Lenae Jefferson, Learning about Africa, art and the 1960s

While I had come to the University of Michigan intent upon a STEM major, coursework connected to African art provided me with an opportunity to explore something new. I soon found that there was a wide array of opportunities and career paths related to visual culture that I had not seen before. Now, as a junior majoring in Art History, I had the opportunity to participate in Professor Silverman’s fall course, “Inventing African Art: A Continent on Display,” connected to the “Making African Art” project. Over the course of the semester, our class contributed to research on the Peace Corps, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and developments on the African continent. It was incredibly rewarding to learn more about these underrepresented narratives in the field of African art history. I particularly enjoyed our discussion of Pan-African festivals and the trips taken to Africa the trumpeter Louis Armstrong as a United States representative. Class visits from scholars such as Sylvester Ogbechie (University of California-Santa Barbara) and Chris Steiner (Connecticut College) allowed me to link my own inquiries to ongoing project research. I found that involving undergraduate students in this process was a valuable and rewarding experience. I look forward to learning more about the history behind “Making African Art” as I continue in my undergraduate studies.