Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Implementing Afrocentricity: Connecting Students of African Descent to Their Cultural Heritage

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Implementing Afrocentricity: Connecting Students of African Descent to Their Cultural Heritage

Article excerpt


Historically, colonialism relied on a false sense of superiority to justify the domination of colonized people. What students of African descent confront today is that same false sense of superiority of European and American worldview and values and a denigration of the African. Akbar (1998) argued that a "legacy of competence" for students of African descent can liberate them from the shackles of Euro-centric history. For students in American schools, stereotypes, misperceptions and misinformation about Africa abound in the media and in the standard curriculum about Africa. Two studies inform this paper in which I argue for the power of reading to connect students of African descent to their African heritage, whether recently arrived or born in the United States. Students of African descent who are provided with access to materials written by African and African American authors find a direct connection to their history and culture that opens them to shared experiences that incite an eagerness to learn more. All students can benefit from reading about Africa and its peoples from those best positioned to tell the stories, African and African American authors.


I am a white, middle class female who was changed forever by my experiences on the African continent. Having been born and raised in the United States, and educated in its parochial schools, I knew only what I was taught about Africa through my reading and my familiarity with media representations about the African continent and its people. My own education took a distinct turn when I became a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic. Direct experience confirmed for me that when the European historians compiled the story of Africa they told it from their own perspective, filtered through the lens of long-standing colonial domination of the African nations.

According to Eze, for example, among the titans of the Eurocentric grand synthesizers of world history, "Hegel himself had declared the African sub-human: the African lacked reason and therefore moral and ethical content" (Eze 1997: 9). In Enlightenment Britain, David Hume (1985/1777) held similar, but less prominent, notions about the superiority of Europeans. 1

History texts, as recorded by European authors, introduced a distorted version of the African worldview and all that is African. Only through close reading of some hard-to-find works by authors of African descent was I able to discover that for their own economic gain, and for the glorification of their own homelands, the colonizers demeaned and denigrated Africa and Africans in order to exploit the natural and human resources that were originally in abundance in Africa. Rodney, for instance, challenges one of the fallacies of the official Eurocentric version of history when he remarks that it is "an act of brazen fraud to weigh the paltry social amenities provided during the colonial epoch against the exploitation, and to arrive at the conclusion that the good outweighed the bad" (Rodney 1972: 206).

What I came personally to realize was that the Eurocentric lens that was the principal vehicle of my understanding about Africa had long since been clouded over with distortions, misrepresentations, and lies. I began to search for a new way of understanding that would encourage a more positive perspective about the people of Africa whom I had come to know and cherish for their humanity, grace, and endurance in the face of nearly global disregard. As a distinct theoretical perspective, Afrocentricity was a welcome anodyne. Afrocentricity has been an evolving way for revisionist theorists to deconstruct the Eurocentric version of the history of African people. For many years, thanks to the work of Akbar (1998a, 1998b); Asante (2007, 1991, 1990, 1988); Dei (1994); Hilliard (1998); Karenga and Carruthers (1986); Keto (2001, 1995, 1994); Madhubuti and Madhubuti (1994); Myers (1998); Nobles (1991); Shujaa (1994); and Tedla, (1995), Afrocentricity has been re-characterizing and re-contextualizing the history of people of African descent. …

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