Patrice Lumumba was a leader of the independence struggle in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. After a meteoric rise in the colonial civil service and the African political elite, he became a major figure in the decolonization movement of the 1950s. Lumumba’s short tenure as prime minister (1960–1961) was marked by an uncompromising defense of Congolese national interests against pressure from international mining companies and the Western governments that orchestrated his eventual demise.
Cold war geopolitical maneuvering and well-coordinated efforts by Lumumba’s domestic adversaries culminated in his assassination at the age of thirty-five, with the support or at least the tacit complicity of the U.S. and Belgian governments, the CIA, and the UN Secretariat. Even decades after Lumumba’s death, his personal integrity and unyielding dedication to the ideals of self-determination, self-reliance, and pan-African solidarity assure him a prominent place among the heroes of the twentieth-century African independence movement and the worldwide African diaspora.
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja’s short and concise book provides a contemporary analysis of Lumumba’s life and work, examining both his strengths and his weaknesses as a political leader. It also surveys the national, continental, and international contexts of Lumumba’s political ascent and his swift elimination by the interests threatened by his ideas and practical reforms.
About the Author
Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is a professor of African, African American, and diaspora studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and professor emeritus of African studies at Howard University. He is a past president of the African Studies Association and the author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History.
“Lumumba…was a pivotal player in the history of African nationalism, in the same league as Mandela in terms of his influence. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja provides an excellent short introduction to Lumumba’s life and historical significance.”—David N. Gibbs, professor of history, University of Arizona
“The contribution [Nzongola-Ntalaja makes] to the literature of Patrice Lumumba, and the Congo, is ironically not concentrating on Lumumba’s iconic Cold War death but instead placing his life and words into the proper cultural, economic, and historical context of Congolese history. …I would highly recommend [Patrice Lumumba] for students in African or Congolese politics. …[It challenges] us not to dwell on his death but breathe life into his words, because the questions Patrice Lumumba raised about self-determination then are still relevant for all of us today.” —Christopher Cook, African Studies Quarterly