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The Aquilian

    Gonzaga’s newest social studies class explores stories of Africa’s colonial past and Cold War struggles

    Guest speaker, Angesom Teklu, talks to the Colonialism and the Cold War in Africa class about Eritrea.

    Did you know the Angolan Civil War had Cubans fighting South Africans? Did you know that the DRC honors an assassinated prime minister with his gold tooth? Did you know you could learn all of this in one of Gonzaga’s newest electives— Colonialism and the Cold War in Africa? This new history elective, taught by Mr. Stephen Pope, goes into a wide range of topics concerning Africa, from history to current events to foreign intervention.

    The course lives and thrives through Mr. Pope. Mr. Pope created the class for reasons both personal and educational. Mr. Pope’s love for learning about all things Africa goes back to his pre-teaching days.

    “It goes back to my time as a junior in college when I studied in South Africa, and I took several courses on African history and politics,” said Mr. Pope when asked about the background of his inspiration to create the class. 

    While in South Africa, he was able to learn about many African subjects and events— current and historical— that most Americans would not get the chance to learn. Mr. Pope’s time in Africa did not end with those courses in South Africa, though, because he went back to the continent to live, learn and teach, this time in Tanzania where he stayed for a couple of years before coming back to the United States. At the end of his time in Africa, Mr. Pope learned how much rich content existed and realized that most American schools are not touching on it, so Mr. Pope decided to bring some of that content to Gonzaga with his new class. 

    The class itself is about as unique as one can get at Gonzaga. Students learn about topics they would have never thought they would learn about in a high school history class, such as the CIA’s role in a lot of African Cold War events. The class has even offered many interesting guest speakers such as Angesom Teklu, an Eritrean freedom advocate.

    “This would be a good course to take if you’re curious about geopolitics and if you are interested in the larger world and different countries and power dynamics. You walk away, not just with a richer understanding of Africa, which you do, but also you have Soviet relations, the role of the Cubans and great power dynamics. Understanding these themes and this African context, you’ll better understand what’s happening in the Middle East by talking about settler colonialism, with talking about the role of violence and fostering change,” Mr. Pope said. “It’s also a pretty unique offering. Not many colleges offer something like this, and I feel like in histories in school, such as American History, you learn about the same thing over and over, so this is a chance to look at something you otherwise might not.”

    The class is very interesting and informative from Mr. Pope’s point of view, but it is also equally as interesting to his students and peers.

    “ [Mr. Pope] is very knowledgeable on the subject and makes it interesting for you. […] I am sure many people had the same experience as me with most really learning that much about Africa in any of my other classes, so if this piques your interest, you should check it out,” said Andrew Ott ‘24, who was in the class last semester.

    Students who took the course also realized how special of an opportunity it is and how they may not have a chance at a class like this again.

    “It’s often a part of history that is normally not taught in most classes, especially the required courses you have to take here [at Gonzaga], and the stuff that it talks about, especially the sources it goes into, are really interesting for those who care about history and even those who don’t necessarily care about history either,” said  Nick Avalos ‘24.

    Mr. Conor Scott, social studies department chair, believes that this class addresses a few areas that were missing in the department’s offerings.

    “It is a definitively modern history because it is mostly concerned with the second half of the 20th century, whereas a lot of our histories are a little more ancient, so it’s something recent. But, then it also is the only course we offer in the department that’s exclusively focused on Africa, so this is the first kind of opportunity as an entire class to dive into this one continent that otherwise we’re not really addressing,” Mr. Scott said.

    If students would like to learn more about the course, they can email Mr. Pope at [email protected] or visit him in his classroom in Cantwell 201. Students can apply for the class when it comes time to choose electives (or history if they have already completed the three required histories), and it is only available for rising seniors and juniors with seniors getting preference.

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