Dr Ali Al Amin Mazrui (1933 - )
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of Dr Ali Al Amin Mazrui
The author and co-author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles in major scholastic journals and for public media, Dr Ali Al’ Ami’n Mazrui was born on 24 February 1933 in Mombasa, Kenya.
Mazrui is one of the world's most prolific writers on Africa, its people, history and future and has profoundly influenced ideas about Africa among scholars and members of the general public alike.
A free thinker who will not distort the truth and facts to the dictates of the establishment, his views do not always sit well with some audiences, yet his powerful writing style has made it impossible for even his harshest critics to ignore the unique perspective he brings to a huge variety of African issues. His soft-spoken charm and eloquence as a lecturer have also made him a favourite among students at every university he has served.
After receiving his BA from Manchester, Mazrui received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to attend Columbia University in New York where he received his MA in 1961. From there he returned to England to begin working on his doctorate at Oxford University. In 1962, he became a political analyst for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
In 1963, Mazrui moved to Kampala, Uganda, to teach political science at Makerere University. In addition to his work for the BBC, he did some writing and broadcasting for Radio Uganda and Radio Tanzania over the next couple of years. In 1965, Mazrui was named Head of Makerere's Political Science Department.
After completing his doctorate at Oxford the following year, he also began taking on visiting professor assignments at overseas universities, including stints in the United States of America (USA) at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard University.
Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, Mazrui's reputation as one of Africa's leading scholars continued to grow.
In 1973, Mazrui accepted a position at the University of Michigan. He remained there for the next 18 years, serving as director of the University's Centre for Afro-American and African Studies from 1978 to 1981. At Michigan, Mazrui solidified his position as one of the most important writers on African politics in the world. He continued to write prolifically, and in 1979 he was selected to give the prestigious Reith lectures, delivered annually in England over the BBC. The lectures were subsequently published in book form as The African Condition.
Mazrui became a well-known figure outside of academia in 1986 when he wrote and hosted the nine-part television series,The Africans: A Triple Heritage, broadcast in England on the BBC and in the USA on the Public Broadcasting Service. The show's subtitle refers to the three legacies – Islamic, indigenous and Western – that have been most apparent in the formation of modern African identity.
Like the range of influences that produced his thinking, the range of subject areas that Mazrui has chosen to study over the course of his career is also extremely broad.
Dr Ali Al’ Ami’n Mazrui is one of the greatest minds ever to have been produced by the African continent. His prolific writing, coupled with the variety of fields he has been covering in his academic life proves the versatility of his intellect. He has put the African continent on the pedestal, unearthing and laying bare the grandeur of Africa to a world that had been but paying marginal attention to the intellectual depth of the African continent.
Mazrui married his second wife, Pauline Uti in 1991, and they have two sons. He also has two sons from a previous marriage.