Sunday, 30 August 2009

African History Is Wider than Enslavement

Ms Serwah from the New African Perspective submits a powerful opinion piece explaining why African History must not be restricted to the 'black' history of enslavement.

First published in the March 2009 by Ligali's Nyansapo e-newsletter

I am saddened each time I hear people of African descent saying that enslavement should be taught in schools. Yesterday I was at City Hall when a teacher made a similar comment, but thankfully Kwaku set the record straight. African History, which includes enslavement, should be taught in schools. The curriculum in general, should reflect the contribution of people of African descent to world civilization. In my view, teaching enslavement in isolation is disempowering. This is because Africans are usually presented as amorphous victims, and when it comes to the Abolition, African abolitionists and freedom fighters are not given sufficient recognition, and the spotlight is usually on Europeans, such as William Wilberforce.

Africa’s history spans thousands of years, and does not begin and end with enslavement. Although enslavement had devastating consequences which are still with us, it took place over a relatively short period of time compared to the length of African history. Paul Obinna has produced a Timeline to help us appreciate the length and breadth of African history. Last October, during African History Month in Harrow, organisations including BTWSC and Akoben Awards, put on events on Africa Before Enslavement highlighting African empires, education, architecture, and art to raise awareness and dispel the notion that African history is almost synonymous with enslavement.

I also believe that we should rethink the idea of an enslavement memorial, and replace this with a memorial in honour of African abolitionists and freedom fighters highlighting the likes of Queen Nzingah, Ottabah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Tubman, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Sam Sharp, and Paul Bogle, to name a few.

Ms Serwah


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