This post was written by Abigail Haley, Global Communication Fellow at Meridian. It is a part of a series of blog posts highlighting and acknowledging the work and contributions of Black diplomats during Black History Month.
Anne Forrester Holloway was born in Philadelphia, PA, on June 2, 1941. She attended public school and was a bright student. She later transferred to the predominantly white Northfield Mount Herman School in Gill, Massachusetts. “When you are different, you have to decide whether you want to be the same or enjoy your difference,” Forrester told The Washington Post in 1979 of her time at Northfield.
Upon graduating, she attended Bennington College in Bennington, VT. During her time there, Forrester first traveled to Africa, visiting Uganda as a part of the exchange program Operation Crossroads Africa. Shortly after graduating from Bennington, Forrester returned to Northfield to teach. After three years, she left her position in pursuit of her growing passion for Africa and African diplomacy and moved to Washington, DC, where she pursued a Master’s in African Studies at Howard University. While in Washington, she said she “led an ordinary life during a period of rapid change,” and she “continued to go to school, taught in the classroom and responded to the challenges.”
Forrester married Marvin Holloway, and the two of them became key figures at Drum and Spear Enterprises, a bookstore turned community center for people of African descent and diaspora in DC. A scholar and activist, Forrester transitioned to government work in 1973 as a part-time staffer for Georgia Congressman Andrew Young. In 1977, when Young was appointed to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Forrester worked as the staff director for his State Department. This role allowed her to continue to travel throughout Africa.
On November 6, 1979, Forrester was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mali by President Jimmy Carter. She was the first African American woman to hold this position. Forrester served in this role until 1981 and joined the United Nations staff in 1985. She retired in 2001 but continued to work as a senior policy advisor and international consultant in Africa and the Caribbean.
Forrester’s historic role as the first Black Ambassador to Mali was just one notable achievement in her career of service defending civil rights and anti-war rhetoric. She focused her energy on producing change through direct government action and advocating for advancements in Africa that matched the movement for justice for African Americans in the U.S.
“People were thinking of how Black Americans could create institutions to respond to domestic and international politics,” she said. “I felt a need to be part of that positive change, no matter what the sacrifices.”
Anne Forrester Holloway died on June 23, 2006, in New York. She is survived by her twin daughters and her legacy as a fearless and resilient diplomat.