Assan Sarr

Assan Sarr (PhD. Michigan State University, 2010) is an Assistant Professor of History at Ohio University. Before joining the faculty at OU, Dr. Sarr taught for three years at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. He also taught at the University of The Gambia as a Visiting Assistant Professor of History. His research interest includes oral history, slavery, agrarian change and transformations in African land tenure systems.  He is completing a book manuscript that examines changing concepts of land tenure along the banks of the Gambia River. His project looks closely at two groups of people: the mansolu or chiefs and their courts, and Muslim leaders who came into the region increasingly in the late 19th century and made Islam the dominant faith and practice in the Gambia basin. His study uses both oral and written sources to show that the most important matters affecting land tenure systems in the lower Gambia region were the outbreak of Muslim revolutions and the development of cash crop production for a European market. These occurred following the end of the Atlantic slave trade and over the several decades after 1830, resulting in the overthrow of a Mandinka aristocracy and rejection of their control over land.

Dr. Sarr’s second research project is a scholarly biography of a man named Samuel John Forster (c.1873-1940), a Gambian creole (Aku or ‘Liberated African’). Educated in England by a Methodist family, in 1900 Forster returned to The Gambia where he had an illustrious career: he was a JP and an unofficial member of the Legislative Council.  In recognition of his outstanding service to the British Empire, Forster received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1930 and in 1933 King George V knighted him. This biography hopes to provide insights not only into the lives of a Gambian elite family; it also hopes to place the story of this family into the wider history of the Gambia colony.

Dr. Sarr is affiliated with the Ohio University African Studies Program and the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program. He also serves on the advisory board of the NEH funded Slave Biographies Project ( based at Michigan State University. Dr. Sarr teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses here at Ohio University: some of his courses include History of Africa to 1850, Modern Africa, Muslim Societies in African History and African Women and Gender History.

407 Bentley Annex