Africa in the Cold War: A Preliminary Bibliography

To hear several key African leaders on the question of the Cold War and on relations with “East” and “West”:

Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism, esp. the final chap. (15 pp) he Mechanisms of Neo Colonialism”

Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism: a selection from writings and speeches 1965-67 esp. his 1965 speech to the international press club entitled “Relations with the West” and 1967 speech “Policy on Foreign Affairs”

To read the once-secret policy document from the US Government:

NSSM 39 (Nat’l Security Memo) was the key US document governing US policy toward southern Africa in the late 70’s and into the early 80’s. This time period covered the height of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle. . The document focused on the problem of white—ruled southern Africa which then consisted not only of South Africa, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, but also of ‘Portuguese” Angola and ‘Portuguese’ Mozambique. (Remember that during the Cold War the US, the USSR and even China focused on winning over allies in the ‘’Third World’ while also trying to protect existing interests.)

The document spelled out several alternative policies. ‘Option C’ was the chosen policy, whose summary statement was: “The whites are here to stay and the only way that constructive change can come about is through them.”


There are two excellent videos on Lumumba. One is available for borrowing from BU African Studies Center. Both are called “Lumumba”. The 2002 video is the better and can be found through and perhaps some video stores.

Scholarly Reading:

King Solomon’s Mines: western interests and the burdened history of southern Africa, William Minter The Library Journal wrote:

This book examines the modern history of southern Africa with one eye on the geopolitical and economic concerns of the West. Only the first two chapters survey the period up to 1940, leaving 80 percent for recent events. Two illustrative chapters are “The Limits of Cold War Liberalism: colonial southern Africa in the Sixties” and “Letting Time Run Out: the shape of engagement in the Reagan era.” Well researched and soberly reflective, typical of Minter’s scholarly background, this concludes by exhorting the West to abandon its shortsighted alliance with South Africa.

African Politics and Society, ed., Irving Markovitz, has two excellent overview chapters on “Africa and the World: non-alignment reconsidered” and “Pan-Africanism”.

Immanuel Wallerstein in his classic, Africa: the politics of unity has a fine, clear concluding chapter “African Unity in the World Context”.

The account of the former CIA undercover head of operations for Angola:

See on” The Secret Wars of the CIA”: Printed excerpts from a talk on the CIA in the Cold War by John Stockwell given on Paciifica Radio (broadcast date?) John Stockwell is a 13-year veteran of the CIA and a former U.S. Marine Corps major. He was hired by the CIA in 1964, spent six years working for the CIA in Africa, and was later transferred to Vietnam. In 1973 he received the CIA’s Medal of Merit, the Agency’s second-highest award. In 1975, Stockwell was promoted to the CIA’s Chief of Station and National Security Council coordinator, managing covert activities during the first years of Angola’s bloody civil war. After two years he resigned, determined to reveal the truth about the agency’s role in the Third World. Since that time, he has worked tirelessly to expose the criminal activities of the CIA. He is the author of In Search of Enemies, an exposé of the CIA’s covert action in Angola. Stockwell authored an extraordinary memoir of his work in Angola during the Cold War: In Search of Enemies.


Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible for a story (novel) of the Congo (Kinshasa). The latter chapters deal explicitly with independence and Western fears and actions to maintain western control of resources in this resource-rich country. (The CIA had Prime Minister Lumumba assassinated.)

Indirectly related to the early years of the Cold War is the African poetic movement “Negritude”. This movement from roughly World War Two through the 1960’s focused on celebrating the beauty of Africa’s peoples and their history, and the pain of enslavement and colonization. Its most famous writers include Leopold Sedar Senghor (founding president of Senegal) and Birago Diop.

A number of African novelists have written on themes clearly encompassing western involvement in Africa, though not the Cold War per se. Two very different writers are Ferdinand Oyono (in his short novel) Houseboy and Ngugi WA Thiong’o, who wrote Devil on the Cross.

Barbara B. Brown, Ph.D. Director,
Africa in Our Schools and Community Program
African Studies Center, Boston University
232 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 002215
617-353-7303 for a wide variety of teaching tools on Africa: lesson plans, teaching tips, videos for borrowing, annotated bibliographies of great teaching materials and more.