Africana symposium honored Locksley Edmondson

Pan-African Connections,” a symposium in honor of Africana professor Locksley Edmondson, was held April 13-14 at the Africana Studies and Research Center.

“Professor Edmondson has been a major contributor to the articulation of Africana studies at Cornell,” said event organizer Carole Boyce Davies, professor of Africana studies and English. She cited his expertise on the Pan-African aspects of the field, garnered through his experience and study in the U.K.; his teaching at Makerere University in Uganda; his teaching and administrative work at the University of the West Indies; and his global experience in the African diaspora. “All of this helped to bring needed texture to Africana studies at Cornell. He has been a popular teacher as well as a wonderful colleague, one honed in the meaning and practice of the Caribbean intellectual tradition.”

The keynote address, “Locksley Edmondson as the Embodiment of Pan-Africanist Connectivity,” was given by Micere Mugo, Syracuse University. Panel topics at the symposium included “Connections: From the Caribbean to Africa,” “Teaching Pan-African Connections,” “Pan-Africanism and Women’s Rights” and “Global Impact: Scholarship and Activism in Africa and the World.” Many of Edmondson’s colleagues and former students spoke at the symposium, including Jonathan Jansen, M.S. ’87.

“Coming out of the austere and rather mediocre university system of apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, I never knew a professor could be really funny, exceptionally smart and intellectually demanding all at the same time,” recalled Jansen, who is a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. “As my only black professor at Cornell, Locksley Edmondson did much more than teach me about South African history and politics; he was the first professor who left with me the rather subversive idea at the time that as a young black South African, I too could become a stellar professor one day.”

James Mittelman, M.A. ’70, Ph.D. ’71, another former student of Edmondson’s who spoke at the symposium, said he “reveled in Locksley Edmondson’s learned tutoring, erudite manner and infectious humor. … I am ever grateful for our many exchanges on the deep knowledge about social justice and moral values that he has generously shared.”

Edmondson first taught at Cornell in the 1970s and officially joined the faculty in 1983. He is a political scientist with specializations in international relations, especially concerning Africa and the Caribbean, and race relations. Born in Jamaica, he earned a Bachelor of Social Sciences Honors degree from the University of Birmingham, U.K., and a master’s and doctorate in political science from Queen’s University, Canada.

He served as director of the Africana Studies and Research Center 1991-96 and as director of Cornell’s National Resource Center in African Studies 1991-94. He has served as president of the Caribbean Studies Association, the New York African Studies Association and the African Studies Association of the West Indies, and as international vice president of the Bureau of the International Congress of African Studies. He has been active with academic and charitable endeavors including in Haiti, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and South Africa.

The author of “Intellectual and Cultural Creativity in the English-Speaking Caribbean: Obstacles and Challenges,” Edmondson has written numerous papers, chapters and essays. He received the Distinguished Africanist Award from the New York African Studies Association in 2013.

A version of this story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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