My name is Meghan. I’m pursuing a doctorate in West African History so I can be a part of the amazing historical effort to recover history for a continent of people that have been forcibly deprived of it. I’m working on that mission while I apply by sharing what I have learned about African history with anyone who will tune in. I want to bridge the gap and help us fill in some of the missing pieces of our global understanding.
My research focuses on Senegambia and the Jolof kingdom. In college I got the opportunity to research Senegambia in the National Archives of Senegal through the Undergraduate Research Grant I won. The following year I completed an undergraduate honors thesis that won summa cum laude entitled “The Missing Piece: Uncovering Women’s Effects on Senegambia from 1400 to 1800” at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
My research focused on women’s responses to the dramatic changes that occurred during this period including: the expansion of the Jolof kingdom, the beginning of European relations and trade, the collapse of the Jolof kingdom, the upsurge of the Atlantic Slave trade, and the consolidation of European power in Senegambia. What I discovered through trying to build a record of women’s lives in each caste throughout this period was that women were, contrary to the current historical record, largely responsible for maintaining Senegambia’s relative stability throughout this tumultuous precolonial period.
Women mattered. In the same vein, the history of African women and Africa matters. However, you can insist upon this until you’re blue in the face. But until you can demonstrate how history was perverted, tell the true stories, and demonstrate the complexities of historical meaning and perceptions these proclamations do nothing to assuage the tide of Anti-African, Imperial propaganda. Additionally, African and Afro-Disaporan people alike deserve their own history to be recovered, shared, respected. People need their history to imagine their future.
Now let me be clear: I’m a facilitator, a teacher, a student, a researcher, and a damn good historian and writer. What I am NOT is an “inspiration” or a “savior,” I’m not empowering Africans – they don’t need that. African people don’t need saving. Africans have always saved themselves. I am simply a historian doing my damn job, going where my skills are needed most, supporting work that began decades before I was born. I stand on the shoulder of giants.
And more than reading this blog we must read African people’s writing. Read their fiction, their blogs, their books, their memoirs, their articles, their poetry. Listen to the tremendous chorus of voices that so often gets blocked out by stereotypical, propagandized images of crying Black children with distended abdomens and flies on their faces.
Please, take the time to hear the true stories of the Bright Continent. I promise it will be worth it.