African Unit 8
Historical and Contemporary Migration in Africa
Name: David Glovsky
College: Michigan State University
Module Title: “Historical and Contemporary Migration in Africa”
Narrative Description of the Module: This module will use the history of African migrations to introduce students to the history and cultures of Africa, as well as connecting present-day migration to histories students are more familiar with (histories of migration to the United States). The module will emphasize several important key periods in African migration history, including the Bantu migrations, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, colonial labor migration, 20th and 21st century urbanization, and colonial/post-colonial migration out of the continent to Europe and the United States.
Students will use digital projects like Slave Voyages as well as engaging with audiovisual and textual sources to understand historical and contemporary dynamics. Present-day African migration ties into many issues important to the United States today and provides a window into understanding how questions of migration and mobility operate in different contexts.
The ways in which African societies struggle with xenophobia and the integration of “foreigners” are not unique, and in part parallel dynamics in other parts of the world. Questions of citizenship and belonging in non-Western settings are rarely explored in American classroom settings, but for students in the United States, these questions shed light on the ways in which nation-states are constructed in the 21st century. Like in the American context, it is difficult to understand present-day dynamics without an understanding of the historical conditions that have created such migration. At the close of the unit, students will interview a community member who immigrated from Africa, and alongside a transcript of the interview, will write a short paper analyzing the experience of this particular migrant. If there is a shortage of community members originally from Africa, students can work in pairs or interview migrants from other parts of the world, but in the paper compare these experiences with the discussions of Africa from the module.
- Introduce students to the importance of migration (voluntary and forced) to African history and the African present.
- To understand the importance of migration and mobility to the spread of technology, religion, and culture across Africa.
- To understand how slavery/forced migration shaped African societies and the African diaspora.
- To understand how individuals and communities shifted their migratory practices and strategies over the course of the 20th century in responding to changing conditions.
- To develop skills using digital tools to present materials on migration in Africa.
- To connect the historical migrations of Africans to contemporary migrations, both inside and outside the continent.
- To produce research to compare African migration to other migrations students may be more familiar with (the history of and contemporary migration to the United States).
- Introduce the history of movement in Africa. Discuss how humans originated in Africa and moved into the rest of the world. Explain how access to resources, climate changes, and demographic growth led people to settle new lands, as well as political, religious, and social changes that brought different areas into closer contact.
- Read and discuss the beginning of “A brief history of African migration” (up until the sub-section, “Forced migration within and outside of Africa”). Use this reading to discuss Africa’s connections to the wider world, and the ways in which migration structured these connections.
- Discuss the impact of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade in shaping the African continent.
- Have students spend time looking at and analyzing slavevoyages.org. If easier, this can be done in class on a projector. Watch the introductory video by Henry Louis Gates and look at each of the “Special features.”
- Pay particular attention to each of the maps. Ask the students in advance what they would expect to see and then see how their expectations correspond with the data.
- In totality, how did slavery and the slave trade shape the African continent demographically? Which areas were particularly harmed?
- Read “A brief history of African migration” from the subsection “Forced migration within and outside of Africa” up until “Colonial migration.”
- Introduce students to changes in 20th century migration.
- Colonial labor migration, both voluntary and coerced. How did people move within and between colonies? How did communities where migrants went receive them? How did sending communities change as a result of this loss of labor?
- What were the demographics of migrants? How did that specifically change both sending and receiving communities?
- Read the sub-sections “Colonial migration” and “Colonial migration into Africa” from “A brief history of African migration.”
- Urbanization. Colonial centers of power became important centers of connection and interaction for those across colonies. Do students see any useful points of comparison in the United States or other places they may be familiar with?
- Colony—>Colonizer migration, both before and after independence. What connections did migration draw between colonizers like France and the United Kingdom and their African colonies? Why did Africans migrate to their colonial powers and what were their experiences? Read “Migration out of Africa” in “A brief history of African migration.”
- Post-colonial labor migration and xenophobia in Africa. What dynamics have led certain groups to be targeted in various parts of Africa? What challenges do internal African migrants pose to African societies?
- Read Msimang, “Belonging—why South Africans refuse to let Africa in.”
- Listen to segment, “Hundreds of people displaced in latest flareup of xenophobic attacks.” (6.5 minutes long)
- Refugees and violence during the post-colonial period.
- Use statistics and charts from the 2017 UNHCR Global Trends Report to show students where refugees are going (mostly within the continent) and the scale of refugee resettlement within Africa.
- The new African diaspora. Starting from #3c above, have students discuss modern issues relating to migration out of sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the present-day migration crisis of those migrating to Europe as well as African immigrants to the United States.
- Read “Diverse Streams: African Migration to the United States” and “Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the United States.”
- Watch “Escape to Europe: The Migrants’ story.”
- Have students write a list of potential questions to ask an African immigrant to the United States and have them workshop these questions in small groups in class. Have them turn in their workshopped questions before they conduct their interviews.
- After completing #5, students will identify a community member originally from Africa and ask them about their migration journey. Students will transcribe the interview and write a paper about their conclusions following the interview.
Listing of Audio-Visuals Used to Implement the Module (provide electronic links to sites where they can be accessed)
- BBC Africa Today, “Hundreds of people displaced in latest flareup of xenophobic attacks.” April 1, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0756wd1
- BBC Newsnight, “Escape to Europe. The migrants’ story.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZqdUBpHmhM
- Slave Voyages. slavevoyages.org
- UNHCR, “Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2017.” Especially pages 3, 10-11, 14-15, 17-18, and case study of Democratic Republic of the Congo on page 35. https://www.unhcr.org/5b27be547.pdf
Student Readings (links to sites where readings can be accessed electronically or by purchase)
- Randy Capps, Kristen McCabe, Michael Fix, “Diverse Streams: African Migration to the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. April 2012. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/CBI-AfricanMigration.pdf
- David Newman Glovsky, “A brief history of African migration.” Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies, Chapter 6 (forthcoming 2019). If not yet available, email author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sisonke Msimang. “Belonging—why South Africans refuse to let Africa in.” Africa’s a Country. April 15, 2014. https://africasacountry.com/2014/04/belonging-why-south-africans-refuse-to-let-africa
- Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova, “Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. May 3, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/sub-saharan-african-immigrants-united-states
Students will conduct short interviews (no more than 30 minutes) with African immigrants to the United States and transcribe the interview and write a paper about the experience of recent African immigrants, drawing on the interviews and materials from the course. As well, they will give brief presentations in class summarizing their major findings (no more than 5 minutes). If there is a shortage of potential immigrants in the area, the instructor can either identify members of the community and students can work in pairs or groups on the interview, while writing separate papers.
The questions will be developed in part as a class, although students can deviate from the interview questions if the interviewee leads them in a different direction.
Students will be graded according to the following rubric.
The interview and transcript: 25%
This will be judged on the questions asked (whether they were relevant and focused on the migrant’s journey) and whether the transcript is complete.
This paper grade will be further broken down to analysis of the migrants’ journey (35%), connection to the larger course ideas/themes (25%), and spelling/grammar (15%).
Resources (Bibliography) Used to Develop-Implement the Module (where feasible provide links to where resources can be accessed electronically)
- Austen, R. A. 2010. Trans-Saharan Africa in World History, New York, Oxford University Press, USA.
- Capps, R., McCabe, K., Fix, M. “Diverse Streams: African Migration to the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. April 2012. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/CBI-AfricanMigration.pdf
- Curtin, P. D. 1995. Why People Move: Migration in African History, Waco, Baylor University Press.
- Eltis, D., Richardson, D., Davis, D. B. & Blight, D. W. 2010. Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, New Haven, Yale University Press.
- Glovsky, D. N. Forthcoming 2019. “A brief history of African migration.” Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies. If not yet available, email author at email@example.com.
- Kane, A. & Leedy, T. H. 2013. African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives, Bloomington, Indiana University Press.Lovejoy, P. E. 2012. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
- Manning, P. 2005. Migration in World History, New York, Routledge.
- Robinson, D. 2004. Muslim Societies in African History. Cambridge, Cambrige University Press.
- Swindell, K. & Jeng, A. 2006. Migrants, Credit and Climate: The Gambian Groundnut Trade, 1834–1934, Leiden, Brill.
- Vansina, J. 2004. How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa before 1600, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press.
- Zong, J. & Batalova, J. “Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. May 3, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/sub-saharan-african-immigrants-united-states