Connecticut & Johannesburg Program
Shared Histories: The United States and South Africa was developed by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University to provide teachers from United States and South Africa the opportunity to engage in classroom-to-classroom activities exploring the histories of their respective countries. ten teachers from the United States were selected to work with ten teachers from the greater Johannesburg area in South Africa.
On 7-19 July, 2018, ten teachers from Connecticut and ten teachers from Johannesburg, South Africa met at South Africa’s National Apartheid Museum for a workshop on the history and legacies of Apartheid led by Yale University professor Daniel Magaziner, an historian of 20th century southern Africa. In addition to formal instruction, teachers heard from South African historians and activists and visited important historical and cultural sites. The workshop coincided with centenary celebrations honoring Nelson Mandela’s birth on July, 18th, 1918.
Since then, these teachers have been developing classroom-to-classroom projects and programming. In October, 2018, the Connecticut teachers presented some of their projects at the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies’ annual meeting.
Teachers from South Africa will be invited to visit the United States in July, 2019 for a second workshop, which their U.S. counterparts will also be attending. The focus of that workshop will be the history of the “Black Struggle for Freedom and Justice.”
Eight history teachers from Johannesburg, South Africa, joined us for this program. Their first day of classes started off with a moving presentation by students from Waltrina Kirtland-Mullin’s classroom at the Davis Street Interdistrict Magnet School, which included songs in the Xhosa language, which they’d learned with the assistance of Waltina’s South African partner, Mary Khuduge. In addition to Dr. Blain’s “Black Struggle for Freedom and Justice,” we heard from Yale graduate student Marius Kothor, who spoke on the global Black struggle for freedom and justice; workshop participant Athambile Masola, who spoke on internationalism in South Africa; Professor Andrew Kahrl, who discussed Jim Crow in Connecticut; and Professor Jeffrey Ogbar, who considered the Black Power Movement. Eddie Mandhry, Yale’s Office of International Affairs Director for Africa, met with both the Sierra Leone and South African groups to introduce the Yale’s African initiatives.
In addition to trips to Washington, DC, and New York City, the South African group and their Connecticut partners also traveled to Hartford to the Amistad Center at the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Connecticut Historical Society, where they were exhibiting Black Citizenship in the Era of Jim Crow. One of the week’s highlights was a July 4th evening cruise of Long Island Sound aboard the Amistad, a perfect vantage point to enjoy the local firework displays.
Everyone truly enjoyed their time together, goodbyes were heartfelt and difficult. But while this phase of the program has been completed, there is still work to be done. Every teacher in the program is working with partners to develop classroom to classroom programming, and the Gilder Lehrman Center will continue to monitor and support their efforts.
One result of the program that we hadn’t anticipated was the determination of both the Sierra Leone and South African teachers to replicate the programming they experienced at Yale. Athambile Masola, a lecturer in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Humanities Education and an outspoken advocate for a more inclusive South African humanities curriculum, explained that she and her colleagues “want to create more of what you articulate so well: a strong culture of professional development workshops and speaker sessions in history available for secondary school teachers. I’ve created a collective which will be doing this in the long-term.” This September Thomas Thurston, the Transatlantic Histories project leader, will be taking part in a panel discussion on this initiative in Pretoria, South Africa, at the joint conference of the South African Society for History Teaching and the African Association for History Education. Following the conference, he is making plans to meet with Athambile and her partners, as well as representatives from the South African History Archive and other South African teachers who took part in the Yale workshop to discuss steps toward building and funding professional development workshops in the history of South Africa.