Georg Hegel in his famous text, “The Philosophy of History,” wrote that Africa is “no historical part of the world; it has no movement of development to exhibit…What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s History.” More disturbing than Hegel’s ideations about Africa is the esteem to which we hold him today. I’ve read about this guy in sociology classes. When discussing Du Bois’ double consciousness, we used a passage from Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit” to better understand the African-American struggle during the Civil Rights Era. I’m horrified now thinking that I’ve learned about “The Souls of Black Folk” through the eyes of someone who didn’t consider Africa, our ancestral home, a worthy subject of study in the first place.
But the position of Hegel is not so uncommon. Even today, African scholars fight for our histories to be accepted by the academic world. It wasn’t until the late 1950s and 1960s, when several African countries broke their colonial shackles to become independent nations, that Afrocentric histories were taught in universities. This global push to decolonize the continent at a political and intellectual level gave birth to the African Studies Association, one of the first scholarly bodies to disseminate African knowledge in American universities. Though the organization has made great strides since its conception, the legitimacy of Africanist scholarship is still under heavy contention today.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.