history, research, teaching

Leave a comment

#SAVotes2014 #20YearsofFreedom

Today, South Africans vote in their fifth democratic election. Here’s a round-up of images and links:

Google Doodle for May 7, 2014

Google Doodle for May 7, 2014

April 27  marked the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election, which  South Africans celebrate annually as Freedom Day. To learn more about the end of apartheid and South Africa’s 1994 elections, visit South African History Online. They’ve got a timeline of elections and entries on most of South Africa’s historical elections.

The Overcoming Apartheid site also has features a lesson on the end of apartheid and multimedia on the elections, such as this image of Madiba casting his first vote. For a longer read, check out the gripping account of Peter Harris on the challenges faced by South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission in Birth.

The online ANC Archive also has great images of the ANC election campaign and Mandela’s inauguration. The Mandela Centre for Memory has an online exhibit on Mandela’s term as president.

By UN Photo by C. Sattleberger on Overcoming Apartheid

By UN Photo by C. Sattleberger on Overcoming Apartheid

Mandela's 1994 inauguration

Mandela’s 1994 inauguration

voter 10 commandment

10 Commandments for Voters, Northwestern Library

South African History Archive has a collection of 1994 election posters and African Activist has 1994 South African Election Watch Campaign Updates.

1994 Poster Matla Trust Speak Magazine (SAHA)

1994 Poster Matla Trust Speak Magazine (SAHA)

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian commemorated the first elections with a moving slideshow of images and audio. There was also the 20 funny but not so funny “20 bizarre apartheid moments.”

Also be sure to check out the great images of Ra’eesa Pather (below) and reflections on the status of the Freedom Charter in the new South Africa from South Africa Votes 2014. Today they’ve got up a live blog of their conversations with voters.


Africa is a Country has several posts on 20 Years of Freedom and today Sean Jacobs considered the growing criticism of the ANC leadership.

Stay tuned for the results!


Leave a comment

Last Day of Class!

Today was the last day of class, so my six Overcoming Apartheid Junior Seminar students enjoyed a South African feast! World Market provisioned us with Ceres litchi juice and Mrs. Ball’s chutney.

The bobotie on the way into the oven

The bobotie on the way into the oven

Bobotie is certainly one of the Cape”s best known dishes with a bit of a controversy around it. Is it of Cape  Malay descent? Created by Dutch settlers and infused with Eastern spices from their trade in the Dutch East Indies? Sarah Emily Duff sheds some light:

One of the ironies of boerekos [farmers’ food, comfort food] is that so much of it is derived from the cooking of the slaves who were transported to the Cape from southeast Asia during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. The sambalsatchars, and chutneys of Afrikaner cooking are a particularly obvious debt to the food traditions imported to South Africa from present-day Indonesia and Malaysia.

Although Leipoldt, an unusually thoughtful nationalist, acknowledge that many of the recipes he found were cooked and invented by ‘Malay’ women – a term which he used to describe the largely Muslim and Afrikaans-speaking descendants of slaves who lived in the Cape –their presence gradually disappeared in other, later boerekos recipe books.

There is no neat boundary between Afrikaner cuisine and what most South Africans dub ‘Cape Malay’ cooking: there are recipes for bredie (mutton stew), bobotie, and sosaties (kebabs) in both boerekos and Malay recipe books. But in order to use food to construct distinct, discrete national or group identities, the differences between these two cuisines had to be emphasised over their similarities.

Sarah Emily Duff, in “National Kitchens

I always forget to take “during” photos, but we’ll use this “after” shot to suggest that the bobotie was enjoyed by all!

Bobotie aftermath

Bobotie aftermath

Now they’re off to finish their research papers with full stomachs.

Leave a comment

On the Anniversary of Hani’s Assassination

Today in 1993, Thembisile “Chris” Hani was assassinated. Januzs Walus, an anti-Communist Polish refugee who had close links to the Afrikaner nationalist AWB, shot Hani in front of his Johannesburg home. Conservative Party MP Clive Derby-Lewis was implicated in the assassination. Both men are still serving prison sentence for the murder and Derby-Lewis has been attacked twice in the last month.

Hani remains a revered figure. Sean Jacobs’ analysis certainly suggests why:

Yet, any observer of contemporary South Africa can’t help noticing that while Chris Hani is still lionized and his name invoked in speeches and songs, the principles he stood for no longer  animate the political project of the liberation movement he laid down his life for or that his erstwhile comrades in the ruling party, its Communist ally and the main trade union federation have been disappointing.

So as we remember Hani, I thought I’d round up some of the material on his life and the many articles and analyses that are being shared today.

You can read about Hani’s life with South African History Online (SAHO). There’s Janet Smith and Beauregard Tromp’s Hani: A Life Too Short and Tim Gibbs analyzed his role in feeding Eastern Cape activists into MK.

The online repository, Aluka, has material on Hani, including photographs and journals such as these:





hani and mthimkhulu

Return of MK combatants to South Africa: Hani and Duckmore “Morris” Mthimkhulu, 1990

DISA has several letters written by the leader, including this one to Ray Simons:

hani to simons_Page_1 hani to simons_Page_2

The Community Video Education Trust’s pilot episode of a Community News Programme also features Hani, here addressing an audience on housing, healthcare, and education.

This 2008 article covers the events of his assassination thoroughly. Aluka also has materials covering his memorial, such as the flyer and photograph below:


hani memorial 1993 hani memorial flyer


There are several other short biographical documentaries, including this one by the SABC and another by Afravision.

Africa is a Country has launched a piece to encourage readers to remember where they were when they heard about his death. Head over and contribute.


Twitter in the Classroom: Early African History

This week Gradhacker hosts #digped week. Their “Seven Things I Learned from Teaching with Twitter” post forced me to reflect on my experience teaching with Twitter in the fall semester. As I plan for next year, is it something I will try again?

I used Twitter in a course on African History to 1880. For many students here, this is their first introduction to African history. When I made the decision to use Twitter, I had two goals. The first was to use social media to get students to think beyond stereotypes of the continent and the second was to encourage alternate forms of class participation. I introduced the assignment during the course’s first discussion session, for which they read Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa” in preparation. As we covered the prevalent images of the continent seen so often in the press and popular imagination, we also talked about the role of social media in countering some of those stereotypes.

As part of the assignment, students were responsible for tweeting an article, photo, poster, event on campus, etc. that perpetuated these common images or fought back against them. I tried to be wise about the assignment. I gave them concrete goals. Tweet once a week and respond to at least one of your classmates’ tweets. I gave them a class hash tag #HIST2391. And I planned to use Martin Hawksey (EdTech Explorer)’s Twitter Archiving Google Doc Spreadsheet to keep track of it all. (That lasted only a couple of weeks…. I think more on account of my lack of diligence than anything else.) I also laid out these expectations in a handout on participation, making it clear this assignment would be graded as part of their participation score.

We opened The plan was to open every class with the Twitter exercise. I would browse their tweets before class. We could view the tweets via #HIST2391 on the classroom screen and our own devices and talk about what we had posted. Some days these discussions were just about current events. In other classes, we had posts that directly applied to course material, such as this one on the use of satellite technology to understand earliest African histories.

How did it go? What did I learn? I came to a lot of conclusions similar to those Natascha Chtena describes in the Gradhacker post, but these are worth noting:

  • Not all of my students had Twitter accounts. Many of them refused to get Twitter accounts on principle, even though I offered the incentive made it part of their grade. Those who jumped on board did not all understand the mechanics: how to post, how to add your own comments, how to correctly use the proper hash tag. The learning curve was steeper than I expected and made for more work than I had planned. Chtena’s suggestion for integrating an in-class tutorial will be key if I repeat the assignment.
  • Another issue centered around privacy. I manage my Twitter account for public consumption and did not want to see all of my students’ tweets, knowing they might not. With the course hash tag, I did not have to follow students with public accounts and could view only their course-related material. But students with private accounts, that was a different story. Some students created new accounts for the project, so their private lives would not overlap. But this meant that they were missing out on some of the benefits of our twitter assignment, only logging in often enough to meet the course requirement and not catching the regular streams of posts. I am not sure there is a way to get around this.
  • Allow me to repeat Chtena. Participation is one thing, engagement is another. Several students would post the first Africa-related article they found on the NYT Africa page. They needed encouragement to read the article, comment on the article, and to interact with their peers’ posts. They especially needed prodding to leave their comfort zones. Even though I had introduced them to great African-content blogs and Twitter accounts, NYT was quick and easy.
  • I had to be committed if I expected them to be committed. We needed to do the assignment every class, or they would slack in their postings. In theory, this seems easy. But when you are pairing the assignment along more traditional lectures with a certain amount of material to cover in between essays, exams, and unplanned bad weather days (this is Texas, after all, who plans for bad weather days?) it grew difficult for me to strike the right balance between my course goals, of which the Twitter assignment was only one.
  • This could be rewarding for me too.  I thought about what I wanted them to get out of it. But I had not thought about what I might get out of it. While some students were not digital natives and were not eager participants, others did really take to the assignment. A few made it their mission to seek out really different stories to compete with the prevalent images. They posted about Nollywood celebrity marriages, South African literary prizes, or this crazy Vine (I did not know of this “Vine” technology before this) about how your “normal African” wakes in the morning. Others posted about African-related events on campus and across Dallas. In some of their tweets, I recognized that they were applying course lessons to their everyday interactions around campus and the city. Those kind of tweets were the best course evaluations for which a teacher can hope.

Leave a comment

One of my favorite Modern African History lectures

I was going to share all of these great links on Twitter, but thought a single post might bring it all together.  This lecture on decolonization and Pan-Africanism in Ghana is one of my favorites to give in the Modern African History course because of the great videos and reading materials with which students can engage.

We open with a clip of war veteran Geoffrey Aduamah discussing his return to the Gold Coast Colony after serving in Burma during World War II (~8:30-9:40):

There is also this short color clip of Kwame Nkrumah’s independence speech:

and news footage of the 1958 All-African People’s Conference:

The students read a resolution of the 1958 All-African People’s Conference in Accra and several chapters from Kwame Nkrumah’s I Speak of Freedom (of which you can read a short excerpt here).

There are also great images available through @GhanaInPix and NYPL’s Africana Age: