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 by Tom Shachtman X
Airlift to America by Tom Shachtman
  • 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 (906 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

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...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

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

More books by Tom Shachtman

If you liked Airlift to America, try these:

  • Out of Shadows jacket

    Out of Shadows

    by Jason Wallace

    Published 2011

    About this book

    A compelling, thought-provoking novel about race, bullying and the need to belong, set in Africa.

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind jacket

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    by William Kamkwamba

    Published 2010

    About this book

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the immensely engaging and inspiring true account of an enterprising African teenager who constructed a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his entire community.

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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Confessions of an Innocent Man
    Confessions of an Innocent Man
    by David R. Dow
    It is circumstance that carries the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to ...
  • Book Jacket: Memories of the Future
    Memories of the Future
    by Siri Hustvedt
    I've never kept a journal, but my mother has written in hers for years, the annual volumes she's ...
  • Book Jacket: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
    Rajeev Balasubramanyam encapsulates the theme of Professor Chandra Follows his Bliss in its first ...
  • Book Jacket: The Workshop and the World
    The Workshop and the World
    by Robert P. Crease
    The longest glacier in France, the Mer de Glace, is losing roughly 12 feet of ice height each year. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Greek to Me
    by Mary Norris

    The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Affairs of the Falcóns
    by Melissa Rivero

    A beautiful, urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Ecstasy

Win copies to share with friends or your book club!

Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.