Paul Bjerk, "Julius Nyerere" (Ohio UP, 2017)


Paul Bjerk’s compact biography Julius Nyerere, published as part of the Ohio Short Histories of Africa series follows closely on the heels of his monograph on the same subject - Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960-1964 - published in 2015 by the University of Rochester Press, about which Bjerk was interviewed on the New Books in African Studies podcast. Similar to the monograph, in this short work, Bjerk foregrounds Nyere’s political biography - the founding of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); his leadership of an independent Tanzania; and his eventual consecration as an icon of postcolonial Africa. Additionally however, considerable time is spent on Nyerere’s personal arc from intellectually gifted rural youth, to principled if flawed leader of an independent nation, to, having foregone many of the trappings of political office, elder statesman living the end of his life much as he began it. The podcast conversation delves deeply into these intersections of the personal and political and provides a way into this eminently readable sketch of Nyerere’s life.
Mireille Djenno is the African Studies Librarian at Indiana University. She can be reached at

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