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Exhibit Honors MSU’s History with Africa

African Map

A new exhibit at Michigan State University tells the decades-long tale of “Africa in mid-Michigan.”

As part of the university’s Year of Global Africa, a new exhibit at the MSU Main Library, “Nsukka to Now: The History of African Studies at MSU,” pays homage to the rich history of African Studies at Michigan State.

“As we celebrate MSU’s history of connection with our many partners across Africa and throughout the African Diaspora, we thought it was an excellent opportunity to tell the history of those connections through material we hold in our special collections,” said Jessica Achberger, African studies librarian and adjunct assistant professor of history.

In the late-1950s under president John Hannah, MSU faculty and their families traveled to Nigeria to help establish the nation’s first indigenous university. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s then-governor, reached out to Hannah in search of a partner to build what he called a “people’s university.” With support from USAID, MSU helped establish and build curriculum for University of Nigeria Nsukka, Africa’s first land-grant university, which opened in 1960.

“Many of the pieces in the exhibit are items from collections held in MSU Libraries’ special collections, including material from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, material related to the history of the African Studies Center, items from the African Activist Archive and material donated by retiring African Studies faculty,” Achberger said. “There are documents, photographs, ephemeral items, books and objects, including textiles, buttons, and other objects related to African Studies research,” she said.

For nearly 60 years, MSU’s African Studies Center has been a leader in research, teaching, and partnerships. Since 1960, the Africana Librarians have built one of the largest, and most unique, Africana collections in the world.

The exhibit, on display at the Main Library through December 2018, is second to be displayed at the new special collections gallery space.

Using material from Michigan State University Libraries’ Special Collections, this exhibit focuses on three key themes in the history of African Studies at MSU: partnership, innovation, and activism.

“Each of the panels highlights one or more elements of these three themes,” Achberger said. “Items in the gallery include materials related to MSU’s history and continuing partnerships with the African continent, activism related to African issues – including anti-apartheid and liberation movement activism – and innovation in the research and teaching of our faculty.”

  • Caroline Brooks and Jessica Achberger via MSU Today

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