Anne Forrester, Ambassador to Mali

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 3, 2006

Anne Forrester, 65, former ambassador to Mali who had an abiding professional interest in Africa and the African diaspora, died of pancreatic cancer June 23 at her home in New York City.

Ms. Forrester was appointed to the ambassadorship in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and was one of the first African American women to hold the post. A scholar and activist in the 1960s, she made the transition into a position of power in government and diplomacy.

"What I represent is the generation that learned traditional values in the 1950s, was cast into turbulent changes in the 1960s, learned a new vocabulary and had to integrate the changes," she told The Washington Post in 1979.

Ms. Forrester served as ambassador until 1981, then returned to Washington to work as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, where she laid the groundwork for the anti-apartheid bill that passed Congress in 1986.

She helped Randall Robinson as he launched the TransAfrica Forum, which lobbies on African issues. Ms. Forrester joined the United Nations staff in 1985, a decade after working as staff director for Andrew Young at the State Department, when he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

A small, delicate woman who joked about her reputation as a forceful advocate, Ms. Forrester carried memories of segregation and civil rights fights with her into the rulebound world of diplomacy. Born in Philadelphia to a widowed social worker, she attended public schools and remembered sitting in Philadelphia's historic St. Thomas Episcopal Church, listening to the pleas for missionaries in Africa.

"Knowledge of Africa, from a positive and enriching approach, was very evident in our home," she said.

She was bright and left home early to attend the majority-white Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. She also graduated from Bennington College in Vermont.

In 1962, she made her first trip to Africa, traveling to Uganda with a summer cultural-exchange program, Operation Crossroads Africa. She taught at her old prep school for a few years, then, seeking an experience in a majority-black environment, moved to Washington to work on a master's degree in African studies at Howard University, which she received in 1968.

She met and married Marvin Holloway, and they became involved in Washington's Drum and Spear Bookstore and Press, a center of black nationalist activism.

During this period, she directed the Black Student Fund; worked part time for Young, then a Democratic member of the House from Georgia; started her doctoral work that culminated in a 1975 degree from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati; was an official observer at a U.N. conference; and traveled abroad a couple of times, all while her twin girls were going through their "terrible twos."

She ran Young's State Department office when he was the U.N. ambassador, successfully finding her way through the labyrinths of Foggy Bottom diplomacy. After her ambassadorship and work on Capitol Hill, she became a guest scholar at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an adjunct professor in the African studies department at Georgetown University.

Her work for the U.N. Development Program took her to Lesotho and Ghana and later to Barbados and the eastern Caribbean. She worked in the U.N. regional bureau for Africa under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, now president of Liberia. Ms. Forrester became a senior adviser to the administrator in charge of launching the U.N. Foundation and in her first year raised $20 million.

Ms. Forrester retired from the United Nations in October 2001 but continued to work as senior policy adviser on Africa, Afghanistan and HIV-AIDS matters for Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) for a year. She returned to New York and continued to work as an international consultant on African and Caribbean development issues.

Her marriage ended in divorce.

Survivors include two daughters, Camara Holloway of New York and Kandia Holloway of Charlotte, N.C.

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