Black History: Stakeholders Canvass Better Understanding among Students


Funmi Ogundare

The Institute of African and Diasporan Studies, University of Lagos recently held its ‘Black History Month’ 2019, where stakeholders stressed the need to ensure that students are familiar with the history of the African-American experience.

This move they said would give them a sense of pride about the black history and culture so that they would better appreciate it.

Speaking at the second anniversary of the programme held with the support of the United States Consulate General, the Director of the institute, Professor Muyiwa Falaiye expressed delight about the programme, saying that black people play an important role in American civilization built during the slave trade. He said Africans need to solve their problems by themselves.

“Why haven’t we built our own continent on our sweat since the slave trade? We need to begin to solve our problems by ourselves because no one will tell our stories better than us.”

According to him, the institute was established to conduct cutting-edge research on black history that will impact black people all over the world; do advocacy that aligns with its programmes that will have a direct impact on the community; as well as teach to ventilate its research.

The Professor of African Socio-political Philosophy, recalled the first time he travelled to the United States in 1997 for his post doc and interacted with a lot of blacks saying, “my life has not remained the same since then I have not left African studies . We need to appreciate the history of the black people and work hard to change our situation of the black history.”

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services, Professor Folashade Ogunsola, described the initiative as very important, saying that “we need to tell our stories and change the narrative.

“What comes to mind on what black history has done is to emphasise the achievement of the black man as largely being involved, but not much has been attributed to them. Until we start telling our story and with what we have achieved, there will be a lot to be proud of.”

She urged the institute to create a data base of achievement in science and art on the history of the black man, adding that the university will continue to push the frontiers and encourage collaborations.

Ogunsola thanked the consulate for its support, saying “this is the beginning of a long journey together; we should create a data base of achievement in science and art. As we have them on the black history, I will like to see the same for Nigeria.”

A Professor of History and Strategic Studies, UNILAG, Olufunke Adeboye said a lot of time, the history of the black man was marked by subjectivities, misunderstandings and misconception that usually creep in.

“We find them using comparatively black sources to tell their own stories. We have a lot of black voices that are given recognition in such narratives and at the end of the day, whoever can identify with issues that are raised can derive inspiration to continue before facing the challenges of the future.”

In his remarks, the Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Lagos, Mr. Russell Brooks encouraged students to read about the intellectual arguments used to justify slavery and colonialism of the black man.

“A central tenet of white supremacy in America and Europe has always been that blacks had no real history; that they left behind nothing of value in Africa; that they had no real culture; that the black race had contributed nothing of value to the advancement of the world and slaves should be thankful for what their masters had done for them.

“Perhaps needless to say, this made those who benefitted from slavery feel much better about that cruel, inhumane system and the same could be said for those who advocated race-based discrimination, colonialism and imperialism.”

He added that the history of the black man cannot be completed without the contribution of a Russian author of ‘The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo’, Alexander Pushkin, who took his inspiration from his African great grandfather, Abraham Petrovitch Gannibal.

“He was kidnapped from Africa as a young man, but rose to become a general and a member of the royal court of Tsar Peter the Great.”

Brook stressed the need for Africans to tell their stories accurately and take pride in the accomplishment of the likes of Nnamdi Azikwe, Nelson Mandela Desmond Tutu, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Kofi Annan, Miriam Makeba, among others.