A new study abroad program at The University of Southern Mississippi offers students an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of West Africa and the ancestral roots of African American Mississippians.
Study Abroad in Ghana is a three-week, four-hour credit course in both history or mass communication and journalism offered in the summer 2010 semester to undergraduate and graduate students. It will offer an in-depth look at West African culture and history in the native land of descendants of slaves in Mississippi.
“Through these experiences, students are expected to develop a keener awareness of Ghana’s cultural aesthetics, history, politics and status in the global community and its links to our own state’s history,” said Southern Miss history professor Dr. Curtis Austin, facilitator of the Ghana program.
An information session for students interested in the program will be held Tuesday, March 9 beginning at 12:15 p.m. in room 410 of the International Center, located next to the Liberal Arts Building. Ghana program faculty will be on hand to answer questions about the course, and International Programs staff will also be available to answer questions about financial aid options and travel details, among other topics. A pizza lunch will be served.
The course will include instruction; visits to historical sites that reflect the history and politics of their time and general social context of the country, including the slave castles of El Mina and Cape Coast where slaves were held prior to their shipment to America; observations of cultural demonstrations; and writing personal reflections and participation in group discussion.
Hailed as a role model for democracy in Africa, Ghana is a symbol of both the triumph of freedom and the tragedy of slavery, given its history as a transition point in the infamous slave trade. It has enjoyed a stable democratic government for decades and is poised to be a force in the global economy, reasons President Barack Obama chose to go there this past summer. While there, he visited the same slave castles on the program’s travel itinerary.
“He (Obama) wanted to demonstrate to Americans and other citizens of the world that Africa has a lot to offer when it comes to things such as business development, cultural literacy, and highlighting the importance of knowing and using history to our advantage, both now and in the future,” Austin said.
Austin noted that Ghana’s recently discovered oil reserves will figure into the country’s rise as a global economic force. He said it is estimated that by 2015, the U.S. will receive nearly one-fourth of its oil exports from West Africa.
Because Mississippi is a state closely associated with slavery and its legacy, Austin said the course will provide Southern Miss students with an opportunity to learn first hand about the culture and history of Africans who are the ancestors of nearly half the state’s population, Austin said.
“It’s vital that the people of Mississippi develop a broader and deeper understanding of the introduction of the African to the Deep South, and a study abroad program in Africa can fulfill this goal in many ways,” he said.
The course will allow students to learn not only details about Africa’s internal slave trade and the various language and ethnic groups that existed in West Africa before the arrival of Europeans, but also visit historical sites and interact with continental Africans in ways not available to them in the U.S. or on the Internet.
“This experience will go a long way in teaching our students the importance of studying history and viewing political, social, and economic phenomena in a more global context, and erase many of the negative perceptions and stereotypes about Africa and its peoples,” Austin said.
Rebecca Spencer Hughes, a senior paralegal studies and history major, said that for her going to Ghana through the Southern Miss program will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and experience Africa in a way not possible through simply traveling there alone.
“Going to Africa seems more like one of those things you dream about and not so much one of those things you actually do,” she said. “Typically when I think about the continent, I think more in terms of Egypt or South Africa so it will be nice to experience something beyond what my mind says is Africa.”
For more information, online visit www.usm.edu/internationaledu/ip_1/ghana.htm; or call Southern Miss International Education at 601.266.4344; or Dr. Curtis Austin at 601.266.4333 or e-mail
The Cape Coast slave castle in Ghana, a point of departure and holding facility for slaves shipped to America, will be one of the historic sites that students visit through the Southern Miss study abroad program in Ghana, Africa. (Submitted photo)
Considered one of the most beautiful sites in Ghana, Africa the Aburi Botanic Gardens will be one of the sites that students visit in the Southern Miss study abroad program in Ghana. (Submitted photo)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.