Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

African history 'recognised' at American conference

by Dr. A. B. Assensoh

The American Historical Association, the largest organisation of historians in the United States, recently held its annual meeting at the New York Marriott Hotel. Dr A. B. Assensoh of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, attended the meeting as a member. In the following report, he discusses the place of African history at the meeting.
Among the diversified fields of historical studies included in the programme of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in New York was African History. The one hundredth meeting was held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel from December 27 to December 30, 1985.

In the 263-page comprehensive prog-amme for the meeting, the subjects in African History listed were "Gold in African Cultures and Economics: Lamu and Lobi," (page 46), and "American And Southern African History: Comparative Aspects." While Professor Eugenia W. Herbert of Mount Holyoke College chaired the session on gold, Yale University Professor Leonard Thompson chaired the one on American and Southern African History.

Research papers on both Pan-African subjects were presented by four distinguished Professors from four leading Ameri- can universities. For the American- Southern African History session, the panellists were John W. Cell of Duke University, Ramsay Cook from York University, Howard Lamer from Yale University and Leonard Thompson, whose institutional affiliation was not listed.

Two female panellists presented papers on the session dealing with gold in African cultures and economics. Professor Patricia R. Curtin of John Hopkins University read a paper entitled "Women, Economy, and Gold in Lamu", while a paper on "The place of Lobi Gold in the Middle Volta and Middle Niger Gold Trade: An Evaluation of the Evidence" was given by Professor B. Marie Perinbam of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Although only two panels were conspicuously organised in the sphere of African History, it was very noteworthy that over a dozen academic publishing concerns, which exhibited books and research papers of historical significance, had a lot of historical material and books on Africa for sale. In many instances, it was very unique to notice that various pub- lishing companies had substantive African divisions to handle purely Pan-African publications.

The highlight of the annual historical conference was the criticism of value-free scholarship in American historical studies. Professor J.H. Hexter of the History Department of Washington University and many other scholars called for moral judgements in their scholarship.

"It is about time that we all abandoned a position which we can sustain only at the cost of not saying what we know. Fellow historians, rise. No one but yourselves imposes on you a professional prefrontal lobotomy that excises part of your intellectual capacity and all of your moral judgement," Professor Hexter stated.

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