Gaines is a history professor and director of the Center for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan. His book American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era tells the story of a small group of African-American expatriates in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The group included scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, writers William Gardner Smith and Maya Angelou, lawyer Pauli Murray, journalist Julian Mayfield, and sociologist St. Clair Drake.
In merging the history of the Cold War, African colonization, and the American civil rights struggle, the book offers a meditation on the nature of citizenship. The talk is sponsored by African and African-American Studies at the U of M.
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Says Nichols, "I moved to Memphis about nine years ago and you're just surrounded by history there. There's a real soulful quality to the city. I mean, it's a shithole, but ..."