When journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault was growing up in then-segregated Georgia, the movies she saw at the Saturday matinees always depicted Africans as hapless or even demonic. But Hunter-Gault, an African American who later became the first black woman admitted to the University of Georgia, was able to transcend those ugly stereotypes, creating a lush African jungle paradise in her own imagination.
Hunter-Gault, a two-time Emmy and Peabody Award winner, believes conventional Western journalism still stereotypes Africa as a place of unrelenting chaos and despair. In New News Out of Africa, she asks us to transcend that image by recognizing what she believes is a renaissance of a continent in hopeful transition.
Now Special Africa Correspondent for National Public Radio, Hunter-Gault does not ignore the huge problems faced by Africans, among them AIDS, famine, civil wars and authoritarian governments. But she believes they have to be seen in a context that also includes increased civic activism, economic progress and improving governments in such major countries as Nigeria and South Africa.
South Africa, where she now lives, is Hunter-Gault's exemplar. She is unabashed in her admiration for Nelson Mandela and writes movingly of the country's effort to peacefully overcome its apartheid legacy. She acknowledges that president Thabo Mbeki responded badly to the country's AIDS crisis, but argues that he is largely a positive role model for African leaders.
Hunter-Gault brings to her view of Africa the perspective of a woman who was herself a successful civil rights pioneer. She asks only that we see the continent with balance and compassion. Anne Bartlett is a journalist in Washington, D.C.