Experiential Learning in Ghana: Decentering the White Voice


Study abroad
White supremacy
Black Consciousness

How to Cite

Chapdelaine, R., & Toomer, M. (2021). Experiential Learning in Ghana: Decentering the White Voice. Radical Teacher, 121, 5-14. https://doi.org/10.5195/rt.2021.898


White supremacy served as the foundation of the transatlantic slave trade and the subsequent practice of chattel slavery in the United States.[i] As such, it is not an exaggeration to say that US history is rooted in the oppression of non-white populations who have experienced and continue to experience various forms of physical and emotional harm. It is in this context that we examine how undergraduate students from XXX University, a predominantly white liberal arts institution, experienced the summer 2019 study abroad ‘Maymester’ excursion to Ghana where the transatlantic slave trade was the main focus of one of the courses, Precolonial African history.[ii] We argue that an interracial dialogue on the terror of whiteness on Black bodies and in Black spaces, which is steeped in historical context, develops when white student voices do not predominate classroom discussions. By centering the co-author’s account of the program, we show that when decentering the white voice, which is generally that of the dominant student population, white students can achieve a reconsideration of their understanding of self, others, and of African and global histories. This article also stresses the importance prioritizing cultural competence as a student goal in light of some of the preconceived notions they held about Ghana and Africa, and finally, we argue that universities have a moral responsibility to introduce Anti-racist pedagogy into the classrooms as a measure to fight white supremacist ideology.


[i] Gary Dorrien, “Achieving the Black Social Gospel, “ Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospe (New Haven, CY: Yale University Press, 2018), 1.

[ii] Split into two courses, the four-week study program spanned two weeks each.



“Assin Manso Slave Market.” Internet Archive, Ghana Tourism Authority, 2011, web.archive.org/web/20140714181444/www.ghana.travel/touring_ghana/historic_sites/assin_manso_slave_market/.
Berg, Herbert. Elijah Muhammad and Islam, University Press, New York, 2009.
“Cape Coast - History.” Cape Coast Castle, Cape Coast Castle Museum, Ghana (West Africa), 2019, capecoastcastle.ghana-net.net/history.html.
Comment, Anonymous Student. “Ghana Study Abroad Reflection.” Raw Data, Pittsburgh, Nov. 2019.
“Course Description.” Precolonial African History. 2019. History Department, XYZ University, Pittsburgh, PA. Microsoft Word File.
Cubillos, Jorge and Thomas Ilvento. “Intercultural Contact in Short-term Study Abroad Programs.”, Vol. 101, no. 2, Hispania, 2018, p. 251.
DeAngelis, Tori. “In search of cultural competence.” Monitor on Psychology, Vol. 46, no. 3, 2015, p. 64.
Delany, Martin R. Blake or; The Huts of America, Beacon Press, 1971.
Doerr, Neriko M. “Falling In/Out of Love with Place: Affective Investment, Perceptions of Difference, and Learning in Study Abroad” The Romance of Crossing Borders: Studying and Volunteering Abroad, New York, Berghahn Books, 2017, p. 144.
Henries, Doris Banks A. “Black African Cultural Identity.” Présence Africaine, Vol. 3, Negro-African Cultural Identity, 1977, p. 121.
Hill, Bryan. “Elmina Castle and Its Dark History of Enslavement, Torture, and Death.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, July 2018, www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/elmina-castle-and-its-dark-history-enslavement-torture-and-death-003450.
John Dewey. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (New York, Macmillan Co., 1922, p. 63.
Kleim, Curtis and Carolyn Somerville. Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind. Routledge, 2017.Lörz, Markus, et al. “Why do students from underprivileged families less often intend to study abroad.” Vol. 2016, No. 2, Higher Education, 2016, p. 256.
Luo, Jiali and David Jamieson-Drake. “Predictors of Student Abroad Intent, Participation, and College Outcomes.” Vol. 56, no. 1, Research in Higher Education, 2015, p. 47.
Martin R. Delany. Martin R. Delany: A Documentary Reader, edited by Robert S. Levine, The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Moses, Yolanda T. “Humanities and Inclusion: A Twenty-First-Century Land-Grant University Tradition.” A New Deal for the Humanities: Liberal Arts and the Future of Public Higher Education. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 2016, p. 75.
Moss, Josh. “Where Are All the Teachers of Color?” Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Ed. Magazine, www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/16/05/where-are-all-teachers-color.
Musa, Muhammed. “Technology and the Democratic Space in Africa: A Re-examination of the Notion of the Digital Divide.” Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa, edited by Bruce Mutsvairo and Massimo Ragnedda, Amsterdam University Press, 2019, pp. 66-67.
Paracka, Daniel. “The Kalamazoo/Fourah Bay College Partnership: A Context for Understanding Study Abroad in Africa.” Teaching Africa, edited by Brandon Lundy and Solomon Negash, Bloomington, University of Indiana Press, 2013, p. 207.
Pözold, Henning. Learning and Teaching in Adult Education: Contemporary Theories, Opladen and Farming Hills, Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2011, p. 50.
Response, Anonymous Student. “Student Evaluation Survey.” Pittsburgh, Summer 2019.
Roberts, T.G., et al. “An Experiential Learning Framework for Engaging Learners During Study Abroad Experiences.” NACTA Journal, Vol. 57, no. 3a, Globalization: Implications for Teaching and Learning in Postsecondary Agricultural Education, 2013, p. 30.
Schweitzer, E. Lee and Marion F. Baumgardner. “A Course Expanding the International Perspective of Undergraduate Students.” NACTA Journal, Vol. 37, no. 4, 1993, pp. 4-5.
Taïeb, Hannah D. and Neriko Musha Doerr. “Study Abroad and Its Reasons: A Critical Overview of the Field.” The Romance of Crossing Borders: Studying and Volunteering Abroad, Berghahn Books, 2017, New York, p. 43.
“Trends in U.S. Study Abroad.” NAFSA, 2019, www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/trends-us-study-abroad.
Veugelers, Wiel and Isoide de Groot. “Theory and Pratice of Citizenship Education.” Education for Democratic Intercultural Citizenship, edited by Wiel Veugelers, The Netherlands, Leiden, 2019, p. 21.
Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery, Independently Published, 2017.
W.E.B Du Bois. The Souls of Black Folk, Dover Publications, New York, 1994.
X, Malcolm. By Any Means Necessary, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1992.
Yan, Miu C. “How Cultural Awareness Works; An Empirical Examination of the Interaction between Social Workers and their Clients.” Canadian Social Work Review, Vol. 22, no. 1, 2005, p. 6.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Robin P. Chapdelaine, Megan Toomer