The Africa-America Institute (AAI) was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1953, after a small, yet committed group of African-American leaders sought to form an organization to support African students in pursuing higher education in the United States. At that time, highly motivated African students attending U.S. universities arrived in the country full of hope and promise, but often with limited resources to finance their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Dr. Horace Mann Bond, former president of Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University and Leo Hansberry, professor of History at Howard University, joined by Henrietta Van Noy of American University, and William Steen, an African affairs expert, established the Institute of African-American Relations, today known as The Africa-America Institute, to provide scholarship assistance to African students in the U.S. and to nurture future leadership on the continent.
Founded when a majority of African nations were under colonial rule, AAI’s assistance filled a great need by building African leadership and assisting Africans in gaining a world-class education and skills that could be applied in post-colonial Africa.
In addition to scholarship assistance, the Institute opened Africa House in 1957 in Washington, D.C., as a meeting spot for African students and visitors, and a venue to host forums and programs on hot button Africa issues for the general public.
By 1958, the Institute’s name was changed to the African-American Institute and its headquarters moved from Washington to New York City to provide closer contact with leading foundations and closer proximity to the United Nations to connect with African delegations and petitioners supporting an end to colonialism in Africa.