UK Happenings

UPK Launches Book Connecting Africa and Kentucky

Cover detail of "Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky: Migration, Identity and Transnationality"
The compelling narratives reveal why and how the immigrants came to the Bluegrass State and how they connect with and contribute to their home countries as well as to the U.S.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 21, 2020) — The University Press of Kentucky has released a new book, “Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky: Migration, Identity and Transnationality,” co-authored by University of Kentucky Associate Professor Francis Musoni, Bluegrass Community and Technical College Professor and UK alumna Iddah Otieno, UK Professor Emerita Angene Wilson and former Peace Corps volunteer Jack Wilson.

Following historical and theoretical overview of African immigration, the heart of this book is based on oral history interviews with 47 of the more than 22,000 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky. From a former ambassador from Gambia, a pharmacist from South Africa, a restaurant owner from Guinea, to a certified nursing assistant from the Democratic Republic of Congo — every immigrant has a unique and complex story of their life experiences and the decisions that led them to emigrate to the United States.

The book has already garnered positive reviews. "Born out of individual oral histories, ‘Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky’ expertly explores the complexities and ever-evolving nuances of leaving — though sometimes fleeing, seeking, reevaluating, rebuilding — and ultimately reestablishing what qualifies as home," said Frank X Walker, author and UK Department of English professor. "The lived experiences of the many disparate lives captured in this most compelling of books allow us to begin to better understand America's immigration landscape. This is a must read for anyone seeking the substance behind the newspaper headlines and statistics.” 

Francis Musoni, born and raised in Zimbabwe, is an associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at UK. Iddah Otieno was born and raised in Kenya and is a professor of English and African studies at Bluegrass Community and Technical College where she also directs the Kenya Exchange Program.

Angene Wilson is a professor emerita of education at UK, where she was chair of the Secondary Social Studies Program in the College of Education from 1975 to 2004. Jack Wilson spent more than 35 years in public service, first with the U.S. Peace Corps in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Fiji, and then in Kentucky’s Natural Resources and Environmental Cabinet. The Wilsons co-authored “Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers,” released by UPK in 2011.

The UK Department of History and International Book Project are partnering with UPK to host a book launch for “Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky” beginning 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the International Book Project headquarters. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase signed copies of the book and sample African cuisine.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.