Learning from Dar es Salaam: Harvard’s “Project Tanganyika” and a Nodal Perspective on Decolonization’s Itineraries

Abstract: This article traces the history of Harvard’s “Project Tanganyika” and its encounter with Dar es Salaam’s burgeoning community of Southern African political exiles. An unsung predecessor to Kennedy’s Peace Corps, Project Tanganyika began in 1961 amidst a Harvard campus reckoning with issues of race, civil rights and global decolonization. Sending groups of mostly white undergraduates to Dar es Salaam as volunteer teachers, the Project would become uncannily central to the city’s emerging fame as a haven for leftwing exiles and fellow-travelers. For many Project volunteers and liberation movement leaders, the initiative was mutually generative, even as it resonated in more ambivalent ways for rank-and-file cadres. In both its generative capacity and its limitations, Project Tanganyika’s trajectory provides a glimpse of the junction of African decolonization and US civil rights in a manner inflected by race, class, and mobility.

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