Introductory Seminar in African History
This seminar explores relationships between Africa and Virginia in the very long run, from earliest arrivals of Angolans near Jamestown in 1619, through Jefferson’s view of the continent and its people, to mass emigration to Liberia after 1820, through dialogues and commerce during colonial overrule in Africa and after independence, and finally to the resurgence in trans-Atlantic families and experiences in the 21st century.
No prior experience studying Africa is expected nor is previous college-level study of History required.
As a first-year and new-student seminar, the course uses a broad topic to provide opportunities to learn and improve skills – in research, analysis, and written and oral communication – broadly applicable towards success at the University and beyond. As a course in History, it introduces learners to how people (and not just scholars) interested in the past think, and how academic historians do their work with never-straightforward sources (or “evidence”). To that end, seminar participants will learn through doing, and this may include meetings at the University’s “Special Collections Library,” where we can handle and engage primary sources (e.g., old books and private letters). Depending on student interest and practicalities, it may also include some site visits to places of significance on Grounds and nearby, as well as interaction (or “fieldwork”) with fellow UVa students whose life experiences transcend any notion of separation between “Africa” and “Virginia.”
This seminar fulfills the College’s second writing requirement through the composition (including drafting and revision) of papers written to address the major epochs in the course – altogether four essays of about five pages each, and ultimately presented at the end of the course as a polished portfolio. This course also satisfies the College’s requirements in “historical studies” and “non-Western perspectives.”