Black History Month: Operation Crossroads Africa (1958)

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  • Helping others: Crossroads Africa building a school near Kitale, Kenya, in 1980

    Helping others: Crossroads Africa building a school near Kitale, Kenya, in 1980

February is Black History Month. Throughout this month The Royal Gazette will feature people, events, places and institutions that have contributed to the shaping of African history.

Operation Crossroads Africa, founded in 1958 by James H. Robinson PhD, is a non-profit organisation that provides individuals with a seven-week experience in Africa. Founded on the principle that cultural immersion is possible through working and living inside Africa, its core values are to challenge the assumptions that individuals may have about Africa and lead them to understand African communities.

OCA facilitates cultural immersion through group travel and service activities in Africa each summer. It strives for cross-cultural communication, personal growth and promotion of the dignity of physical labour in Africa among educated individuals.

Headquartered in New York City, OCA sponsors projects in up to 12 African countries. Most of the projects, which include construction, health, agriculture, education and women’s production of goods, are based in rural villages in Africa and involve physical labour. OCA selects groups of eight to ten people who spend seven weeks in Africa during the summer and participate in activities such as the construction of a school, tree-planting or giving a nutritional survey. Programme participants, along with the project, host live together and spend several hours each day working with villagers on activities. The first six weeks are spent working, while the final week is spent travelling in Africa.

Dedicated individuals and leaders are asked to apply, and OCA warns applicants about the hardships of travelling to Africa. Participants may face conditions that include no running water, no electricity, communal chores, cooking outdoors and eating a high-starch diet. Disease, illness and culture shock are also possible. Participants are mostly college students and young professionals who come from a variety of ethnic, racial, regional and educational backgrounds.

OCA is active today and the fee of $3,800 for the Africa Programme in 2009 covered airfare, orientation, materials, food and accommodation.

Sources: The Operation Crossroads Africa website available at; Harold Isaacs, “Emergent Americans: A Report on ‘Crossroads Africa’” (New York: The John Day Company, 1961)

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Published Feb 10, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 12, 2017 at 9:38 pm)

Black History Month: Operation Crossroads Africa (1958)

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