January 3, 2008

Students Learn about The Black Experience

Course taught by John McCartney, professor of government and law, focuses on contributions of Africans and African Americans to humanity worldwide

The Black Experience, taught in the fall by John McCartney, professor of government and law and head of Africana studies, allowed students to analyze the dynamics of the African American experience and compare and contrast them with the landmarks of the African experience worldwide.

  • Ashley Gray ’09 Provides her Perspective on The Black Experience

The course also exposed the students to the African experience’s effects on fields as varied as the arts, medicine, and literature.

McCartney hopes that through the course the students learned “to see the importance of this experience for the United States and the contributions of the black experience to humanity worldwide.”

“By correctly placing the history of blacks and their experiences in a historical context, we gain a deeper understanding and clarity of issues surrounding the black experience both past and present,” explains international affairs major Dora Johnson ’08 (Yonkers, N.Y.).

“The course has done a great job of demonstrating the struggle of blacks in both Africa under the control of European colonialists as well as in the new world of America under slavery and plantation life,” says government and law major Edward Detmer ’08 (Scarsdale, N.Y.).

The course also incorporated speakers and readings to lead the students to a deeper understanding of the black experience.

“We had a wonderful speaker by the name of Wanjiru Ngige who shared her research on ‘The modern African State’ with us,” Johnson says. “Her talk led the class and guests in a wonderful discussion of African unity.”

Johnson also enjoyed reading scholarly works in the course.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed our readings by Kwame Nkrumah, the Father of African Independence. His knowledge and foresight of the intricacies of colonialization and imperialism and the solutions for challenges that faced the African continent at such an early time in history were ingenious.”

Detmer liked reading the novel Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. “It has been the most interesting work we have looked at, as it depicts the lives of four Africans in colonial Kenya under accusation of murder. It gives a tremendous account of the horror that was the Mau Mau rebellion and exemplifies the harmful political and social effects of European settlers.”


Other members of the class were biology major Afua Akuffo ’11 (Accra, Ghana), Max Bass ’10 (Gorham, Maine), government and law major Christopher Giordano ’08 (Princeton, N.J.), international affairs and Spanish double major Ashley Gray ’09 (Bethlehem, Pa.), government and law major Benjamin Hyde ’08 (New London, Conn.), international affairs major Kathleen Reddington ’08 (Jersey City, N.J.), economics & business and Africana studies double major Kevin Reese ’08 (East Stroudsburg, Pa.), economics and business major Everest Schmidt ’08 (Orleans, Calif.), and computer science major Lakeisha Wright ’11 (Upper Marlboro, Md.).

“The Black Experience is critical in gaining a full perspective on colonial America and Africa,” says Detmer. “The exploitation of blacks serves as a cornerstone in their history and serves as a foundation for the development of blacks in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

McCartney hopes that his students will be able to apply the knowledge that they gained in the course to other aspects of their everyday lives. “The topic is of extreme importance in understanding the image of racism and colonialism on human development.”

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