history, research, teaching

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World War II in Africa

This week in the Modern African history course we’re discussing African participation in World War II and its impact on the continent. Like the growing attention to World War I highlighted by the World War I in Africa project, it is increasingly easy to access media for classroom use. A few I have used successfully:


British Pathe coverage of Italian departure for Ethiopia, 1935:

Halie Selassie I speaks at the League of Nations after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, 1936:

Rare color footage (Kino Library) of Prisoners of War from the French colonies in Germany:

British Pathe footage of South African war effort & troops:


Ato Yanney’s His Majesty’s Sergent trailer

Ousmane Sembene’s (1988) Camp de Thiaroye

Rachid Bouchareb (2006) Indigènes (Days of Glory) trailer


BBC World Service three-part series “Africa’s Forgotten Soldiers” can be listened to by signing up for the radio archive.

My students listened to Afripod Episode 81: The Nigerian homefront in WWII.


Royal West African Forces SOURCE: Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Royal West African Forces
SOURCE: Source: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

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Repost: Lecture Prep and Digital Humanities

This is a re-post from my #DayofDH2014 page (April 8, 2014). 

Some portion of my Tuesday is usually devoted to grading and lecture prep for the rest of the week. Tomorrow the Modern Africa History course will cover decolonization in Portuguese Africa, so I want to blog about some of the great online digital sources and tools I use in this lecture.

The African Activist Archive (hosted by our #DayofDH2014 sponsor, MATRIX) has an awesome collection of posters on Angola and Guinea Bissau.

Angola for the Angolans

by Ato Seitu,Toronto Support Committee for MPLA
Montreal, Canada. No date, apparently late 1975 or early 1976

by Chicago Committee for the Liberation of Angola Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau Chicago, Illinois, United States Fall 1973

by Chicago Committee for the Liberation of Angola Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Fall 1973

The posters do not just operate as colorful background to the lecture. They serve as a tool for students to identify and discuss several important themes I hope to cover:

1) The role of international activists, here a U.S. campaign to boycott Gulf. Portugal received significant income from Gulf’s exploitation of Angolan oil that helped pay for its military activities in Angola against the struggle for independence.

by Pan-African Liberation Committee Brookline, Massachusetts, United States. Most likely late 1972 or 1973

by Pan-African Liberation Committee
Brookline, Massachusetts, United States. Most likely late 1972 or 1973

2) The role of women in the struggle for independence. Both the poster above and the items below portray female freedom fighters, allowing us to examine women at war. But students also discuss the decision to feature mothers and their children in these activist materials.

big32-131-3E6-98-LSM Angola 83

by Liberation Support Movement Information Center
Richmond, Canada. 1973


by Chicago Committee for the Liberation of Angola Mozambique and Guinea
Chicago, Illinois, United States. No date, 1972?

3) The context of the Cold War. Both the button and poster below provide entry into the discussion of U.S. support for UNITA in one of the Cold War proxy wars.

London, United Kingdom 1993 Publisher: Mozambique Angola Committee

London, United Kingdom
Publisher: Mozambique Angola Committee

by Young Socialist Alliance United States 1976 or later

by Young Socialist Alliance
United States
1976 or later

Finally, I use the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Africana Age page for photographs of important leaders to accompany our discussion.

Agostinho Neto. UN photo from the Schomberg Center.

Agostinho Neto. UN photo from the Schomberg Center.

What other great digital sources do you use in lecture?

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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.

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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:

View of Table Mountain from Bishop Colenso’s House, Natal

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View of a Table Mountain from Bishop Colenso's House, Natal

“Painting 364”

Kicking off the new website & blog with this image of my research area from the Kew Marianne North Online Gallery. North visited Bishop Colenso’s home sometime during her 14 years of travel between 1871 and 1885. Her South African paintings are lovely, but I am of course partial to this one of Table Mountain.