African American Heritage

Miriam Makeba (March 4, 1932 - November 9, 2008)

Zenzile Miriam Makeba, nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer and civil rights activist known for becoming the first African artist to globally popularize African music. 
Makeba was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 4, 1932. Her professional career began when she was featured in the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers in the 1950s and made her U.S. debut on November 1, 1959 on The Steve Allen Show. While traveling to London she met Harry Belafonte who helped her gain entry into the US as well as fame there. She tried to return to South Africa in 1960 but discovered that her passport was cancelled, making her an exile. Later that year she signed with RCA Victor and released Miriam Makeba, her first U.S. studio album. 

Throughout the 1960s she spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. In 1968 she met and married prominent civil rights leader and Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, who she would go on to divorce in 1973. Makeba continued on in her activism and music career and in 1990 she would return to her home country of South Africa on a French passport after much persuasion by Nelson Mandela. Makeba died on November 9, 2008 after falling ill while taking part in a concert organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the Region of Campania. She was a strong supporter of human rights and continued her activism to her last breath. 
Black power records at the National Archives related to Miriam Makeba focused on FBI investigations into her marriage to Carmichael.

Records Relating to Miriam Makeba

Record Group 47: Social Security Administration

Motion Picture Films from the "Social Security in Action" Television Program Series, ca. 1958-ca. 1966  National Archives Identifier 11301, Local Identifier 47-SSA

Selected Records

Miriam Makeba ( NAID 11582)

Record Group 65: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files

Please use the Find function in your browser to search for 'Miriam Makeba'

Record Group 306: US Information Agency (USIA)

Production Library Audio Recordings, 1999-2005  National Archives Identifier 118159, Local Identifier 306-EN

Selected Records

Folk Singers in America Miriam Makeba ( NAID 125327)

HICK: John R. Hickman Audio Collection

Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906-1993  National Archives Identifier 1487762

Selected Records

Speech at Long Island University by H. Rap Brown ( NAID 2843442)