International expert on African studies to speak to campus

Emmanuel Akyeampong

Emmanuel Akyeampong, a Harvard expert in African and African American cross-cultural studies, will give a virtual presentation for the university Dec. 1.

Akyeampong’s talk, “African and African American Relations, c. 1960 to Recent Times: Transformations in Global Blackness” is part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion. The presentation will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Akyeampong’s lecture will examine changing relations between Africans and African Americans in the past half century and how increased African immigration to the United States during that period created a shared community around global blackness on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 2019 the government of Ghana observed 400 years of slavery in America, declaring the year a "Year of Return" and granting Ghanaian citizenship to 100 African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans to mark the occasion. Black Lives Matter demonstrations broke out this year in several African cities in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Charise Cheney, associate professor in the Department of Indigenous, Race and Ethnic Studies, sees the UO lecture series as crucial for understanding how to move forward as a university and who can be reached.

“It is critical to explore historical and contemporary relationships between people of African descent who are situated throughout the diaspora,” Cheney said. “Emmanuel Akyeampong's talk promises to complicate our understandings of Blackness in the U.S., which are too often limited to the descendants of enslaved Americans. Discussions of diversity within Black communities are particularly important now as we begin to intellectually ground the Black studies project at the UO.”

Akyeampong’s work is known in the U.S. and internationally. His research interests include social history, comparative slavery and the African diaspora, environmental history, the history of disease and medicine, economics, and business history.

In an interview in Harvard Magazine, he explained that "social history endeavors to look at history from beneath. It studies those who do not have center stage — the poor, women, slaves, the unempowered."

Akyeampong  is the Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies, professor of the history of African and African American studies, faculty associate for the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and a board member of the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute, the nation's oldest research center dedicated to the study of the history, culture and social institutions of Africans and African Americans. 

Akyeampong  was also former chair of Harvard’s Committee on African Studies and, along with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., was instrumental in creating Harvard’s Department of African and African American Studies. Akyeampong and Gates were also co-chief editors for the six-volume work Dictionary of African Biography.

Akyeampong serves as president of the African Public Broadcasting Foundation, a partnership of academic researchers, African broadcasters and African producers dedicated to the production of development-oriented programs for broadcast on television, radio and the Internet

In addition to his U.S. positions, Akyeampong is a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the UK’s Royal Historical Society, and co-founder and director of the International Institute for the Advanced Study of Cultures, Institutions and Economic Enterprise based in Accra, Ghana.

Akyeampong has authored several books and articles, including “Drink, Power, and Cultural Change: A Social History of Alcohol in Ghana, c.1800 to Recent Times” and “Between the Sea and the Lagoon: An Eco-social History of the Anlo of Southeastern Ghana, c.1850 to Recent Times.” He was editor of Themes in West Africa’s History and the Journal of African History.

Akyeampong is a noted national and international speaker, delivering the Distinguished Africanist Address at Boston College and presenting papers at the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, and the Conference on Dutch-Ghanaian Relations: Past and Present, at the Hague.

Bruce Blonigen, Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences, said having the opportunity to hear Akyeampong’s wealth of knowledge and experiences in higher education and internationally will offer needed insight.

“With the new Black studies minor and the deepening commitment to combating racism, Akyeampong’s work can provide us steps towards expanding our university’s capacity to speak to existent racism and a way to come to terms with the realities of our history, locally and globally,” Blonigen said.

The event is free and open to the public, but preregistration is required via a Qualtrics survey. For further information, see the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

By tova stabin, University Communications