A. B. Assensoh on:
Properly Remembering Professor A. Adu Boahen of Ghana
When USA/Africa Dialogue, No. 1012, appeared about the award given to the indomitable history Professor Emeritus Albert Adu Boahen of University of Ghana, a few other living great African scholars or writers whose names instantly came to mind included Nigeria's Professor Jacob Ade Ajayi; Kenya's Professors Ali A. Mazrui and Bethwell Ogot; Morocco's M. El Fasi; Burkina Faso's J. Ki-Zerbo as well as such African literary giants as Professors Wole Soyinka; Ngugi; and Chinua Achebe (of course, there are few others). However, at an August 2-5, 2005 international humanities' conference at Cambridge University, UK, I mentioned some of these great writers (or professors) from Africa; it was in an answer to an irritating question on a panel that I served. To my surprise, a non-African scholar got up and furiously said to me: "Professor, avoid the names of your friends in serious intellectual discussions ..." Based on that stupendous ignorance, I wish to draw attention to two recent great publications in honour of Professor Adu Boahen, who was featured in Dailogue No. 1012: the 800-page "Ghana in Africa and the World: Essays in Honor of Adu Boahen" (2003) and the 667-page "Africa in The Twentieth Century: The Adu Boahen Reader" (2004), both superbly edited by our own Professor Toyin Falola and published by Africa World Press (AWP), Inc. of Trenton, NJ, USA. After all, these wonderful books, which offer their readers a direct insight into the life-long works of Professor Boahen, may not be known to everyone.
In 2003 and 2004, respectively, Africa World Press (AWP), Incorporated of Trenton, New Jersey, USA, came out with the two published volumes, the first one of 2003 totalling 800 pages and the second volume of 2004 pegged at 667 pages. They were boh expertly edited by our Dialogue's generous facilitator, Toyin, who, out of unique modesty, did not deem it necessary to draw readers' attention to these excellent volumes when he published Dialogue No. 1012, as there was need to make that relevant connection between Professor Boahen and two of his most recently-published works!
In both books, some of us were invited to provide published essays. In my instance, I co-authored essays that remembered Professor Adu Boahen as an acdemic nationalist (2003) and also as a great humanist (2004). In fact, as I have widely heard, many students in and outside Africa are using these wonderful books, which provide direct insights into the general life and intellectual times of the African historian, who is now unwell and hospitalized back in Ghana (as explained in Dialogue No. 1012).
I believe that every Pan-African scholar and genuine non-African friends of African scholarship (from outside the continent) know who Professor Albert Adu Boahen should be. Either that they met him at the very stimulating and intellectually-challenging annual conferences of the African Studies Association (ASA) of USA; in reading the UNESCO General History of Africa and several published books edited/written by Professor Boahen; or they were among his numerous former history students in and outside Africa.
However, I am offering this brief write-up because one can be surprised to hear an "ignorant" person (like the one I met at the Cambridge conference) making it seem that Professor Boahen's award of five million Ghana Cedis and the citation were not worthy of a dialogue publication or discussion. Also, there may be a few persons, who may be like the American Journalist, who asked Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton (at a press conference on the eve of her departure for an African visit): "What is the capital of Africa" (see page 400 of Mrs. Clinton's published 2003 memoirs, "Living History"). Above all, there may as well be someone like the ignorant student, who looked on the chalk (or black) board in a classroom and saw boldly written in black and white: "Malcolm X"! Her professor asked, what do you know about that name? Since this student recently learned her Roman numerals (or numbers), she smiled and ostentatiously said: that is "King Malcolm the 10th." It never occurred to her that "Malcolm X" was that great Harlem civil rights fire-brand, a contemporary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of blessed memory!
So, it should be with Africa's great literary and professional giants: that Professor Albert Adu Boahen -- like several of the others mentioned above -- is the great historian of African heritage or descent!