MLA Gold Award Site

Summary and book reviews of Airlift to America by Tom Shachtman

Airlift to America

How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours

by Tom Shachtman

Airlift to America
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2009, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

This is the long-hidden saga of how a handful of Americans and Kenyans fought the British colonial government, the U.S. State Department, and segregation to "airlift" to U.S. universities, between 1959 and 1963, nearly 800 young East African men and women who would go on to change the world. The students included Barack Obama Sr., future father of a U.S. president, Wangari Maathai, future Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as well as the nation-builders of post-colonial East Africa - cabinet ministers, ambassadors, university chancellors, clinic and school founders.

The airlift was conceived by the unusual partnership of the charismatic, later-assassinated Kenyan Tom Mboya and William X. Scheinman, a young American entrepreneur, with supporting roles played by Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The airlift even had an impact on the 1960 presidential race, as Vice-President Richard Nixon tried to muscle the State Department into funding the project to prevent Senator Jack Kennedy from using his family foundation to do so and reaping the political benefit.

The book is based on the files of the airlift's sponsor, the African American Students Foundation, untouched for almost fifty years.

Prologue
Iowa and Kogelo

In December of 2007, before the Iowa caucuses— the first tests of the 2008 presidential primary season—Senator Barack Hussein Obama of Illinois was not thought by most Americans to have much of a chance of winning his party’s nomination or the presidency. He was not well known in the rest of the country, and the media for the most part treated his candidacy as a novelty because he was African- American. That he was truly an African-American, the son of a Kenyan father of the same name and of a white mother from Kansas, was not well understood despite the growing popularity of his memoir Dreams from My Father, in which he explored his unusual combination of African and American heritage.

Prior to Obama’s 2004 election to the Senate he had been an Illinois state senator, and before that a community organizer, civil rights attorney, and law school professor. His curriculum vitae also included having been elected editor in chief ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This thorough, patiently researched, and at times moving account will appeal to students of American history in the 1960's in particular, and anyone interested in an important turning-point in the struggle for human rights in the U.S. and in Africa... The architects of the student airlifts believed in freedom, human dignity and self-determination; the students they helped believed that through education they could help a nation. By having the courage to act on those beliefs, and the determination to persevere through delay and defeat, they would change the world in ways they could never have imagined.   (Reviewed by Jo Perry).

Full Review Members Only (906 words).

Media Reviews

The Nation

Airlift offers an intriguing tidbit of US history and a look back at a brief moment when many Americans and Africans caught glimpses of a shared and hopeful future.

Kirkus Reviews

A valuable case study of the effectiveness of NGOs when they are operated with care and confidence.

Library Journal

A well-written and fascinating account that all students of history will appreciate.

Publishers Weekly

A memorable and poignant recounting of a significant endeavor that is still scoring successes around the world, this book is not to be missed by African and American history buffs.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Africa-America Institute
The work of the airlift organizers continues: The Africa-America Institute is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, non-profit organization with headquarters in New York, and offices in Washington, South Africa, and Mozambique. Founded in 1953, AAI's mission is to promote enlightened engagement between Africa and America through education, training, and dialogue.

The Institute pursues its mission in two program areas: African Higher Education and Training (AHET) and Educational Outreach and Policy (EOP) which aim to educate Africans and educate Americans about Africa.

AAI scholarships have assisted Africans to complete college, graduate-level, and professional training in fundamental capacity-building fields...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Airlift to America, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: If I Was Your Girl
    If I Was Your Girl
    by Meredith Russo
    Who defines us? Do we ourselves, or does the society in which we live? Meredith Russo's ...
  • Book Jacket: If I Was Your Girl
    If I Was Your Girl
    by Meredith Russo
    Who defines us? Do we ourselves, or does the society in which we live? Meredith Russo's ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Lost Child
    by Caryl Phillips
    The Lost Child is a modern novel constructed within a historical frame, invoking one of the most ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    If I Forget You
    by Thomas Christopher Greene

    A haunting tale of lost love from the critically acclaimed author of The Headmaster's Wife.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Charmers

The Charmers by Elizabeth Adler

"This tale of romantic suspense makes the perfect beach read."
—Library Journal

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

C To T Q

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.