by Jasmaine Talley
As we process the records of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, I find myself drawn to its many projects and programs that focused on Black rural communities in the South—much like the community in which I grew up. I also learned that the Federation had aspirations of international collaboration and pursued mutually beneficial partnerships with groups in Central America, Asia and Africa.
Dr. Alex Quaison-Sackey, ambassador of Ghana, was a guest speaker at FSC’s Twelfth Annual Meeting in Epes, Alabama in 1970. Dr. Quaison-Sackey served as a member of the Ghana Foreign Service following the country’s independence from Great Britain; as part of this work, he and his colleagues were sent abroad to take courses to broaden their knowledge. At FSC’s annual meeting, Dr. Quaison-Sackey noted the cultural and environmental similarities between Ghana and rural Alabama. Quaison-Sackey had previously served as permanent representative to the United Nations from 1959 to 1965 and was the first Black African to serve as president of the United Nations General Assembly (1964-1965). The Federation had previously given technical assistance to different groups in Africa and Quaison-Sackey and FSC officials discussed further collaboration, noting the similar needs between rural Ghana and rural Alabama. At the conclusion of the event, FSC reported that Quaison-Sackey “took us forward, a little close, to understanding—of ourselves and our ancestry.”
Ghana was not the only country with whom FSC collaborated. In 1969, the Federation partnered with the Oats for Peace Campaign to supply oats to Nicaragua following a shortage in that country. In 1974, Robert Browne and James O. Jones travelled to Japan as invited guests of the government for a project involving the growing of edible soybeans for export to Japan and to discuss the possibility of a trade relationship with the Japan Federation of Cooperatives. And in 1978, as part of the Nigerian Agriculture Improvements Program, the Federation hosted Nigerian students for a training session and gave them a tour of the Rural Training Research Center. These collaborative efforts demonstrate FSC’s willingness to engage in the worldwide cooperative movement.
The address delivered by Dr. Quaison-Sackey at that annual meeting represented an interesting snapshot of collaborations between rural Black Americans and Black Ghanaians. He noted that the African roots of Black Americans persist against all odds, and that the exchange of experiences between the two populations is vital for the betterment of both communities.
This project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.