My primary research interests are in West African labor and social history with current emphasis on masculinity, nationalism, African involvement in World War II and slavery in Southeastern Nigeria. I have several book projects. In 2015 Cambridge University Press published a co-edited book, Africa and World War II, which I edited with Judith Byfield (Cornell), Timothy Parsons (Washington U.) and Ahmad Sikainga (Ohio U.) This evolved from a series of conferences at Rutgers (2008) and Cornell University (2009) and three panels at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. The book is a unique collection of articles by leading Africanist scholars documenting the rarely acknowledged role played by African countries and soldiers in the war. It is designed to address the omission of Africa from the major narratives of World War II and is appropriate for advanced undergraduates and graduate students of Global, African and World War II history. The summer of 2016 Dr. Byfield and I were invited to launch the book at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa and the Free State University, Bloemfontein, South Africa. A second project, a social history of the nationalist movement in a particularly militant town, Enugu, Nigeria ('Red' Enugu is a series of essays that tell the history of the city through the experiences of several social groups who give Enugu its cultural and politically contested nature. Tentatively entitled, “Cowboys’, Letter Writers and Dancing Women: Identity and Nationalist Struggle in a West African City: Enugu, Nigeria 1914-1955”, it traces how race, class and gender identities shape and are shaped by the colonial city and how these identities influence the 'popular classes' response to nationalist discourse. One focus is to document how African men experiment with forms of masculinity in their position as clerical workers, young unmarried men in a youth gang called the 'Cowboys', African business men, urban coal miners and professional letter writers (called 'bush lawyers'). I am also interested in the slave trade in southeastern Nigeria, a very small area but which was the major source area of slaves in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The project, 'Memories of Sorrow and Loss, - the Slave Trade and Southeastern Nigeria’, is an oral history of how the trade is remembered by communities in southeastern Nigeria. The first phase produced one volume, coedited with Paul Lovejoy, Repercussions of the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Interior of the Bight of Biafra and the African Diaspora (Africa World Press, 2011) which included papers from a major slavery conference in Nike Lake Nigeria, sponsored by Rutgers, the Ford Foundation Harriet Tubman Center for Research on Africa and its Diasporas York University, Canada, the African Research Center, Enugu and the Schomburg Center of NYPL.
A final project links African and African-American history. ‘Global Timbuktu: Meanings and Narratives of Resistance in Africa and the Americas’ is a multi-faced project focused on two antebellum villages named after the Malian city of Islamic learning, Timbuktu. One, Timbuctoo, in Westampton Township, New Jersey, was founded in 1825 as a free black community that was very involved in the Underground Railroad. The other Timbuctoo, near North Elba, New York, was established by an abolitionist to give free Black men land to fulfill the financial requirement for the vote in New York State. It also became important as the site where John Brown, the militant abolitionist, settled, taught farming and is buried. The Center for African Studies, with support from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the Dean’s Office of Arts and Sciences Rutgers University, and the Amistad Project of the NJ Board of Education, has held a teacher’s workshop, and will hold an international conference of scholars from Mali, South Africa and the U. S. on the convergence of these various settlements. Additionally we will organize two SKYPE conversations between NJ students and students in Timbuktu, Mali. It concludes with a site visit and community presentation at the site of Westampton Township.