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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 77, Number 2 (Jan. 1976)

Wiley, David S.
The African connection,   pp. 7-11


Page 8


American investments in Africa have almost doubled
  precious and rare metals, there
  we find an African component.
  Cobalt, manganese and vanadium
  from Ghana, columbium from Zaire
  and Niger, tantalum from Mozambique
  and Zaire, asbestos, tin, aluminum,
  zinc, and iron have important sources
  of supply in Africa. In the future,
  Americans probably will be increas-
  ingly dependent on Africa for
  electrical power, for the continent
  contains almost one-third of the
  earth's known uranium reserves, a fact
  which has not been lost on our
  makers of foreign policy.
    The second African connection is
 the commercial one. She is an increas-
 ingly important market. In addition
 to merchandise made and distributed
 there by American-owned or licensed
 corporations, last year U. S. industries
 exported almost $3 billion in prod-
 ucts to Africa, a sizeable amount
 in the battle to control our balance
 of payments. Indeed, as a state,
 Wisconsin has important industrial
 ties there. Allis-Chalmers, S. C. John-
 son and Son, Cutler-Hammer,
 Kimberly-Clark and Parker Pen not
 only export goods to the continent-
 as does A. 0. Smith, J. I. Case and
 Ray-O-Vac--but own plants or sub-
 sidiaries in South Africa. Clark Oil
 has been exploring for petroleum
 in Mozambique. The list is longer,
 but the point is clear. Africa provides
 for most major American corpora-
 tions an important source of sales
 and profits. For many of these cor-
 porations, the use of Africa's cheap
 labor, especially in South Africa where
 African labor is prohibited from
 unionizing effectively, provides an
 important source of profits through
 cheaper production costs. Indeed,
 annual profit rates of return frequently
 average in the range of 20-27 per-
 cent. It is not surprising that
 American investments in Africa have
 almost doubled in the past decade.
   This trade connection with Africa
is not new, for Yankee frigates and
clipper ships plied the African waters
for slaves and spices before 1776.
That connection was so important
that one of the first foreign consulates
of the newly independent American
states was in South Africa in 1799,
8
Wiley
where some American merchantmen
were tempted to annex land-as an
American colony in Africa for the
watering and provisioning of
American ships. Only an isolationist
president stood in the way of adding
the United States to the list of
nations which colonized the continent.
   The third African connection is
 the human one. Twenty-two million
 Americans can trace their ancestry to
 the continent. Indeed, there is a
 sense in which contemporary Afro-
 Americans can claim that Mother
 Africa was more important to the
 nation's independence than most
 European nations. During the Revolu-
 tionary period, one of every five
 Americans was black -and about 5,000
 of those sons and daughters of
 Africa bore arms for the Revolutionary
 cause. Crispus Attucks, a son of
 Africa, was one of the first five
 Americans to die for this nation.
 Other blacks were cited for their
 bravery as officers, guides, couriers,
 spies, and laborers for the Revolu-
 tionary cause. To be historically
 accurate however, we also must
 remember the thousands of African
 slaves who fled to the British forces
 during the war, where they were
 promised liberation from slavery and
 the opportunity to fight against the
 perpetrators of the southern slave
plantation economy.
    Beyond independence, the contribu-
  tion of Africa's children to the
  culture and economy of this nation
  has been exceedingly large. Not only
  were they the backbone of cheap labor
  in the building of nineteenth century
  industrial America; not only did
  they bring about important innovations.
  and inventions for the manufacture
  of sugar, cotton, and peanut agricul-
  ture, but they also brought to us
  important agricultural knowledge.
  Recent research has indicated that
  South Carolina's rice-agriculture sys-
  tem, which was very important for
  nutrition in early America, probably
  would have been impossible without
  the specific techniques brought by
  West African slaves. Their natural
  immunities to malaria also enabled
  them to work in the warm, wet
  swampland of the Carolinas.
  Of course, Americans have contrib-
  uted to this human connection.
  Many of the governmental leaders
  of independent sub-Saharan African
  nations have been educated in mission
  schools founded by American church-
  men and women. In Rhodesia and
  Angola, the officers of the revolutionary
  guerilla movements which fight for
  majority rule and an end to racialism
  come disproportionately from the
  missions of American churches.
  Agricultural technologies have been
  taken by American government aid
  representatives. Emergency food pro-
  visions have been sent from the United
  States to the drought-stricken
  territories of the Sahel. And
  American blacks have given support
  and assistance to African liberation and
independence movements. In the
1930s Emperor Haile Selassie of
Ethiopia fought to stop the Italian
domination of his nation, and his chief
personal pilot and courier was a black
American. During the nineteenth
century the first "Back to Africa"
movement from the United States pro-
duced Liberia in 1847, the first
politically independent -African nation
in sub-Saharan Africa in the con-
temporary period. Later, after
1880 and the European scramble for
Africa, the writings for African and
Afro-American self-determination
began to flow from America to Africa.


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