Social Studies Curricula: Interpreting and Using African Primary Source Documents



primary sources, historical documents, African contexts, indigenous Yoruba, postcolonialism, social studies curricula, social practices


While many US residents like listening to African stories, hearing African stories is difficult because designing effective curricula and teaching about African contexts appear to be a major challenge in US social studies education.  Drawing on postcolonial theory, we analyzed the discourses of two contemporaneous historical documents to demonstrate the complexities in meaning making processes inherent in the indigenous Yorubas’ social practices, in the southwestern part of Nigeria.  Differential complex perspectives on Yoruba social practices are evident in both colonialist and native authored historical documents from the same time period when colonialist authority had been established but indigenous cultural practices were evident and continuing.  The Colonialist authored historical document indicate misunderstanding of the meaning of some Yoruba social practices.  The native authored historical document provides underlying meanings for social practices and ties portrayal of social practices to indigenous ways of being.  The discussion calls attention to how colonial legacies influence meaning making, meaning made from, and knowledge made available by, historical documents, as well as ways forward in addressing contemporary discourse on Africa in US social studies curriculum.

Author Biographies

Oluseyi Matthew Odebiyi, The University of Alabama

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Cynthia S. Sunal, The University of Alabama

Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Professor