In many respects Anne Forrester Holloway, who was sworn in yesterday as the U.S. ambassador to Mali, is a most unusual diplomat.

She's a product of the private-school world of the 1950s who bucked that era's mood of racial assimilation to help shape black political views. She's one of the first of the late 1960s pan-African scholars to penetrate the old striped-pants world of diplomacy. And she survived the tumultuous times of her boss, Andrew Young, during his stint at the State Department.

But she's not one to be intimidated by charges that she's pushy or a lighthearted slap that she's brazen. "Some of my colleagues say I'm pushy and aggressive and I like that," replies Holloway.

But at 38, Anne Holloway is more than a survivor, and represents more than a new style at State. She's one of those small, delicate women whose forcefulness is formidable, though she can joke away the weekend morning blahs at the crowded Columbia Road cleaners, dance through the night after a historic conference on Rhodesia-Zimbabwe is completed, and take her twin daughters through the endurance hurdles in Rock Creek Park before reporting to work on a Saturday.

Her evolution, say friends is one of adaptability, not compromise; Holloway has taken her progressive politics from the classroom to the conferences of Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom.

"With each new experience I have grafted onto the old. I don't shed," says Holloway, softly. "My point of view is one that takes into account all competing points of view."

At one of a round of farewell parties for Holloway, Richard Moose, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, illustrated how practical this philosophy can be. "The first night we got to Malta," said Moose, recalling the initial face-to-face discussions on Rhodesia-Zimbabwe almost two years ago, "Anne worked the crowd and immediately communications opened. She was extremely helpful on finding out how everyone felt as individuals, from ZANU, ZAPU, all the sides."

Overhearing Moose tell his story, Holloway grimaces, valiantly trying to downplay the praise from her upper echelon colleagues: Philip Habib, the Middle East special envoy; Patricia Derian, the human rights chief; and William Maynes, the international organizations division chief.

"I'm an ordinary person who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right skills. But actually quite ordinary. It's a move up for ordinary people," says Holloway, who is the third black woman ever appointed an ambassador.

Yet the enthusiasm for her appointment has prompted a round of cocktail parties and salutes from her diverse circle of friends, including Bishop John Walker, fund-raisers Nancey (Bitsy) Folger and Yolande Fox, International Communications Agency director John Rinehardt and State Department official Gabriel-Guerra Mondragon.

Whenever her importance is mentioned the smile on her delicate face fades, leaving the bright eyes distant behind the wire-rimmed glasses.

Then she relaxes and jokes, "Oh, let's talk about how I'm never going to win the Washington Marathon. And how we've been living in a house with no kitchen for a year. And how our firends with kitchens hate to see us coming."

Anne and her husband, Marvin Holloway, were among the scholar-activists who reacted to the call for black cultural and political nationalism and were closely identified with one of Washington's most visible efforts at institutionalizing those theories, the Drum and Spear Bookstore and Press.

"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," says Holloway.

She has a tremendous capacity to juggle. For example, in 1973 she directed the Black Student Fund, worked part-time for then-congressman Andrew Young, started her Ph.D. work at Antioch-Union Graduate School, was an official observer at a United Nations conference, traveled abroad a couple of times, and went through the terrible twos with twin girls.

"She can examine herself, she can be self-critical and see her limitations and not be intimidated by it, and that's rare in this town," says Henry Richardson, a Department of Defense counsel.

"My perspective and viewpoint are still revolving," remarks Holloway, slightly nervous at the exercise of sorting out where it all ends and begins. Then she chips away at her own seriousness: "How about saying I'm a Gemini who succeeded."

In the 1940s Anne Forrester would sit in Philadelphia's historic St. Thomas Episcopal Church and listen to the pleas for the missionaries in Africa. This was the first humanitarian call for Africa that she heard.

"Knowledge of Africa, from a positive and enriching approach, was very evident in our home," says Holloway, who grew up with her mother, widowed shortly after Holloway's birth. In West Philadelphia, she attended public schools, received good grades, "because I was more quick than smart," went to summer camp, and had a normal life with the church as its social center. Her mother, Elizabeth Forrester, a retired social worker who works with the Episcopal Church ministry, speaks determinedly of her only child's self-motivation. "She was raised to be self-sufficient, but afterwards I found she had enough on her own. She's always been a person looking for new things to do."

This early security was challenged when Holloway enrolled in 1955 at Northfield School, a private boarding school in northern Massachusetts. According to Holloway and a close friend, the prep school had the restrictiveness of the times, and it was racially isolated, with a handful of blacks among 500 students.

"The prejudice wasn't extreme. Yet at that time if a black and white wanted to room together, the white parents had to give permission," says Evangeline Wells, a Washington lawyer, who was a student with Holloway.

As far as activism went, Holloway joined petitioners to the school authorities to change the travel restrictions so the black students could visit their boyfriends.

"I tend to be fairly open to experience. And I didn't feel intimidated by being a minority," says Holloway. "There was a struggle, not in the sense of coming from deprivation, but when you are different, you have to decide whether you want to be the same or enjoy your difference."

She doesn't talk of scars. "Yet one learned how to be alone there. I wasn't unhappy about it, I have needed that lesson at times," says Holloway. When she left the cloister of Northfield, she again was pulled by a quasi-romantic need for more "span of meditation" and an interest in progressive, educational philosophy. For the next four years she studied at Bennington College, then returned to Northfield to teach for three years.

"I was just more inclined to scholarship. And I thought since we had talked about getting more blacks at Northfield, there should be black faculty, so the students could have that identity."

In 1962, Holloway realized her dream of traveling to Africa. With Operation Crossroads, she built a road and a school in Uganda.

"There was a sense of self-fulfillment, but I never would romanticize it," Holloway chuckles. "I saw a coherent life, a strength of history, and cultural and tribal independence." At the time there were other cultural influences on her life: the work of historian John Hope Franklin, writer James Baldwin, novelist Chinua Achebe, beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Paul Robeson.

By the mid-1960s, she had decided her interests were intertwined with Africa, starting with its history, and she chose Washington for that particular fermentation. "A lot of things came together. I hadn't gone to a predominantly black school, and it was time," says Holloway who enrolled in Howard University's African Studies program in 1966.

While the Howard campus in those years was moving rapidly toward a political renaissance, Holloway was sympathetic to the goals of black control of black institutions.

"I led an ordinary life during a period of rapid change. I continued to go to school, taught in the classroom and responded to the challenges," she says. Again she juggled, working parttime at the then-fledging Museum of African Art and reading ancient history to a blind student from Ethiopia. Later she taught the first undergraduate class in African studies at Howard and started a lecture series in memory of pioneer Africanist William Leo Hansberry.

At Howard, she met Marvin Holloway, at tall, stern, almost forbidding, graduate student from rural Georgia. "We share sensibilities, we like things of quality among black folks" says Marvin Holloway, who now directs a private relief organization for southern Africa.

In the beginning the Holloways, along with a group of student and civil rights activists, worked at the Drum and Spear enterprises. The bookstore, and its adjunct publishing house, blended the self-awareness, the radical political theories and the civil rights strategies of the times. It was a landmark gathering place, where the late Shirley Graham DuBois or Don L. Lee could come, where the black classics were available, where the new writers were introduced.

"People were thinking of how black Americans could create institutions to respond to domestic and international politics," recalls Anne Holloway. "I felt a need to be part of that positive change, no matter what the sacrifices." f

In 1971, Holloway joined the Washington legislative office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a step that brought her directly into the process and circles that led to her ambassadorial appointment. Here she first worked with Andrew Young, then an SCLC official who had just lost his first bid to the U.S. Congress, and joined his staff as an intern after his election the next year.

Though friends tend to describe the Holloways as no-nonsense and aggressive, both have a gentle and light-hearted side. "More than most people at the Institute, Marvin had a good sense of style," says Marcus Raskin of the Institute for Policy Studies. "He was concerned that I be more aware of fashion, have a different presentation of self in the world. But I'm afraid on style I'm still the same old shlep."

The first successful bill of Andrew Young's on Capitol Hill was to cut off funds from NATO to Portugal, monies that were supposedly used to counteract liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique. That was Anne Holloway's work.

That good start -- along with irritating some more experienced legislators on the Hill who felt that Holloway, then an intern, and Young were trying to steal the spotlight -- cemented her leadership role on African affairs. "She really schooled us," recalls a colleague. "When the Angola issues came up in Congress, Anne was the first person to sit down with us and sort out the UNITA, the FANA and the MPLA people, and the history. Soon we all deferred to her on foreign affairs."

Young's office became a meeting place for foreign officials and an advocacy center for other Congressional Black Caucus aides who wanted to broaden their legislators' interest beyond a traditional view of Africa and domestic affairs.

"She worked on motivating people from strictly an African view to a world view," remembers George Dalley, a former Hill aide, now a deputy assistant secretary of state.

When she opted for the State Department office of Young, over the United Nations, Holloway saw a challenge. "Learning how to move around that labyrinth, learning the system and learning it quickly, learning where the bodies were, that was the challenge, and eventually the high point," explains Holloway.

She left her mark. She moved the office up to the seventh floor, the hub of power and symbol of influence, and let it be known that she expected to be included in meetings, such as the daily assistant secretaries' meetings. "Here's little Anne, being tiny, black and female, and representing Andrew Young, fighting, speaking her mind. She was a threat," remembers an office colleague, Constance Grice.

But she made her impact, several officials say, on her own, not by invoking her boss' name.

Now out of the fray, Young reflects, "It would have been a thousand times more difficult if she hadn't been there."

"She faced what all outsiders face, finding out how it all works, the resentment of the regulars," says Peter Tarnoff, an 18-year veteran of foreign service and executive secretary to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. "But she learned the levers, did it all alone. She didn't have Andy Young making phone calls for her. And she got involved in the drafting of memos and telegrams. She certainly had more influence than the average staff person. After five or six months anyone who had an important decision to make on issues that Young was concerned with very naturally checked with her."

This was all hard work, and even when her legs swelled and she had to prop them up, she kept going. The sometimes noisy public examination of Young's policies and remarks overshadowed her job. But observers say she never got angry. Even on the day impeachment resolutions were introduced, she was able to pick up the telephone and set in motion all the right mechanisms to respond quickly to the situation.

As a woman executive, and as an attractive black woman, she had had to face flirtations and scrutiny of her qualifications. "She is serious and cute, so guys do try to get over. Once, after a long day of sessions in Malta, Andy, Anne and myself went to see Robert Mugabe. And he said, 'She can sit here next to me.' But Anne is very quick to let people know she relates to people with her mind. If anyone moves in another direction, she stops it right away," says a colleague.

That's one clue to her diplomacy. On the day of her confirmation hearings, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) routinely asked the other nine nominees questions on policy and their background. But he asked Holloway, referring to Andrew Young's resignation: "If you found yourself unable to comply with the directives of the president, would you submit your resignation?" While Holloway's friends were almost prepared to pounce, Holloway replied quietly: "Of course."