Principles for Teaching about Africa

  1. Africa is and has always been connected—a part of the world
    • With the Middle East (from 400 CE)
    • With Asia across the Indian Ocean (from before 800 CE)
    • With Europe across the Mediterranean (from 800 CE)
    • And later with the Americas through multiple exchanges in trade and culture
  2. Africa has a long pre-colonial history
  3. Africa is highly diverse
    • religion
    • landscapes
    • wealth
    • politics
    • history
    • clothing
    • music
    • ethnicity. . . and the relative importance attached to ethnicity
    • urban/rural
  4. Geography matters

Good Pedagogy uses Visuals, Voices, and Connections “VVC”

Barbara Brown, Ph.D., former Outreach Director, developed the approach of using “VVC” to teach students about Africa. This is why:

  1. African voices, because Africans are rarely “heard” and often viewed as “recipients” of aid and pity and not as creators of their own lives. Students should ‘meet Africans’ in person, in primary sources, in literature, and on film as often as possible.
  2. Visuals, because students’ visual banks are often narrow. Students need a range of realistic images for their visual imaginations of Africa.
  3. Connections with the U.S., because students tend to think of Africa as “far away” and unconnected to “our” lives.
  4. “Ahas” and “Wow, I didn’t know that” responses, because students need to be shaken up, out of their comfortable notions, to pay attention and to be ready to take on new concepts about Africa.
  5. Adopting a Decolonial Lens when discussing Africa, so that students learn to center the perspectives of Africans and history told from Africans. Check out this resource list on teaching African history through a decolonize lens.