Fall 2019 HC 434H/431H: Biography as History: Analyzing African Political Leadership since the 1950s

Fall 2019-2020

Professor: A.B. Assensoh

4.00 credits

  • CRN 17110: Tuesday & Thursday, 14:00 - 15:50 @ CHA 301

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill a Social Science Colloquium and a Global Perspective (GP) Multicultural class. If the student has already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and a GP Multicultural class.

African political leadership is one of the least understood historical-cum-political phenomena. On the one hand, several of the continent’s political leaders are often romanticized as titans without flaws and, on the other hand, they are often unfairly demonized as the culprits for most of the issues that undermine the continent. This course seeks to help Clark Honors College ( CHC) students to understand varied dynamics of exploring the methodologies of political leadership on the continent between the mid-1950s and the 1960s, when the West African nation of the Gold Coast (now called Ghana) became one of the first colonial nations to attain its independence from the United Kingdom on March 6, 1957, and changed its name to Ghana, thus choosing a name from one of the former 4 ancient African empires (the other empires were Guinea, Mali and Songhay, two of which are present-day West African countries).

In this course, we will use selected biographical and autobiographical texts to ferret out the individual and contextual factors of African political leadership, focusing mostly on aspects of the early history, decolonization and post-independent periods. Biographies and memoirs often provide a unique opportunity to explore historical and political periods of time as well as space, which can initially be unfamiliar to students. Therefore, the course provides students with a window into otherwise very interesting and viable interdisciplinary issues through the stories and lives of a selected number of some of the continent’s foremost political players: Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya); Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana); Julius Nyerere (Tanzania); Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) and, of course, the iconic Nelson Mandela (South Africa).