Jeune Afrique 1961-1971: U.S. Race Relations

Article excerpt

In this article, the authors look back at the African perspective on U.S. race relations in the 1960s through the lens of Jeune Afrique, a major source of news for the African continent, particularly francophone Africa. A careful reading of Jeune Afrique from 1961 to 1971 reveals that more prominent attention in this publication was given to Pan Africanism and militarism against the white establishment than to the non-violent movement, principally under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Obama's election may be the culmination of one of these movements, or both. This article concludes that the readership's interest dictated the selection made by the editors of Jeune Afrique about what to report about events in the U.S. For the reader of Jeune Afrique, although the type of non-violent civil resistance epitomized by Dr. King was inspirational, it was not practical given the historical underpinnings of race relations in Africa. The reader of Jeune Afrique was more likely to learn about the riots in Watts, the peeves of James Baldwin, or the black power movement evoked by H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael than about the march on Selma or the courage of Rosa Parks. To this readership of Jeune Afrique in the 1960s, the peaceful but resounding election of Barack Obama may not be the culmination of the events in the U.S. of the 1960s but a transformation of them.

With the election of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States there is renewed interest in the African/American connection both on the continent of Africa and in the U.S... This article examines the depth and breadth of coverage of U.S. race relations in Jeune Afrique during a very important decade for both Africa and America. The Sixties represented the first decade of independence for most African countries, and the decade encompassed the most dramatic moments of the civil rights struggle in America. Jeune Afrique, an independent weekly periodical published in France in French, has been a crucial voice of Africa since 1960. Bechir Ben Yamed, a former minister in the Tunisian government and the director general of Jeune Afrique since its inception, described its purpose in an editorial celebrating the journal's first decade.

A journal must accurately inform its readers, explain to them events as they happen, propose an interpretation, help the readers have a well documented opinion so that they can act as human beings and citizens in their judgment ...

Our credo at Jeune Afrique is that Africa is one in its diversity. Consequently, we make the same journal for all Africans, we react the same way for each African country; we try to interest each African in what is going on elsewhere in Africa. We support any manifestation of African fraternity: we fight and will always fight all those who consciously or unconsciously favor prejudice among Africans (Yamed, 1970, p. 13).

In other words, Jeune Afrique has been committed to serving the whole of Africa, regardless of ethnic, linguistic, and political differences that may exist among its readership. Although the journal's weekly circulation was only 8,400 in 1969, a survey conducted by SOFRES, a marketing research firm in France, estimated that 320,000 people read each issue, as most subscribers shared their copies with many others (SOFRES, 1970, p. 62).

Since the United States has one of the largest populations of people of African descent outside of Africa itself, and the U.S. has experienced a long fight against racism, it would be expected that in its earliest editions Jeune Afrique would publish significant reports about the U.S. The research questions addressed in the present study are: 1) How did Jeune Afrique cover U.S. race relations from 1961-1971 and 2) What does this tell us about how this period in American history might be understood by Africans? During the decade of the 1960s, Jeune Afrique featured political articles covering official diplomatic visits of Americans to Africa and Africans to America as well as presidential elections, civil rights news describing blacks'[1] struggles to change their status, special reports on civil rights leaders and militant black writers, sporting events involving black athletes, U. …

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