Faculty in the News In the News

April 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Sarr: History Department Proud of its Africa Involvement

Dr. Assan Sarr, Assistant Professor of History at Ohio University, writes in the Athens News that the department is proud of its early commitment to the study of African history.

Dr. Assan Sarr

Dr. Assan Sarr

This year, Ohio University’s African Studies Program is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The university developed a tradition that I might call a “cradle” for Africanists: it is a place with excellent faculty that provides training to students pursuing advanced study in Africa.

It was with this in mind that I considered Ohio University a good place to begin my graduate studies nearly a decade ago. I certainly got nurtured in “the cradle,” and went on to study at Michigan State University’s African history Ph.D. program. I returned to Athens last summer because I wanted yet again to be part of this tradition.

But what is perhaps less known is that OU’s History Department was a pioneer in including Africa in its course offerings. The department was, indeed, offering African history courses long before most universities across the United States were doing so, and a good while before the Civil Rights movement pushed more prestigious schools, like Cornell, to include Africa in its offerings.

The History Department was also one of the first departments at the university to hire an Africa specialist faculty. Dr. Alan Booth, one of the leading historians of Swaziland, joined the department in 1964. It is important to note that the 1960s was when African history began to be taught as a legitimate field of historical study in the U.S. A noted historian of slavery in Africa, Suzanne Miers, was also in this department between 1970 and 1990. Walter Hawthorne, my mentor at Michigan State University, and the pre-eminent historian of the Balanta of coastal Guinea Bissau, was our African historian between 1999 and 2005….

I want to encourage students on campus to consider taking our African history courses. We offer a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses including world history, pre-modern and modern African history, comparative slavery, Islam in Africa and women in Africa. Students interested in pursuing graduate study in African history are also encouraged to apply to our master’s and Ph.D. history programs.

When students on campus take African history courses, they are helping to continue our proud tradition of promoting the study of the world in general and Africa in particular. Personally, I think it is remarkable to have students from 12 different African countries and more than two dozen Americans in an African history class. It is a joy that fills my heart and something that I have never seen at any other college or university campus.

Read the entire column in the Athens News.

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