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

Article excerpt

Abstract

With the election in 2008 of Barack Hussein Obama as president of the United States, there is renewed interest in the African perspective on American politics. It remains to be seen whether Obama's election triggers abiding change or simply highlights the resurrection of the crucible of race relations in the U.S. as these played out during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. However, Obama's election has caused a groundswell of attention from around the world focusing on the current state of U.S. race relations. Although it is far too soon to evaluate the full impact that the election of the first African-American president may have on race relations in the United States, it should inform the assessment of this historical event by better understanding how the movement for racial equality that dominated news reports in the U.S. during the 1960s was portrayed for readers living in Africa during that period. During that same period, Africans were themselves engaged in a series of efforts to achieve similar racial equality.

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. Béchir 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. …

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