The African Country Projecte: Making Ancestral Connections

Article excerpt

Many African American students are culturally deprived and narrowly educated about their own genesis as Africans. Through multicultural research of Africa, students can develop a connection with their African origins. Unbeknownst to many people, Africa is a continent and not a country, unlike Australia, which is both a continent and a country. Most African Americans cannot pinpoint their country of origin, but must embrace the entire continent.

When I was in elementary school, teachers briefly touched on the "primitive and dark" land of Africa, and there was no distinction between nations, tribes, ethnic groups, or of any distinguishable languages. They made anthropological references to the origins of primitive man, but the overall lesson of Africa was not of a civilized land. My innate curiosity led me to ponder how such a large, resource-rich land, could be void of civilization, humanity, value, and void of history before European invasion. Thus, on my own, with my encyclopedias and my National Geographic magazine collection at home, I began to research each African country. My teachers never demonstrated to me that they valued African culture. In my own quest for truth, I knew that there had to be more to Africa than just the images of Africans from Tarzan movies, of baggage carriers and scared, cowardly servants. There had to be some sort of political, social, historical, economic, cultural structure to this entire continent of people, from whom I had descended.

It was not until I was in the eighth grade that my teachers presented me with anything resembling African American history, going beyond a few standard facts about slavery and high-profile leaders such as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That foundation of education about African American achievements was an epiphany for me that led to my understanding that African American youth cannot develop a sincere sense of self-pride within an educational system that neglects to give a full and conclusive history of their ancestry. When African American students are only taught about the bondage and servitude of their ancestry without clearly presenting the triumphs of their ancestors, the mental inferiority of bondage is further engraved into the psyche of African American students. The prevailing curriculum on African American history, especially from minimally conscientious educators, is simply of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. A more inclusive African American chronological history should begin with the African origins of humanity, African river valley civilizations, African kingdoms, and contemporary African issues. Additionally, the trauma of the middle passage on Africans in the Americas, as well as the trauma on the Africans who remained in Africa, should be explored.

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The diversity of countries and cultures on the African continent are numerous enough to use as a multicultural study, with variations of people from the Berbers of Northern Africa, in contrast to the Zulus of Southern Africa. Dr. Carter G. Woodson worked to educate Americans about cultural diversity and multiculturalism. (1) Woodson's vision of diversity and multiculturalism can be used to expose students to the diversity of the African people who have been combined to create the African in the Americas through the middle passage and slavery. Woodson believed in the importance of African American study of Africa to encourage self-confidence in their African origins and "contended that conventional public education fostered an inferiority complex in Black children when it should have been instilling pride in them through knowledge of their African ancestry". (2) This neglect of true education of African American youth contributed to "The Mis-Education of the Negro". (3)

During my first full-time social studies teaching assignment in 2001, I saw that there was no change in the general school curriculum that would provide African American students with information of their African origins. …