Two University of Lynchburg history professors will discuss their new books at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22. The virtual History Seminar, “Challenging the System: The View from South Africa and the U.S.,” will be held on Google Meet.
The public is invited to join the meeting and participate in a discussion with Dr. Lindsay Michie, associate professor of history and co-chair of the University’s Africana studies department, and Dr. Mike Santos, professor of history. The free event is presented by the University’s history department, which sponsors History Seminars on a regular basis.
“This is a great opportunity to highlight how prolific our department is in producing scholarship and turn the History Seminar into a joint session focusing on recent scholarship,” Dr. Brian Crim, professor of history, said.
“Despite the different regions discussed — South Africa and the U.S. — the theme of challenges to the dominant political systems in both countries links the two books.”
Michie’s book, “The Spirit of Resistance in Music and Spoken Word of South Africa’s Eastern Cape,” was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2021. “I lived in the Eastern Cape of South Africa for two years, right at the time apartheid was ending and Nelson Mandela was released,” Michie said, adding that she also got to meet the late South African president.
“I witnessed firsthand the prominent role of music and ‘praise singing’ in the resistance movements against apartheid and the battle against white oppressive policies. I have been going back ever since, and during these visits I made a promise to the people I got to know in that region that I would find a way to tell their story.
“So this book is a kind of fulfillment of that promise.”
Michie said the book should appeal to “anyone interested in South African history, music, poetry, protest music in general, and different aspects of African nationalism,” and said it “concentrates on the Eastern Cape’s contribution to the larger narrative of the connection between creativity, mass movements, and the forging of a modern African identity.”
During her research, Michie also discovered an interesting connection between Virginia and the Eastern Cape. In the 1890s, a Hampton, Virginia, group called the Jubilee Singers toured South Africa, visiting the city of Lovedale and developing a close relationship with the people there.
“It’s a very moving story of the connection these two groups of Black people made across the Atlantic,” Michie said, “and how that experience inspired some of the early activists that formed the African National Congress — the resistance group that was led by Nelson Mandela.”
Santos describes his book, “Rediscovering a Nation: Will the Real America Please Stand Up?” as “the result of my crisis of faith about this country.” He said it should resonate with people who, like him, have been struggling to “come to terms with what has happened to this nation and with what it means to be an American.”
He admits, however, that his profession has given him some advantages. “Unlike many other Americans, I have an advantage perhaps, because I’m an historian,” he said. “As such, I think in terms of the legacies of the past for an understanding of the present, believing it is a good way to remember who we are and to give us a means of framing where we are going.”
Santos said he started the book about a year ago, writing it in “real time” and including such events as the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He said he hopes readers are left with a “sense of empowerment” that prepares them to face the country’s future challenges.
“As I note in my conclusion,” Santos said, “‘A nation that grants its citizens the power of choice must also be peopled with individuals who have the courage to face themselves and the challenges confronting their country, warts and all.
“When that happens, humanity’s innate resiliency is unleashed. If that fact is accepted and acted upon, current and future generations of Americans become worthy heirs to what the Founders bequeathed to them. Which are nothing more nor less than the blessings of liberty, in all their glory and messiness.”
Santos’ book will be released by Rowman & Littlefield on July 4.