A Nigerian proverb notes, “In a time of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.” Today I would like to build a bridge from 21st century US culture and history to African history. Such a bridge can provide a new story about the human place in the scheme of things, and African history is essential to that story. Africans, our earliest human ancestors, offer us the longest perspective on history of any people on the planet and they challenge some fundamental modern assumptions about how human beings have lived together in the past and might live together n the future.
Kathleen R. Smythe teaches history, globalization, and sustainability at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her second book, Africa’s Past, Our Future, was published last year. She is at work on a third about deep (long-term) history and the Anthropocene (our new human-induced geological era). She lives on a small suburban homestead with chickens, fruit trees, and vegetables with her children and husband and loves hiking and biking.