Ohio Short Histories of Africa is a series of informative and concise guides, lively biographies, and succinct introductions to important topics in African history.

Praise for Ohio Short Histories of Africa Titles
“I am a huge fan of Ohio University Press’s Ohio Short Histories of Africa series. I use them to teach my introductory-level African politics students about oppression, resistance, liberation and corruption, and I recommend the books to anyone who asks as an affordable and accessible introduction to a wide range of topics in African studies.” —Laura Seay, The Washington Post

“Authoritative, streamlined, and highly readable, this book deserves a wide readership.” — African Studies Quarterly review of The ANC Youth League

“This book is sure to become required reading for students and scholars of youth politics in South Africa and the continent more widely.” — Journal of African History review of The Idea of the ANC

“The book, as a short history rather than an in-depth examination of a person or a movement, will be most useful for students….” — Library Journal review of Steve Biko




In 1995, South Africa’s new government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a lynchpin of the country’s journey forward from apartheid. In contrast to the Nuremberg Trials and other retributive responses to atrocities, the TRC’s emphasis on reconciliation marked a restorative approach to addressing human rights violations and their legacies. The hearings, headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu, began in spring of 1996.



In this concise biography, ideally suited for the classroom, Adekeye Adebajo seeks to illuminate former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s contradictions and situate him in a pan-African pantheon.


With vision, hard-nosed judgment, and biting humor, Julius Nyerere confronted the challenges of nation building in modern Africa. Constructing Tanzania out of a controversial Cold War union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Nyerere emerged as one of independent Africa’s most influential leaders. He pursued his own brand of African socialism, called Ujamaa, with unquestioned integrity, and saw it profoundly influence movements to end white minority rule in Southern Africa.


South Sudan · A New History for a New Nation

By Douglas H. Johnson

Africa’s newest nation has a long history. Often considered remote and isolated from the rest of Africa, and usually associated with the violence of slavery and civil war, South Sudan has been an arena for a complex mixing of peoples, languages, and beliefs. The nation’s diversity is both its strength and a challenge as its people attempt to overcome the legacy of decades of war to build a new economic, political, and national future.


In this concise biography, Scully shows us how the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner and two-time Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks to many of the key themes of the twenty-first century. Among these are the growing power of women in the arenas of international politics and human rights; the ravaging civil wars of the post–Cold War era in which sexual violence is used as a weapon; and the challenges of transitional justice in building postconflict societies.


A penetrating, accessible portrait of the activist whose execution galvanized the world. Hanged by the Nigerian government on November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa became a martyr for the Ogoni people and for human rights activists, as well as a symbol of modern Africans’ struggle against military dictatorship, corporate power, and environmental exploitation.


Frantz Fanon · Toward a Revolutionary Humanism

By Christopher J. Lee

A timely and original short biography reintroducing Fanon for a new generation of readers. Written with clarity and passion, Christopher J. Lee’s account argues for the pragmatic idealism of Frantz Fanon and his continued importance today.


This omnibus edition brings together concise and up-to-date biographies of Steve Biko, Emperor Haile Selassie, Patrice Lumumba, and Thomas Sankara. African Leaders of the Twentieth Century will complement courses in history and political science and serve as a useful collection for the general reader. Steve Biko, by Lindy Wilson Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression.


The Soweto uprising was a true turning point in South Africa’s history. Even to contemporaries, it seemed to mark the beginning of the end of apartheid. This compelling book examines both the underlying causes and the immediate factors that led to this watershed event. It looks at the crucial roles of Black Consciousness ideology and nascent school-based organizations in shaping the character and form of the revolt.


The ANC Women’s League · Sex, Gender and Politics

By Shireen Hassim

First formed in the early twentieth century, the ANC Women’s League has grown into a leading organization in the women’s movement in South Africa. The league has been at the forefront of the nation’s century-long transition from an authoritarian state to a democracy that espouses gender equality as a core constitutional value.


Short-Changed? · South Africa since Apartheid

By Colin Bundy

What have been the most significant developments — political, social, economic — in South Africa since 1994? How much has changed since the demise of apartheid, and how much remains stubbornly the same? Should one celebrate a robust democracy now two decades old, or lament the corrosive effects of factionalism, greed, and corruption on political life? Colin Bundy tries to answer such questions, while avoiding simplistic or one-sided assessments of life under Mandela, Mbeki, and Zuma.


Emperor Haile Selassie was an iconic figure of the twentieth century, a progressive monarch who ruled Ethiopia from 1916 to 1974. This book, written by a former state official who served in a number of important positions in Selassie’s government, tells both the story of the emperor’s life and the story of modern Ethiopia. After a struggle for the throne in 1916, the young Selassie emerged first as regent and then as supreme leader of Ethiopia.


Thomas Sankara · An African Revolutionary

By Ernest Harsch

Thomas Sankara, often called the African Che Guevara, was president of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, until his assassination during the military coup that brought down his government. Although his tenure in office was relatively short, Sankara left an indelible mark on his country’s history and development.


Patrice Lumumba was a leader of the independence struggle in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. After a meteoric rise in the colonial civil service and the African political elite, he became a major figure in the decolonization movement of the 1950s.


The African National Congress (ANC) is Africa’s most famous liberation movement. It has recently celebrated its centenary, a milestone that has prompted partisans to detail a century of unparalleled achievement in the struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination. Critics paint a less flattering portrait of the historical ANC as a communist puppet, a moribund dinosaur, or an elitist political parasite.


This brilliant little book tells the story of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League from its origins in the 1940s to the present and the controversies over Julius Malema and his influence in contemporary youth politics. Glaser analyzes the ideology and tactics of its founders, some of whom (notably Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo) later became iconic figures in South African history as well as inspirational figures such as A. P. Mda (father of author Zakes Mda) and Anton Lembede.


Govan Mbeki (1910–2001) was a core leader of the African National Congress, the Communist Party, and the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. Known as a hard-liner, Mbeki was a prolific writer and combined in a rare way the attributes of intellectual and activist, political theorist and practitioner.


Ingrid Jonker · Poet under Apartheid

By Louise Viljoen

Nelson Mandela brought the poetry of Ingrid Jonker to the attention of South Africa and the wider world when he read her poem “Die kind” (The Child) at the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994. Though Jonker was already a significant figure in South African literary circles, Mandela’s reference contributed to a revival of interest in Jonker and her work that continues to this day.


San rock paintings, scattered over the range of southern Africa, are considered by many to be the very earliest examples of representational art. There are as many as 15,000 known rock art sites, created over the course of thousands of years up until the nineteenth century. There are possibly just as many still awaiting discovery.


The human rights movement in South Africa’s transition to a postapartheid democracy has been widely celebrated as a triumph for global human rights. It was a key aspect of the political transition, often referred to as a miracle, which brought majority rule and democracy to South Africa. The country’s new constitution, its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the moral authority of Nelson Mandela stand as exemplary proof of this achievement.


Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression. Through his example, he demonstrated fearlessness and self-esteem, and he led a black student movement countrywide that challenged and thwarted the culture of fear perpetuated by the apartheid regime. He paid the highest price with his life. The brutal circumstances of his death shocked the world and helped isolate his oppressors.


Spear of the Nation: Umkhonto weSizwe · South Africa’s Liberation Army, 1960s–1990s

By Janet Cherry

Umkhonto weSizwe, Spear of the Nation, was arguably the last of the great liberation armies of the twentieth century—but it never got to “march triumphant into Pretoria.” MK—as it was known—was the armed wing of the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation movement, that challenged the South African apartheid government.


Epidemics · The Story of South Africa’s Five Most Lethal Human Diseases

By Howard Phillips

This is the first history of epidemics in South Africa, lethal episodes that shaped this society over three centuries. Focusing on five devastating diseases between 1713 and today—smallpox, bubonic plague, “Spanish influenza,” polio, and HIV/AIDS—the book probes their origins, their catastrophic courses, and their consequences.