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New News out of Africa, by Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

December 30, 2014

New News out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance, by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Oxford University Press, 2006, updated 2008.

A guardedly positive account of sub-Saharan Africa by a well-known African American journalist.

Charlayn Hunter-Gault explicitly explains that she writes about contemporary Africa through the prism of her own experience as an African American woman.  She grew up in the southern U.S. at a time when segregation and discrimination were the law.  As a teenager she was part of the Civil Rights Movement as one of the first two blacks to attend the University of Georgia. (She tells about this part of her life in her autobiography, In My Place. See my review.) After graduation, she earn a reputation for herself as a journalist for Public Broadcasting Service and other prestigious media companies, covering the struggle against apartheid and independence in South Africa. Since 1997, she has lived in South Africa and does special reporting on the continent. This book grew out of a series of three lectures she gave at Harvard in 2003.

According to Hunter-Gault, most Americans and other foreigners know little about the positive steps that Africans have taken in recent years.  They view Africa as dark, hopeless, and unworthy of attention. Her goal is to present stories that include the gains that are actually being made and to urge readers to be patient as the continent recovers from decades of white colonization and domination. Never one to ignore real problems, she points out reasons to believe that they are being addressed.  For example, she discusses the denial of AIDS by black South Africans and the rejection of aid in combating it as as part of their anger over whites’ long history of defining blacks as inferior.  She also notes that leaders have moved beyond that attitude and put in place a viable program to control the epidemic.

In the first section of her book, Hunter-Gault focuses on South Africa, as it was when she first reported on its anti-apartheid struggle and its success in achieving an independent government headed by blacks.  Although she recognizes that the process has been far from flawless, she impressed that such a major change has occurred  is remarkable. The next section discusses the “baby steps toward democracy” in various African nations, and the last dwells on the problems for both African and foreign journalists trying to cover news of the continent without interference.

Like Dayo Olopade in The Bright Continent, (see my review), Hunter-Gault is intent on providing a more positive and complex account of recent African developments. Unlike Olopade, she focuses on the political stories. Both books are valuable, and I liked the ways they supplemented each other. Hunter-Gault’s book was published in 2008, however, and I still need to read something more recent to connect her narratives to what is taking place today.

I strongly recommend this book to all who are interested in Africa and wanting solid background information from a respected journalist about it.


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