What’s in the Database?

The ALP pulls from several archival collections currently housed in the Amistad Research Center located in New Orleans, Louisiana. ALP materials come from the collections of the American Committee on Africa, Maida Springer Kemp, and Marguerite Cartwright, but we are continually adding new materials. Understanding the collections the letters are pulled from will help you to understand the kinds of information you can find in the letters. Another point to know is that there is overlap between the collections, thus you will find letters from Tom Mboya or Julius Nyerere (East African political leaders) to both Maida Springer Kemp and ACOA employees.


The American Committee on Africa (ACOA)
The American Committee on Africa (ACOA) was an American organization formed originally in 1953 as the Americans for South African Resistance (AFSAR), which was formed to support the anti-Apartheid Defiance Campaign in South Africa. As the first stage of the Defiance Campaign ended, AFSAR members decided to create a longer term organization that would support anti-colonial efforts across the African continent. Most of the early leadership of the organization were active in the U.S. Civil Rights campaigns of the 1940s-1970s, working at home and internationally for the democratic rights of citizens of all nations to self-determination and equality. ACOA concern the 1950s-1970s. George M. Houser, a co-founder of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and a Freedom Rider in the 1940s, was the director of ACOA from 1953-1981.

George M. Houser and the other staff members of ACOA corresponded with African leaders from across Africa, including those of competing political organizations within one country. ACOA had several mandates: to financially support anti-colonial movements when and where they could (they had very limited resources), to lobbying politicians in Washington D.C. to work toward decolonization in Africa, support visiting African leaders who came to New York City to testify to the United Nations, and to educate Americans about anti-colonial struggles in Africa. Given the wide breadth of their mandates, the collection covers a wide range of topics as ACOA employees corresponded with different African leaders.


Topics found in the letters include:
  • discussions of funding and fundraising campaigns
  • the situation of political refugees and their families
  • political prisoners held in colonial prisons and their families▪speaking tours by African leaders in the United States
  • communications around United Nations visits
  • information about the political situation and independence movements
  • conflict/competition between regional and national political parties in Africa
  • scholarship requests
  • various personal topics


Maida Springer Kemp

Maida Springer Kemp joined the Dressmaker’s Union in 1933 and slowly worked her way up through the union hierarchy to the position of Education Director for Local 132 in 1942. In 1944 she was appointed to the War Price and Rationing Board of the Office of Price Administration in the U.S. government. A year later she was the first African-American woman to represent a U.S. union internationally when she traveled to the U.K. In the 1950s Springer Kemp began traveling internationally to continue her education, serve as an observer at various conferences, and supporting unionization efforts across east and west Africa. In 1959, the American Federation of Laborhired her as their liaison to African unions. This forward-looking job tasked her with supporting burgeoning unionization efforts in African colonies, in many of which unionization was illegal. She was often the only woman in the room, and became well known among anti-colonial circles in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. She helped set up education programs to sent east African union members to the U.S., as well as developing trade schools in Kenya and Tanzania. Springer Kemp was much respected among unionists internationally and was known as Mama Maida among African union organizers. She built an especially close relationship with Tom Mboya, the Kenyan union organizers and politician who was assassinated in 1969. Springer Kemp continued to maintain a scholarship for female Tanzanian students until her death in 2005.


Topics found in the letters include:
  • African labor unions
  • International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
  • American Federation of Labor
  • strikes
  • Independence movements in Africa
  • African leaders
  • Scholarship requests
  • Personal discussions
  • Trade schools and continuing education for union organizers


Marguerite Cartwright:

Marguerite Cartwright had many careers in her lifetime including Broadway and film actressbut she was best known as a journalist. One of the few female (and first African-American) accredited journalist to the United Nations, she traveled the world reporting in the 1950s on global movements, including as an observer at the Bandung Conference in 1955. She regularly reported on events in Ghana and Nigeria and became a founder-trustee of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka in 1959. Cartwright also had connections to the American Committee on Africa.