Skip to main content

McKay, Vernon



Vernon McKay was born in Independence, Kansas, on October 8, 1912, the son of Peter Miller and Myrtle Ethyl Pierson McKay. He received his A.B. degree from Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas, in 1933. After receiving his M.A. from Syracuse University in 1934, he was appointed to the position of Taft Teaching Fellow at the University of Cincinnati for the years 1934 through 1936. In the summer of 1935 he traveled to Europe to study at the School of International Studies in Geneva and conduct research for his dissertation at the Bibliotheque Nationale, returning to marry Lila Buck on September 22, 1935. Upon completion of his dissertation on the French acquisition of Tunisia, Cornell University awarded McKay the Ph.D. in history in 1939.

McKay was appointed lecturer in history at Syracuse University in 1936 and promoted to assistant professor in 1940. He left Syracuse in 1945 to become a research associate with the Foreign Policy Association. His first major publication, The Future of Italian Colonies, followed in 1946.

In 1948, McKay joined the United States Department of State as chief of the Political Section of the African Research Bureau. He subsequently became deputy director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs and served on United States delegations to the United Nations' General Assembly, Trusteeship Council, and Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories. During his years with the State Department, McKay remained an active researcher and scholar of African affairs, producing many important publications, including “Nationalism in British West Africa,” Foreign Policy Reports (March 15, 1948); “British Rule in West Africa,” Foreign Policy Reports (May 15, 1948): “The Impact of the United Nations on Africa,” in Africa Today (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955): and “Too Slow or Too Fast?”, Foreign Affairs (January 1957).

McKay resigned from the State Department in September 1956 to become Professor of African Studies and Director of the Program of African Studies at the School of Advanced International Relations, John Hopkins University, a position he held for more than twenty years. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, McKay participated in numerous professional activities and served as a consultant to the United States government and several private agencies during his tenure at Johns Hopkins. He also published several books and numerous articles about Africa, including: “External Political Pressures on Africa Today,” in The United States and Africa (New York: American Assembly, 1958); “Apartheid in a Hostile World,” Africa Report (December 1960); Africa in World Politics (New York: Harper and Row, 1963); “The Impact of Islam on Relations Among the New African States,” in Islam and International Relations (New York: Praeger, 1965); “South African Propaganda: Methods and Media,” Africa Report (February 1966); African Diplomacy, edited by Vernon McKay (New York: Praeger, 1966); Africa in the United States, edited by Vernon McKay (New York: MacFadden-Bartell, 1967); “The Research Climate in Eastern Africa,” African Studies Bulletin (April 1968); and “Southern Africa and its Implications for American Policy,” in Southern Africa and the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968).

McKay's professional affiliations include the African Studies Association, the American Historical Association, the American Political Science Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Africa Institute, the International Institute of Differing Civilizations, the Royal African Society, the South African Institute of Race Relations, and the Cosmos Club. He has served as a member of the United States Commission for UNESCO, 1960-1966; as chairman of the American Selection Committee, United States-South African Faculty Exchange Program, 1961; as president of the African Studies Association, 1961-1962; as chairman of the Advisory Council on African Affairs, United States Department of State, 1962-1968; as a member of the Advisory Committee of International Organization Affairs, United States Department of State, 1965-1969; as a member of the Board of Directors of the African-American Institute, 1965-1969; and as a consultant on African Affairs to the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the International Cooperation Administration, the Grolier Society, and Project Africa of Carnegie Mellon University. Baker University awarded him an honorary L.L.D. in 1961.

Poor health forced McKay to retire from Johns Hopkins in the late 1970s. He died on October 4, 1988.

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Vernon McKay (1912-1988) Papers

Identifier: 008

Fundamentally a research file, the collection mainly consists of printed materials, government documents, seminar papers, research data, reports, broadsides, and newsclippings collected by McKay during his career as a scholar, teacher, administrator, and employee of the United States Department of State.

Dates: ca. 1935-1977


 Item — Photograph 156: Series Series 3
Identifier: Photograph 156
Scope and Contents

Information taken from Recto ; A43 ; ; GH-152 -- Verso

Dates: ca. 1935-1977

[Vernon McKay, Okwe (Alexanger Daniels) and two other men.]

 Item — Photograph 196: Series Series 3
Identifier: Photograph 196
Scope and Contents

Title supplied by cataloger, no information provided on image to transcribe. ; Identification of two of the men provided from in house inventory excel document. ; A 58 ; ; GH-193 -- Verso

Dates: ca. 1935-1977

[View of Vernon McKay looking at water level measurement instrument, dirt road and trees in background.]

 Item — Photograph 167: Series Series 3
Identifier: Photograph 167
Scope and Contents

Title supplied by cataloger, no information provided on image to transcribe. ; A43 ; ; GH-163 -- Verso

Dates: ca. 1935-1977

Additional filters:

Archival Object 3
Collection 1
Africa 1
Africa--Study and teaching 1
Dirt roads 1
Grasses 1
Landscapes 1