Kassahun came to the US in 1971 and after earning several degrees and teaching a number of places he left the academy to launch a publishing enterprise. While he was a student at SUNY Binghamton, Kassahun became a very active member of the Association of Eritrean Students in North America (AESNA). He was responsible for AESNA’s newsletters, magazines, books and other publications. Kassahun is Pan Africanist of the first order and has worked collaboratively with African and African Americans. He was also instrumental in helping establish the first African Studies Program in Latin America in Mexico.
In 1983, Kassahun founded the Africa World Press in Trenton, N.J. with a mission to publish books on the history, culture and politics of Africa and the African Diaspora, including Eritrea. Two years later, he added the Red Sea Press, whose primary focus was on the Horn of Africa.
By publicizing and distributing his titles with those of other specialized publishers on African and African-American issues, he brought numerous books on Eritrea to new audiences in North America, Europe and East Africa, publishing 25 titles per year by the end of the 1980s and 70-100 per year by 2000. Among his best-selling authors on Eritrea are names familiar to everyone: Abeba Tesfagiorgis, Alemseged Tesfai, Bereket Habte Selassie, Basil Davidson, and Dawit Woldegiorgis. So far, the sister presses have published over 1800 titles.
Kassahun is a true Pan Africanist and through his publishing industry, he has irreversibly and significantly advanced the interest of Africa. By establishing the sister publishing companies, Kassahun has allowed many authors’ imagination and expressive power to see the light of the day. He has also allowed many African voices and visions to take their appropriate place in the world of intellectual discourse.
Kassahun has received many awards and fellowships. Among these are:
- An induction into the International Literary Hall of Fame.
- A recipient of the 2005 Flora Nwapa Society Award.
- The first Association of Concerned African Scholars’ Bud Day Award for Activism in 2005.
- The African Quintessence Award in April 2006.
- The American Dream Award from the International Institute of New Jersey in May 2011.
Kassahun has made numerous contributions to the African Studies Association. Through the Africa World Press and Red Sea Press he diversified published scholarship on Africa and in Africa. The two presses and Kassahun have been in attendance at African Studies Association’s conferences since the enterprises were established. The Africa World Press and the Red Sea Press have been first class citizens at our annual meeting and the African Studies Association is exceptionally proud of our association with Kassahun. We are honored to pay tribute to him and the presses with this African Studies Association Service Award for 2013. Saluta.
— Abdi Samatar, ASA Past President
The ASA Board is honoring Lynne Rienner with an ASA Public Service Award for her many outstanding contributions to African Studies. Founded in 1984, Lynne Rienner Publishers put out cutting-edge, high-quality scholarly books, textbooks, and journals in politics, the social sciences, and the humanities. The press has roughly 1,500 titles in print, of which nearly 200 are in the field of African studies. She publishes 70 new titles a year and has created a venue for first-rate scholarship in African studies.
Lynne Rienner has grown into a press that combines the best features of a university press and an independent publisher. Lynne is not afraid to take risks and will publish important books that may not have high market value. Lynne has collaborated with African publishers like Ayebia Clarke Publishing among others in distributing their books. She launched a book series on African politics. Moreover, she has published many African authors on the continent like Alcinda Honwana, Boubacar Boris Diop, Ama Ata Aidoo, Adekeye Adebajo and many others. Even our new ASA Vice President Toyin Falola notes that he published with her in the 1980s while he was still at Ife in Nigeria.
She has supported new authors. It is no exaggeration to say that many ASA members owe a large part of their career success to Lynne Rienner. Pierre Englebert, co-author of the newly published Inside African Politics and several other books with Lynne Rienner says that “Lynne Rienner has shown unwavering commitment to young Africanist scholars, often giving them their first opportunity for book publishing for a wider academic audience. I was one of these young(er) scholars in 2000 and I still count my blessings that Lynne took my book proposal seriously. Three books later (all with her), I am still impressed at her loyalty to her authors, her tirelessness in her promotion of their work, and her broad dedication to quality research on Africa. While so many presses have shown parochialism if not ignorance in staying away from publishing on Africa, LRP has provided for almost three decades, through thick and thin, one of the few outlets that has sustained our studies and helped us both as producers and consumers of knowledge on Africa.”
It is not just what she publishes but how she encourages authors that many appreciate. Ruth Iyob co-author of Sudan: The Elusive Quest for Peace with Gilbert M. Khadiagala says of Lynne: “ Lynne has so many qualities — enthusiasm for the production of knowledge and an abiding love of learning — which combined with her energy and charming personality has led to the establishment of a press that has one of the largest selections of African Studies publications. She is perceptive and innovative and takes the time to listen . . . Lynne Rienner Publishers is the press that we turn to for our multidisciplinary studies. Lynne has overcome tremendous odds as a woman in the publishing industry dominated by males. I am privileged to have this opportunity to honor her as a member who continues to contribute to excellence in African Studies.”
Her authors have appreciated that each book is reviewed, edited and produced with care and marketed widely. Gretchen Bauer co-author of Politics in Southern Africa and other books with the Press, has this to say: “She and her team engage personally with authors from the beginning to the end of the publication process. They also work carefully with authors on the marketing of their publications with special consideration to those books that can be used in the classroom. Lynne has demonstrated her further commitment to African Studies by participating in panels at ASA on the book publication process.”
Lynne has supported key constituencies of the ASA like the African Politics Conference Group by funding an annual dissertation award. Anne Pitcher, chair of APCG, had this to say:
“On behalf of the African Politics Conference Group, I want to say how grateful we are for the personal and professional support that Lynne has given our group since its inception. She embraced our mission from the beginning, and over the last decade she has enthusiastically responded to our book ideas, cultivated emerging scholars, and generated an engaged readership for our research. Her generous sponsorship of our annual dissertation award is much appreciated, and the recipients of the Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award are proud to have her name associated with their scholarship. Lynne, we applaud you and we look forward to many more years of a collegial and fruitful partnership.”
Jamie Bleck, who won one of the dissertation awards, added: “I would like to thank Lynne Rienner for her dedication to young scholars. The Lynne Rienner Dissertation Award gave me confidence and momentum as I began my academic career. In a discipline where there is a lot of rejection and few moments to celebrate, I can’t emphasize enough how much this type of recognition means to someone who is just starting out.”
We owe Lynne a large debt of gratitude for these and many other important contributions to African Studies, so join me in thanking Lynne. We are only sorry she could not be with us today.
—Aili Tripp, ASA Past President