.

We did this for several years. It didn’t really work. First of all, it was expensive and difficult to hold a separate meeting, and not too many people could come. So, after several years, when the hostility between ASA and AHSA had cooled down, we decided to meet during the ASA meetings, and have been doing that ever since. We continued to have co-chairs, but it lost the element of balancing ASA and AHSA.

For a long time, ACAS concentrated on the issue of the liberation of southern Africa, which seemed the right priority. But once all that was finally accomplished, ACAS had to rethink its role and its activities, which was difficult at first, but has now, I think, been done.

Originally from ACAS Newsletter 1 (1977), p. 2

Reprinted in ACAS Bulletin 81