King Institute director Clayborne Carson traveled to Zambia this month as part of a ten-day tour sponsored by the U. S. State Department to commeorate the 50th anniversary of both Zambia's independence and the passage of landmark American civil rights legislation.
On the second day of the tour, Carson spent several hours with prominent Zambian freedom fighters, including seven former members of the inner circle of Zambia's first president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who was unable to attend because of illness.
"While people were fighting for freedom in Africa, including Zambia, we were also learning from that. The struggles were quite similar because what was happening in Africa was also happening in the United States at that time,” Carson said to the leaders.
Chibesa Kankasa, one of four women in the group, recalled that she initially supported the indepedence struggle by cooking meals for her husband and his colleagues. She told Carson that her role expanded after she raised the issue with her husband. "He agreed that no revolution could become a reality without the participation of women," she said. Kankasa’s activism opened the door for other women to rise to prominence in the ANC and later in the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which ruled Zambia from 1964 until the advent of multi-party politics in 1991. Kankasa, Christine Mulundika, Betty Chilongo Chilunga, and Mavis Muyunda also served as members of the UNIP Central Committee, the party’s highest policy making body.
The tour attracted frontpage coverage in one of Zambia's leading newspapers, and Carson participated in several radio and television stations broadcast interviews.
Carson spent the majority of his time addressing college students and general audiences in Lusaka, Livingston, and Kitwe.
"It was a pleasure talking with such bright, articulate, and highly motivated young people," Carson wrote in a blog post during his trip. "Their ambitions and experiences were varied. One described his leadership role in massive student protests against the Zambian governments inadequate funding for higher education. Several of the young women spoke about the special challenges they faced due to continuing gender discrimination. One member of the group complained about the lack of awareness many young Zambians have about the freedom struggle that had culminated in the creation of their independent nation. I thought back to my luncheon the previous day with the pioneering generation of Zambia freedom rights and wished that these young people had been able to share that experience. But I also felt certain that Zambia’s future will be in good hands, if young people such as these continue to develop their leadership potential."