How should we teach about Africa in our world
history courses? As the essays in this issue attest, there is no simple
answer to this question. Yet one thing seems certain: most teachers of world
history, at both the university and secondary levels, do not have adequate
training in African history. Hence, we lack the necessary tools to integrate
the complexities of African history into the world history classroom. This
may have something to do with the fact that the field of African Studies
is a mere half-century old in a discipline dominated by the older fields
of European, American, and East Asian history. As a result, there are simply
not enough trained African scholars to populate the history departments
of our colleges and universities. For this reason, most of us have not benefited
from systematic course instruction in African history at the post-secondary
level. When we do teach about African history in the world history classroom,
then, we tend to focus on a few standard issues: human origins, Nile civilizations,
the Atlantic slave trade, the Scramble for Africa, and decolonization. Beyond
these, most of us are at a loss.
In our discussions with world history teachers
at all levels of instruction over the past year, we frequently heard pleas
for more information about how to integrate African history into world history
courses. In response, we decided to devote an entire issue to the theme.
Our goal is not to have the final word or to provide comprehensive coverage,
but to begin a dialogue about Africa's place in world history that can be
continued into the future. As the authors of this issue's essays eloquently
demonstrate, African history is rich, diverse, and complex. It is also political,
and can tell us much about legacies of racism and ethnocentrism within the
discipline of history itself. Indeed, as the scholars featured in our Forum
argue, it may not be enough simply to add 'factual' information about Africa
to our repertoire of knowledge. Instead, we may need to rethink entirely
the ways we approach Africa's history.
In addition to our Forum, which features essays
by four well-known African scholars, this issue offers a wealth of material
for world history teachers seeking to learn more about the connections between
Africa and world history. For example, additional essays span a wide range
of temporal, geographical, and intellectual subjects, from a look at early
African linguistic history, to the transnational fight against racism, to
suggestions for using African literature in the world history classroom.
Our outstanding regular columns, as well, provide resources for teaching
about Cameroonian history, for integrating African history into the world
history curriculum, for teaching history "from the edge," and for information
on new texts useful in teaching visual literacy. We also welcome a guest
column by Washington State University's Paul Smith, a music scholar and
performer, about using the music of West African poet-musicians in the classroom.
Other teaching resources featured in this issue include an annotated bibliography
for further reading by David Northrup (current president of the World History
Association), a list of favorite teaching resources by our forum authors,
and a letter from a Peace Corps worker about women's education in an isolated
region of Cameroon. Finally, this issue features a large number of book
reviews relevant to teaching world history.
We wish to thank all of you once again for
your continuing support of World History Connected. Readers will
no doubt notice that we have joined the History Cooperative, which we hope
will bring our concerns about teaching world history to an even wider audience
worldwide. Please continue to let us know how we are doing, what you would
like to see in future issues, and how we can improve. Our goal is to support
you in this mightily ambitious project of teaching about the world.
Heather Streets, co-editor
Tom Laichas, co-editor
Tim Weston, associate editor