I’m not an expert on African history, but I’ve been studying it for the last eight years and am helping to facilitate a reading and discussion based seminar class in the Kilns College Master of Arts in Social Justice program called A History of Africa Since Independence. The course is designed to introduce students to the geographical and sociopolitical realities of contemporary Africa thru the lens of history. Topics include: colonialism and its affects, independence movements and self governance issues, the development of African nation-states, the rise of the “big men” in African politics, the emergence of two party democracies and the role of international policy, aid and development through the course of recent African history.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite books on the subject, some of which we are using in the class.
The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence This narrative history of Africa by Martin Meredith is our primary text for the class. This book shows how Africans took power back from their colonizers, tries to uncover the reasons why African countries moved from a state of hope at independence to the myriad of problems is has faced and still faces. Meredith provides an unadulterated look at corrupt dictators, and though he doesn’t leave the reader with much hope, this is an important read for anyone who wants to begin to understand Africa’s recent history.
African History: A Very Short Introduction This book by John Parker & Richard Rathbone draws from over five millenia of events and focuses more on the challenges faced when studying African history as compared to other histories. The nature of the continent creates a unique set of questions and makes the study of African history different than any other.
Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It Another area of lifelong study for me is slavery. This book is the first popular history of the former slaves who left America and founded, ruled, and lost Africa’s first republic: Liberia.
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa Africa’s Great War is happening right now in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is tied to many other conflicts in the area. Jason Stearns’ account is an in-depth attempt to understand the nuances behind one of the continent’s most complicated conflicts. Stearns’ combines political science, first hand interviews with militia leaders, journalism, and activism to make this intractable conflict come to life on the pages of this book.
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela The autobiography of Nelson Mandela is reveals much of the life, thoughts and service of one of Africa’s—and the world’s— most influential leaders. It was written secretly during his 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island. This is one of the most widely read books in America concerning African history. This book was made into a movie this year; see the trailer here.