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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Program of African Studies. African Curriculum Project



The African Curriculum Project was carried out by Northwestern University’s Program of African Studies (PAS) at the request of and by contract with the U.S. Office of Education (Project No. 6-2863, Contract No. OEC-3-7-062863-1661). The project’s principal investigators were John N. Paden (Political Science) and Edward W. Soja (Geography), with oversight from PAS Director Gwendolen M. Carter. The project’s objective was to create a coordinated set of interdisciplinary teaching materials on Africa for introductory undergraduate courses, which could also be useful at the secondary or other level.

The project, titled Curriculum Development for African Studies in the proposal, officially took place from January 1967 to June 1968 (eighteen months), though planning began earlier and the project office was closed down in October 1968. Preliminary meetings on the PAS syllabus project were held on December 12-13, 1966. A Curriculum Development for African Studies Conference was held on April 22, 1967, with mostly Northwestern attendees, to help plan the project.

The project sought to assess existing resources and teaching approaches, and gather recommendations for teaching introductory African studies courses. Syllabuses and bibliographies were collected from universities with African Studies programs across the country. It was decided to produce three types of teaching materials, keyed to each other: about ninety topic summaries or “syllabus lectures”; an annotated bibliography paralleling the topic summaries, and original “introductory essays” synthesizing the topic summaries into broader categories, which were solicited from contributors specifically for this project.

The resulting publication, prepared as the final report of the project, compiled for the U.S. Office of Education, Bureau of Research, was The African Experience (Evanston, Ill. : Northwestern University, Program of African Studies, 1968-1969): volume 1, Syllabus lectures; volume 2, Bibliographic references; and volume 3A-B, Introductory essays. It was republished and broadly distributed by Northwestern University Press in 1970 under the same title, reconfigured and expanded with several more essays and a much expanded bibliography section, as: volume I: Essays; volume II: Syllabus; volume IIIA: Bibliography; and volume IIIB: Guide to resources.

The African Curriculum Project responded to a growing interest in teaching about Africa in the 1960s, following the emergence of most of the continent as independent nations. Programs of African studies had been established at over forty American colleges and universities, though few offered degrees in African studies as such. Other institutions were introducing African material and encouraging creation of introductory courses in African studies where there was interest, if not expertise.

Northwestern University Library’s Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies curator Hans Panofsky participated in the project’s development. He reported that the Herskovits Library had a “core” list of about 600 Africana titles. Panofsky wrote a 16-page introduction to volume 2, Bibliographic References, in the 1968-69 publication. In the revised 1970 publication, his introduction appears in volume IIIB: Guide to Resources. The project occurred at the same time as the twentieth anniversary of the Program of African Studies. In her introduction to Program of African Studies : the first twenty years 1948-1968, director Gwendolen M. Carter commented on the expansion of African specialist faculty associated with PAS in the four years she had been there, from eleven in 1963 to twenty-four in 1968, with expansion in humanities faculty, and particular growth in languages and linguistics: “Since the Program of African Studies became a Language and Area Center of the Office of Education in 1965, … additional support has been concentrated on building the African component of the Department of Linguistics into one of the strongest in the United States. A mark of the importance now placed on African languages and linguistics is that competence in one or the other is a requirement for the Certificate of African Studies, inaugurated in 1965 ….” During the Twentieth Anniversary Conference, held September 10-13, 1968, Edward Soja made a brief presentation about the near-completed project and presented the outline of the planned volumes.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

African Curriculum Project Records

Identifier: 35/11

The African Curriculum Project was carried out by Northwestern University’s Program of African Studies (PAS) at the request of and by contract with the U.S. Office of Education (Project No. 6-2863, Contract No. OEC-3-7-062863-1661). Collection contains administrative files, correspondence papers, syllabus materials, working papers, and bibliographies used to develop the African Curriculum Project.

Dates: 1965-1969