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Washington Office on Africa Records

Call Number: RG 105

Scope and Contents

When these records were received, some printed materials were removed and placed with the Sterling Memorial Library Manuscripts and Archives South African apartheid collection, MS 1500. The material remaining in this record group relates more to the actual operations of WOA, its publications and activities, and its interactions with other organizations. The topical resources in this record group were collected to support and direct the lobbying and advocacy activities of the WOA.

Series I, Organization and Policy Records, includes minutes and reports of the boards and committees of the WOA and the Washington Office on Africa Educational Fund. These materials provide a succinct overview of the activities of the organization. Series II, Correspondence and Staff Records, is quite small and primarily relates to internal office operations; the majority of letters and memoranda of the WOA Directors and staff are integrated into later series. Series III, Fundraising and Financial Records, is divided into three sub-series: Summary Records, Chronological Sequence of Records, Correspondence with Notable Funding Agencies.

Series IV, WOA Programs, is the core of this record group. It includes an alphabetical listing of programs and proposals sponsored or co-sponsored by WOA, and a chronological arrangement of material related to the lobbying and monitoring activities of the WOA. Material in this series provides valuable documentation about the issues that were of concern to WOA as well as about the lobbying process and the WOA's interaction with related organizations.

Series V, WOA Publications, includes publications with distinctive titles. Many other WOA statements, papers, and press releases are integrated with the program material of Series IV. The major serial publications of WOA were Action Alert, and Washington Notes on Africa. Other publications included "Information Packets." brochures and printed leaflets, and "Fact Sheets."

Series VI, Resources by Organization, include correspondence between the WOA and related organizations as well as printed material documenting the work of those organizations. This alphabetically arranged list includes a broad cross section of U.S. and African organizations concerned with issues in Southern Africa. Series VII, Resources by State/Region, documents WOA's interaction with and monitoring of Southern Africa-related events and programs throughout the United States. Series VIII, Resources by Topic, is divided into three sub-series: Country Files, Economic and Foreign Policy Issues (U.S. interaction with Southern Africa), and Miscellaneous. The Country Files are strongest in documentation of events and issues in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Of particular note are materials related to church activities and reactions in these countries. Economic and Foreign Policy issues documented in Series VIII include the arms trade, boycotts, divestment and investment in South Africa, espionage, international economic and trade issues, and sanctions. This material should be consulted in conjunction with the WOA program materials of Series IV, which document WOA positions and actions on the various issues.

Some complementary records related to WOA activities have been digitized by the Michigan State African Activist Archive and the University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center.


  • 1966-1994


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Washington Office on Africa.


  1. I. Organization and Policy Records
  2. II. Correspondence and Staff Records
  3. III. Fundraising and Financial Records
  4. IV. WOA Programs
  5. V. WOA Publications
  6. VI. Resource Files - By Name of Organization
  7. VII. Resource Files - By State/Region
  8. VIII. Resource Files - By Topic


30 Linear Feet (66 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Publications, correspondence, reports, statements, and collected material document the work of the Washington Office on Africa and the issues addressed by its work. The Washington Office on Africa was founded in 1972 to support the movement for freedom from white-minority rule in southern Africa. Its activities have included the monitoring of Congressional legislation and executive policies and actions, as well as the publication of action alerts and other documentation designed to advance progressive legislation and policy on southern Africa. Supported by church bodies and unions, the WOA has worked in partnership with colleagues in Africa, the Africa advocacy community in the United States, and grassroots organizations concerned with various aspects of African affairs.

Biographical / Historical

The Washington Office on Africa (WOA) was founded in September 1972 as a non-profit, church and labor union-supported organization to work with Congress on southern Africa legislation. WOA began by mobilizing around the issue of repealing the Byrd Amendment passed in 1971, which allowed the United States to break sanctions that had been imposed on Rhodesia. Issues that were the focus of WOA activities included:

  1. legislation related to U.S. covert intervention in Angola
  2. passage of 1977 legislation making the U.S. comply with international trade sanctions against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
  3. a 1978 cut-off of U.S. Export-Import credits to South Africa
  4. passage of legislation restricting U.S. support for IMF loans to South Africa
  5. passage in the House of Representatives of the 1985 anti-apartheid act
  6. prevention of shipments of nuclear materials and technology to South Africa
  7. passage of state, local, and institutional divestment of over five billion dollars in public and institutional funds from South Africa
  8. U.S. policy toward conflict in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique
  9. comprehensive sanctions against South Africa

WOA was established at the direct initiative of American churches, who felt the necessity for a Washington-based organization able to provide the religious community with up-to-date infomration on U.S. policy in Southern Africa. Through the years, the office broadened its constituency to include trade unions, student groups, and other grassroots organizations. Sponsors of the Washington Office on Africa included: African Methodist Episcopal Church, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, The American Committee on Africa, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Missionaries of Africa, Presbyterian Church (USA), Progressive National Baptist Convention, The Reformed Church of America, Sacred Heart Fathers, Society for African Missions, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, United church of Christ, United Methodist Church, United Steelworkers of America.

The Washington Office on Africa Educational Fund (WOAEF) was established as the educational division of the Washington Office on Africa. Its goals were to provide education for action on southern Africa issues through the production and distribution of written and audio-visual resources. WOAEF also served as a research center for educators, legislators, political activists, students, and others interested in southern Africa affairs.

Executive Directors of the WOA included Ted Lockwood (1972-1980), Jean Sindab (1980-1986), Damu Smith (1986-1988), and Aubrey McCutcheon (1988-199?). The WOA weathered a financial crisis in 1988.

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”. Alphabetization of files according to the original names used has also been retained.

Guide to the Washington Office on Africa Records
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
2000, 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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