Criscrossing Paths of Slavery, Pan-Africanism and Reverse Migrations

Event information
Venue:FIU Modesto Maidique Campus, Graham Center 355

Please scroll down to view the keynote speaker's biography.


Dr. Kwame Essien


Dr. Kwame Essien is an Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Lehigh University, Bethlehem-PA. He is the Interim Director of Africana Studies Program. He received his BA in History at The University of North Carolina, Greensboro; his MA in African Studies at The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and his PhD in African and African Diaspora History at the University of Texas, Austin. He was a Derrick K. Gondwe Fellow at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania (2009-2011). Essien’s interdisciplinary research focuses on comparative histories of slavery, reverse migrations, race and cultures in Africa and the African Diaspora/Atlantic world. He is the co-author of Culture and Customs of Sudan (2009), co-editor of Pan-Africanism and the Politics of African Citizenship and Identity (2014), and has published other works.

Essien’s new book, Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana: The Tabom, Slavery, Dissonance of Memory, Identity and Locating Home (Michigan State University Press, 2016) is the first academic book that examines the untold story of freed slaves from Brazil who resettled in Gã mãŋ (Accra), Ghana from the early 1820s. Essien argues that freed Africans escaped slavery in Brazil into colonial oppression in Ghana. The book shows how João Antonio Nelson and other “returnees” challenged British colonial officials after they seized gifts of land MãŋtsƐ Tackie Komeh, Gã king (1826-56), gave to the returnees when they arrived. The returnees’ unmatched fortitude enabled them to make various contributions to the social history of colonial Accra. Essien provides ample archival and ethnographic evidence to show how the returnees thrived socially, culturally, and economically despite the challenges they encountered after their settlement. Several universities including Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Ursinus College and others invited Essien to discuss his monograph- Brazilian African Diaspora in Ghana.

Essien’s courses cover various themes including slavery, reverse migrations, migrations to and from the Atlantic world/diaspora, gender, sexuality and race in African societies, globalization and Africa, Aid and NGOs in Africa, the history of diseases, healing and wellness in Africa and others. Most of these courses are explored beyond the classroom through study abroad programs to give students a better understand and appreciation [and sometimes, practical implication] of what they are learning. Essien believes study abroad is an extension of classroom learning. At the University of Texas, he worked with 67 students who participated in “Ghana Maymester” summer program in 2007 and 2008. At Lehigh University, he has raised $48,000 from donors for underrepresented students to experience international education. Since 2014, he has led various study abroad programs to Ghana including “Globalization and Health in Ghana” and “Sites of Memories.” Over 75 students (mostly Africana Studies students) have benefited from Africana’s Lehigh in Ghana summer global initiatives. Essien's summer programs have been mentioned in several publications, including Lehigh's Acumen, Wbur and Newsworks. WYYY, an FM station in Philadelphia-PA featured Essien’s work with students in Ghana: “One descended from slaves, one whose ancestors aided traders explore shared history in Ghana.” Essien plays and coaches soccer during his leisure time.