The Student Government Association (SGA) of BRTC began its plans for an Artist/Lecturer Series February 18 with a presentation by Dr. Erick Gilbert, professor of History at Arkansas State University. According to Daniel Lee, BRTC History instructor and SGA advisor, Gilbert spoke about Africans in the Atlantic World and how African slaves contributed to the development of the Atlantic World beginning in the 16th century.
“Gilbert grew up in Africa and spent a lifetime studying Africa and the slave trade,” Lee noted. He teaches African History and Global History at ASU. He has done research in Tanzania, Kenya and Yemen, and is the author of Dhows and the Colonial Economy of Zanzibar, 1860-1970 (2004), and co-author (with Jonathan Reynolds) of Africa in World History: From Prehistory to Present (2003). He holds a B.A. in Greek from College of William and Mary, an M.A. in History from University of Vermont, and a Ph.D. in History from Boston University.
Gilbert’s interest in World History began in high school, but his fascination with African history developed while working on his dissertation. “My dissertation was on the East African island of Zanzibar and its maritime links to the western Indian Ocean,” explained Gilbert. “It became apparent to me during my research that Indian Ocean historians were uninterested in East Africa, despite its obvious connection to the Indian Ocean. I then began to notice history books that did not include East Africa in the content.”
“As I started to look at other classic works of world history,” Gilbert continued, “I realized that the problem was not limited to Indian Ocean studies. The early, field defining, works of world history had very little to say about Africa once human origins had been dealt with.”
Gilbert’s lecture addressed the extent of Africa’s exclusion from World History, the reasons for it, and what, if anything, can be done to satisfy the desire of Africanists and world historians to get more information about Africa into the textbooks. He also shared his own personal experience of writing an African History textbook with a World History emphasis.
The evening presentation was held on the Paragould campus with approximately 80 students and 20 faculty attending. Following the lecture, a catered meal was provided free to attendees. “This was the beginning of an Artist/Lecturer Series sponsored by SGA that we hope to continue each semester,” said Lee. “It was the first ‘after hours’ event held here on the Paragould campus, and, by all accounts, it was a complete success.”