The African Experience: From "Lucy" to Mandela
Dr. Kenneth P. Vickery is Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Advising in the History Department at North Carolina State. University, where he has taught for almost 30 years. He received his B.A. degree with Phi Beta Kappa honors at Duke University and went on to study sub-Saharan African history at Yale University, where he earned his Ph.D. During his tenure at NC State, he has been a visiting professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Meredith College. In 1993, he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship and served as a Fulbright Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Economic History of the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. Professor Vickery is also an acclaimed author. His book Black and White in Southern Zambia: The Tonga Plateau Economy and British Imperialism, 1890ñ1939 was a finalist for the Herskovits Prize, given annually by the African Studies Association for the outstanding book in African studies. He has published numerous articles and reviews in such publications as Comparative Studies in Society and History, the International Journal of African Historical Studies, the Journal of Southern African Studies, and American Historical Review . An award-winning instructor, Dr. Vickery was inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Teachers at North Carolina State in 1986. In 2005, he was named Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, the university's highest teaching honor.
01: Finding the "Lost Continent"
To many in the Western world, Africa is the "Lost Continent" - lost from view and lost because of its human and natural disasters. This lecture lays out a road map for "finding" Africa by examining its uniquely long history of human activity. The basic themes of the course are also presented.
02: Africa's Many Natural Environments
Africa's varied geography includes savanna, desert, and rain forest, which are produced by the interaction of latitude, temperature, rainfall, elevation, and topography. This Lecture characterizes these zones by specific flora and fauna and by the potential to support human societies or harm them through disease.
03: A Virtual Tour of the Great Land
Embarking on an imaginary tour of the continent, this lecture starts at the Cape of Good Hope, travels through southern Africa, leaps northward to Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Great Rift Valley, the Sahara, and the great rain forests of West Africa and the Congo Basin, and ends with Victoria Falls.
04: The Cradle of Humankind
Humankind emerged first in Africa, as shown by fossils found by Raymond Dart, the Leakeys, Donald Johanson, and others - evidence recently bolstered by DNA studies. What were the first human societies in Africa like? What tools did they use? Are there still people in Africa living in this style?
05: Crops, Cattle, Iron - Taming a Continent
A few thousand years ago, life in Africa was revolutionized by the cultivation of crops and the domestication of livestock. The change was reinforced by the spread of a new and incredibly useful metal: iron. This Iron Age Package of innovations led to settled kingdoms and extensive trading networks.
06: Kinship and Community - Societies Take Shape
Family and descent groups in Africa have assumed particular forms. This lecture focuses on monogamy versus polygamy and on the importance of unilineal descent groups, lineages, and clans. The nature of ethnicity in Africa is discussed, as well as the roles enjoyed by - or imposed on - women.
07: Like Nothing Else - The Ancient Nile Valley
Although Egypt lies outside the course's focus on sub-Saharan Africa, its importance cannot be ignored in understanding the history of Africa. This lecture looks at ancient Egypt in the context of the Nile, linking it to centers of culture and power further south, such as Nubia, Kush, and Meroe.
08: Soul and Spirit - Religion in Africa
Religion has always held a central place in African cultures. What are the common characteristics of the hundreds of indigenous religions across the continent, with their multiplicity of deities and spirits? And what has been the long-run impact on Africa of two great world religions - Christianity and Islam?
09: Ethiopia - Outpost of Christianity
For well over 1,000 years there was only one place in Africa where Christianity could be called the dominant religion: Ethiopia. This lecture examines the long and unique history of Ethiopia, including its monastic traditions and astonishing churches carved out of solid rock.
10: West Africa's Golden Age
Between about 400 and 1600, the West African savanna was dominated by a succession of major kingdoms and empires. This lecture explores the rise, development, and eventual decline of three legendary states: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. Also examined is the once-thriving trade center of Timbuktu.
11: The Swahili Commercial World
Just as major trading states arose in West Africa along the southern shore of a "sea of sand," so in East Africa there emerged a distinctive commercial culture on the shore of a real sea - the Indian Ocean. Between 1000 and 1500, the East African coast entered its own golden age. The Swahili world had arrived.
12: Great Zimbabwe and the Cities of the South
This lecture investigates a series of Later Iron Age sites in the southern African interior that were commercially linked with the Swahili ports in East Africa. Included are the remarkable stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the most extensive stone construction in Africa south of the Nile Valley.
13: The Atlantic Slave Trade - The Scope
The most profound connection between America and Africa is, without doubt, the forced migration of large numbers of African slaves for permanent settlement in the New World. This lecture examines West Africa's place in the immense Atlantic System that emerged in the three centuries following Columbus's voyage.
14: The Atlantic Slave Trade - The Impact
How did slave ships obtain their human cargo? Who gained and who lost? How many people were affected, including those who landed in the New World, those who died on the way, and those who perished while resisting capture? How did the Atlantic slave trade influence African populations in the long term?
15: South Africa - The Dutch Cape Colony
With the Atlantic slave trade picking up steam in the 1600s, the Dutch established a post at the Cape of Good Hope to reprovision ships going to and from their commercial interests in Asia. But Cape Town became something else: a beachhead for the gradual expansion of permanent European settlement.
16: South Africa - The Zulu Kingdom
In the decades around 1800, the southern Bantu world underwent dramatic change as centralized kingdoms replaced smaller chiefdoms. This process led to the modern Zulu kingdom under its great founder Shaka Zulu - later demonized as a bloodthirsty destroyer, but equally a builder and creator.
17: South Africa - The Frontier and Unification
In a migration reminiscent of the settlement of the American West - right down to the use of covered wagons - thousands of Dutch Afrikaners left the British Cape Colony and established themselves in the far interior. Unification of South Africa came after the British victory over Afrikaners in the Boer War.
18: South Africa - Diamonds and Gold
In 1867 huge diamond deposits were discovered in the interior of what would become South Africa, followed 20 years later by even more valuable gold deposits. Such enormous wealth set South Africa on the path to what it remains today: a first-world and third-world country wrapped into one.
19: Prelude to the Scramble for Africa
This lecture examines developments in the 1800s, between the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and the onset of full-blown European colonization. Some remarkable West African entrepreneurs arose to take advantage of the new market realities, including the palm oil merchant-king, Ja Ja of Opobo.
20: European Conquest and African Resistance
In 1884 representatives of several Western powers met in Berlin to discuss the ground rules in the scramble for Africa. The partition of the continent by European empires was motivated by the search for raw materials and markets, the missionary impulse, and pseudoscientific notions of racial superiority.
21: Colonial Africa - New Realities
By the early 1900s, most of Africa was under European colonial rule. This lecture looks at the characteristics shared by the colonies. All were involved in economic exploitation, infrastructure improvements, and authoritarian rule aided by local leaders. Furthermore, all professed a civilizing mission.
22: Colonial Africa - Comparisons and Change
Commonalities aside, the experiences of Africans under colonialism were hardly identical. The biggest difference depended on a simple question: How many European white settlers intended to stay? This affected African citizens in countless ways but most directly in whether they retained or lost their land.
23: The Lion Awakens - The Rise of Nationalism
There were two forms of protest against colonial rule: One sought to reestablish the independence that Africans had previously enjoyed; the other looked forward to a new Africa, different from both the precolonial and colonial models. The two types overlapped and coexisted for many Africans.
24: The Peaceful Paths to Independence
The decolonization of most of Africa, like its colonization, occurred rapidly. In 1950 almost no one would have predicted that within roughly a decade, the majority of African countries would celebrate independence. African nationalists were elated to gain power. But how would they use it?
25: The Congo - Promise and Pain
The tragedy of the Congo throws into sharp relief the processes of conquest, colonization, and decolonization. Belgian King Leopold brutally exploited the country as his personal possession. After independence, the Congo fell under the iron hand of Mobutu Sese Seko for 32 years. Today the country wallows in civil war.
26: Segregation to Apartheid in South Africa
As the sun began to set on European colonial rule in much of Africa and on America's own version of segregation, South Africa moved in the opposite direction. When the Afrikaner National Party came to power in 1948, it took several bold steps to entrench and intensify white supremacy forever - or so it was hoped.
27: The Armed Struggles for Independence
In countries where white settlers had something substantial to defend, they were prepared to fight for it. That in turn impelled African nationalists to take up arms themselves, notably in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola, and Mozambique. The scars from these conflicts have been slow to heal.
28: The First Taste of Freedom
While wars of liberation ravaged the southern African settler states, most countries in the rest of Africa were enjoying the first years of independence. The visionary new leaders announced great plans for bringing the fruits of independence home to ordinary citizens, and in many cases, they delivered.
29: The Taste Turns Sour
The promise of postcolonial freedom soon began to falter. The new leaders presided over severely hampered economies, and many of the elite were quite happy to settle for enriching themselves. When popular anger threatened stability, rulers turned to one-party states, and armies turned to military coups.
30: The World Turns Down - The "Permanent Crisis"
The mid-1970s were a grim turning point for Africa, marked by international oil shocks and falling prices for exported African commodities. One response was to borrow ever more furiously - and Africa's debt crisis was born. By the 1980s in places like Zambia, development was a bitterly forgotten dream.
31: A New Dawn? The Democratic Revival
As the Soviet bloc collapsed, authoritarian regimes in many parts of Africa faced unprecedented challenges to permit free speech and to loosen the state's grip on economic life. In country after country, civilian rule replaced military regimes, and one-party states gave way to multiparty competition.
32: The South African Miracle
South Africa's democratic breakthrough rivals that of the former Soviet bloc states of Eastern Europe. This lecture recounts the role played by the martyred Steve Biko, the Soweto schoolchildren's revolt of 1976, and growing international boycotts, followed by Nelson Mandela's miraculous negotiated transition to majority rule.
33: The Unthinkable - The Rwanda Genocide
In April 1994, the President of Rwanda was killed when a plane carrying him was shot down. Within hours began the systematic murder of 500,000 members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group. This lecture reviews Rwanda's precolonial and colonial history in an attempt to explain an event that remains, essentially, inexplicable.
34: The New Plague - HIV/AIDS in Africa
AIDS was first identified in the United States in the early 1980s but almost certainly originated decades earlier in Central Africa. Now a global threat, AIDS has had an incomparable impact on southern Africa, where in certain regions 30 percent of the population is infected with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS.
35: Zimbabwe - Background to Contemporary Crisis
This lecture explores the recent sharp decline in the fortunes of Zimbabwe, the jewel of Africa. In the past quarter-century, the rule of President Robert Mugabe has become increasingly corrupt and authoritarian, culminating in a land-grab of white-owned farms that caused the collapse of the agricultural economy.
36: Africa Found
The course concludes with a brief overview of some major themes: struggles with the environment, ethnic identity, statebuilding, and Africa's evolving relationship with the outside world. Professor Vickery then offers examples of contemporary Africans who give reason to see a brighter future for the continent.