“A whey dem say fe demself?” African/Black people’s auto/biographies as pedagogical tools

Yvonne Brown

Abstract


One of the major pedagogical challenges, for teachers at all levels and in all disciplines of the education system, is to acknowledge Africa’s presence in the evolution of world civilizations. Knowledge about the existence and evolution of African civilizations before European contact have been suppressed, distorted or erased from textbooks. Furthermore, only relatively recently have a number of historiographies on such topics as the internal, trans-Sahara and trans-Atlantic slave trades and slavery have begun to be produced in academia. Moreover, scholars have been slow to recognize the central role of Africa in disciplines such as economics, art, literature, science and music in the global currents of intellectual and philosophical thought. Hopefully, the voice, agency and self-representation of African/Black people have steadily emerged from the shadows in various forms of life writing, in addition to original research and publications across disciplines.

This paper and accompanying workshop for teacher educators is this author’s initiative to bring a historical consciousness to both a curricular and pedagogical need for engagement with the scholarship produced by African-descended peoples. My thesis is that various genres of life writing - memoirs, autobiographies and biographies - can enhance the learning and teaching about Africa and African descended peoples in such a way as to bring about a holistic understanding of the historical and institutional bases for their contemporary human condition, locally and globally.

Teacher educators who prepare language arts and social studies teachers for the public school system will find texts at various reading levels among the resources. Teachers of the humanities and social sciences at the tertiary level will have the opportunity to explore ways in which auto/biographies may enhance their learning and teaching.


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