In Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic, Andrew E. Barnes, a professor of history at Arizona State University, chronicles the Christian educational foray into Africa from 1880 to 1920. The book focuses on black industrial education that grew in the American South under Samuel Chapman Armstrong at the Hampton Institute and later, and most famously, Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute, and its transplanting in West Africa. Barnes sees the Christian proponents of industrial schooling in Africa as forces for progressive development of the continent and its people. Moreover, he concludes, “industrial education served as the leading edge of the African challenge to European conquest of Africa” (p. 6). The author presents critical perspective on the missionary presence in Africa when he mentions the exultation of white supremacy and the fact that some of the missionaries were enthralled with scientific racism. He says that scientific racism “lasted only a few generations, but it left an imprint” (p. xi). It is good to see, here and there in his work, attention given to the ideas of Alexander Crummell, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Marcus Garvey, John Dubay, and other leading voices for African restoration. Barnes also ventures into some vexing philosophical discourse under the rubric of Ethiopianism. It would have been interesting to see what conclusions he would have made had he applied the concept of Négritude in his evaluation of the role of Christianity and black industrial schooling in Africa. This dynamic concept of Léopold Senghor was a call to arms for a rethinking by Africans of what it meant to be African as opposed to adopting and embracing European cultural norms and expectations of what constituted African success. Inquiry along these lines might have shed light on whether or not the dedicated Christians in Africa—of European or of African descent—were committed to a liberation theology. Scholars who have devoted considerable attention to the history of Booker T. Washington's race leadership, his legacy, and black industrial schooling, will hope that a study of the links between Washington, Christianity, colonialism, and education in Africa, takes on the most important question: Education for what? Was industrial schooling of the era simply a version of a modern-day STEM, a preparation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? Where is the examination of the curriculum of the Tuskegee-like institutes for Africans? The answer to these questions will require more than online Internet sources and newspaper stories. It will require archival research and exploration of other primary sources located on the African continent and elsewhere. Quick study and incomplete research will lead one to conclude that “schools like Tuskegee were never built in Africa” (p. 158). How then do you explain the Booker Washington Institute of Liberia, founded in 1929? This institution, which would train thousands of Liberians, also professed Christian values while its primary goal was economic: the production of tractable and efficient indigenous workers for the massive Firestone Rubber Plantation. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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