Master Teacher of African History-Prof. John Henrik Clarke: African’s Survival From Antiquity To Beyond The 21st Century

The Master Teacher and His Lessons And Lectures

The “ERUDITE” Dr./Prof. John Henrik Clarke

Learning To Read And Write African History

What I have learned thus far about African history is that I am still trying to be half of what the Master Teachers were up to the point of writing this Hub. What I am saying is that, as a student and writer of African history, I am still a student of African history who is still learning how to read and write African history, originate and compose the history of African people as I have learnt from the Master Teachers, of which I will be trying to write about, also attempt to compose and rewrite South African African History. The Master Teachers all had one thing in common, they read and wrote a lot-in addition to that, they gave lectures and travelled all over the world lecturing and collecting, or as Prof. Clarke said he and Prof. Jackson would be “Hunting”” for books in old used book stores, libraries and so forth throughout the world.

Even in the lectures below, Prof. Clarke cites some books and writers and in a direct way by encouraging listeners the way he tells and asks the audience that he knows that they have not ‘read’ the books he is talking about-and confirms it by asking them the question and receives embarrassed giggles and inaudible sounds or nervous stifled laughs-but in the end encouraging them to try to get the books he was giving/telling them about. This is the real problem that he was faced with in as he states this in his lectures – the fact that most of them did not do the necessary and ‘deep reading’ in order for them or us to be able to deal with African History.

From the challenges issued by Dr. Clarke that Africans should write their own history and not expect that the former oppressor will write it for Africans-he exhorts his listeners to read and write their own story through history; I have tried to heed to their clarion call: writing and composing African history from an African-centered perspective. On the face of it, it sounds reasonable and a good idea. Doing it is another matter when one begins to listen to Clarke in his lectures and the references he doles out with such ease, that in the end it becomes very intimidating and a huge task. The proficiency, efficiency and intellectual vastness of his lectures, writing and speeches defy and dwarf any effort one was going to have in writing anything clear, compact and choc-full of information and data.

when one attempts to write about the Historian’s lessons and lectures about African history, and formulate or write the history one has learnt from schools or from the Master teachers themselves-it becomes apparent what a huge task and undertaking it is. I will not use all the tapes that there are about his lectures; and there are still those lectures that he recorded whenever he lectured over the decades as a professor and African historian-which if ever transcribed, hold a wealth of information and more references. He had a very deep personal library of rare books, manuscripts and audio files along with video/films. A bit of mention about his greatness and the libraries that have been named after him, and the Web sites will be in order here to pay tribute to a man who read and encouraged African people to read and write.

History of the John Hendrik Clarke african Library

John Henrik Clarke
(1915-1998)

– In 1986, the Africana Library was named in honor of John Henrik Clarke, who was widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of Africana Studies. Dr. Clarke played an important role in the early history of Cornell University’s Africana Studies & Research Center. He was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at the Center in the 1970s. He also made an invaluable contribution to the establishment of its curricula.

– Dr. Clarke is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in leading scholarly journals. He also served as the author, contributor, or editor of 24 books. In 1968 along with the Black Caucus of the African Studies Association, Dr. Clarke founded the African Heritage Studies Association. In 1969 he was appointed as the founding chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department at Hunter College in New York City.

– Dr. Clarke was most known and highly regarded for his lifelong devotion to studying and documenting the histories and contributions of African peoples in Africa and the Diaspora.

– Dr. Clarke is often quoted as stating that “History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.”

– The John Henrik Clarke Africana Library is a special library located within Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center. The library is one of nineteen units of the University Library system, and offers a full range of services. Its collection of volumes focuses on the social and political dimensions of the history and culture of peoples of African ancestry. It supports the curriculum of the Africana Studies and Research Center and sustained, independent study.

Included here are basic books, complete collections of works of important writers, and highly selective research materials that complement the collections housed in Cornell University’s research libraries. The Africana Library’s documentation collection contains valuable primary source materials, including copies of rare monographs, manuscripts, newspapers, and journal publications on microfilm and microfiche. Those resources focus on especially important material on the American civil rights and Black Power movements.

– The Africana Center was founded in 1969 following black student protests on the Cornell Campus. One notable event involved black students depositing hundreds of books at the undergraduate library circulation desk and denouncing them as irrelevant to their experiences. Historically, the faculty of the Africana Studies and Research Center has always had a strong commitment towards maintaining its own library. The Africana Center included a library when it was first established. Later, after its building was destroyed by arsonists (April 1, 1970), it garnered funds from the university and local community to replace materials lost from its library collection. Once it relocated to its present site the library was prominently established near the building’s entrance.

– In the late 1970s there was heated debate on campus about relocating the Africana Center once more. Because it’s location was some distance away from central campus (approximately 20 minutes walking time) and many of its courses were taught at the Center, some considered the Africana Studies program too segregated. A number of more central locations were proposed for relocation. In the end these were rejected because they entailed substantial reductions in space. Ultimately, the Center’s fledgling library benefited from this consequence. A reduction in space would have affected collection size and overall growth.

– During 1984-85 the Africana Center and University Library reached an agreement to transfer the library administratively to the University Library. Faculty of the Africana Studies & Research Center named the library in honor of Dr. John Henrik Clarke during the summer of 1985. As a distinguished historian, Dr. Clarke was instrumental in establishing the Africana Center’s curriculum in the 1970s and taught courses in black history at Cornell.

Several years later, in 1990, the Africana Center and University Library collaborated to raise $50,000 to renovate the library’s space and enhance the overall level of service. The John Henrik Clarke Africana Library now occupies most of the lower level of the Africana Center’s three-story building. A third of this space is shared with a graduate student lounge and a computer lab. All of the library’s holdings are included in the University Library’s online catalog, and the Africana Library itself houses several online catalog terminals, a circulation terminal, CD-ROM and various audio-visual equipment, and has access to numerous locally networked bibliographic databases.

Featured Web Sites About John Henrik Clarke:

The John Hendrik Clarke Virtual Museum
In Memory of John Hendrik Clarke (Hunter College) Schomburg Legacy Exhibition: John Hendrik Clarke Section
John Hendrik Clarke Bibliographies (Cornell University)
John Hendrik Clarke Resources(Runoko Rashidi)
Information on Film, John Hendrik Clarke: A Great & Mighty Walk

(Black Caucus of the ALA Newsletter, vol. XXIV, No. 5 (April, 1996), p. 11.)

I set out to compose an article on the suggestions he touches upon and repeatedly states that we need to read and write our own history. The confusion that is apparent today in South Africa, is because Africans either write their books with the collaboration of Whites, and do not yet produce that kind of historical reading that can be easily read by the population they are writing that history-without any collaboration of White people.

Whenever one listens to Clarke’s lectures and lessons, he is always giving the listeners references as to what to read concerning what he is speaking about. He was simply a walking African History library. He always stressed and encouraged the listeners or students to read, and would give a bit about every book or writer or stories or characters/dates of the books he was recommending. I have given a bit about his libraries in memory of the fact that he himself was a walking library, bibliography and encyclopedia of African Historiography, History books and authors with themes that pertained to African history and made efforts at trying to make it much more understandable and easy to get, for those who were listening to his lessons or lectures, and even on his videos, he still does the same thing: give a reference(s) of books that should be consulted by the listener or students to further their own understanding of that part of history he might have been talking about during a lecture or lesson, especially in his YouTube videos, liberally yet extensively posted below for anyone interested to listen to and pick up whatever they want from Clarke.

The piece above about his libraries, are in part my way of acknowledging this aspect of Prof. Clarke: that of consistently and constantly giving names and books that can be consulted for further reading and understanding of the lectures he was giving. And, by the way, these were and rare and hard to find books, but could trace them if one “Hunted” seriously in any old used book stores, as advised by Clarke when he was talking about himself and Jackson, hanging out, discussing, and “Hunting” for books in old and used bookstores; libraries and the web too have most of the books he recommended. This Hub is in part honoring a great African History scholar, and my own paltry efforts in writing and showing the relevance of his lectures to the African history of South Africa, by attempting to compose and rewrite African South African history from an African Centered Perspective.