Why isn't African history taught in history class?

By Alex McNab

If black people are African-Americans, why does black history start when we were stolen from Africa?

I began asking myself this question last December when I first picked up a copy of “Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.” This book, edited by Harvard University professors Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., attempts to keep a complete record of black history from 4,000 B.C.E. until 1999 C.E.

As I struggled through its 2,095 pages, learning about great African kingdoms such as the Malians, the Zulus and the Nubians, I began to realize the great gaps there were in my black history education. Aside from learning about ancient Egypt in my sixth grade history class, the only things I had learned about Africa in school were told through the eyes of the Europeans destroying it. I thought to myself, “Why is Europe given two years of required history courses at Harvard-Westlake while Africa, a continent more than three times larger and the cradle of humanity, receives only two days and a 17-page supplement in The World and Europe II?”

I didn’t know the answer, so I decided to ask Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra about making a pre-Imperialist, sub-Saharan African history class. He directed me to Upper School History Department Chair Katherine Holmes-Chuba. Holmes-Chuba told me to talk to Kutler Center Department Chair Larry Klein, who agreed to help me.

When he asked me what material I wanted to cover in the class, I couldn’t give him an answer. My knowledge of the history of my people was so limited that I could not even provide a foundation for which to base the teaching of this class.

Since our meeting, Klein has met with Head of Harvard-Westlake Jeanne Huybrechts to talk about creating the class.

I have heard nothing else about the future of this class, except that if it is approved, it probably will not appear on the Curriculum Guide until 2014, the year I graduate. I guess it’s true what they say, history is written by the victors.

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