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James E. Baker papers

Identifier: HCS-003-054

Scope and Contents

This collection contains documents about James E. Baker, the first Black diplomat to South Africa during apartheid. Inlcuded in this collection are biographical materials about Baker, periodicals with articles about his diplomatic assignments, reports and correspondence, photographs, and a scrapbook of articles about him. The bulk of the materials are dated from 1972 to 1973, when he started in South Africa.


  • Creation: 1972-2011


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

James Estes Baker graduated from Haverford College in 1956, and in 1960 began a 35 tenure as a Foreign Service officer, which included his appointment as the first Black diplomat to serve in South Africa during apartheid. He was born in the small town of Suffolk, Virginia in 1935. Upon completing his Haverford education in 1956, he went on to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and graduated the following year. He joined the U.S. diplomatic corps in 1960, and served in a variety of roles, including positions with the UN, until his retirement in 1995. After retiring from the Foreign Service he taught diplomacy, crisis intervention and emergency relief as an adjunct professor at Southampton College.

During his early career as a U.S. diplomat, James Barker held positions in Japan and several African countries, including South Africa. As the first Black diplomat appointed to Pretoria during apartheid, he received significant media attention in the both the United States and South Africa. After serving as an economics specialist at the Pretoria embassy from 1973 to 1975, he left South Africa to begin work for the United States Mission to the United Nations. In 1980, he began work in the U.N. office of the inspector general and subsequently worked in economic development. During his final years at the U.N., he directed emergency relief programs, primarily in Angola, Somalia, and other African nations. In 1995, he retired from the Foreign Service and became an adjunct professor at Southampton College, teaching diplomacy, crisis intervention, and emergency relief. He died of lung disease in New York on April 15, 2001, at the age of 66; he was survived by his partner, John Hawkins '56.


.26 Linear Feet (1 box, 1 volume)




James Estes Baker, Haverford College class of 1956, enjoyed a lengthy career as a member of the United States diplomatic corps, including a period of service for the United Nations. The collection offers insight into Baker’s life and diplomatic career, with a large quantity of materials relating to the media scrutiny occasioned by his appointment as the first Black US diplomat to serve in South Africa during Apartheid. Collected materials include biographical information, personal correspondence, periodicals and official reports related to Baker’s diplomatic work, photographs, and a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings pertaining to his South Africa appointment. A majority of the materials are dated from 1972 to 1973, at the beginning of his appointment to the Pretoria, South Africa embassy.


This collection is arranged in four folders and one volume: biographical materials, periodicals, reports/articles/correspondence, photographs, and a scrapbook.

Related Materials

James Baker '56 collection of African art

Processing Information

Processed by Madison Arnold-Scerbo; completed July, 2018.

  • Two books were removed from the collection and offered to the general library collection. They are: Magubane, Peter. Magubane's South Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978. Cole, Ernest, with Thomas Flaherty. House of Bondage. London: Allen Lane, the Penguin Press, 1968.
James E. Baker papers, 1972-2011
Phillip Norman
October, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US