Ali Al'Amin Mazrui (February 24, 1933-October 12, 2014) peacefully joined the ancestors on October 12, 2014 of natural causes at his home in Vestal, New York, surrounded by family. A political scientist, Mazrui was the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York, until his retirement on September 1, 2014. He had also been serving as the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University and as the Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large at the University of Jos, Nigeria. He was a renowned scholar, teacher and public intellectual with expertise in African politics, international political culture, political Islam, and North-South relations. His prolific writing over the past half century has shaped ideas about Africa and Islam among scholars and the general public, earning him both international acclaim and controversy. He authored over forty books and hundreds of scholarly articles and book chapters. His political analyses appeared frequently in news media around the world.
He is best known for the nine-part television series he wrote and narrated, The Africans: A Triple Heritage. A joint production of BBC and PBS, the series originally aired in numerous countries in 1986. The series, and the book on which it is based, reveals and analyzes the complex ways in which African communities exhibit a blend of three cultures: indigenous, Muslim and Western.
Mazrui's own upbringing reflects this triple heritage. He was born on February 24, 1933, in Mombasa, Kenya, to Swafia Suleiman Mazrui and Sheikh Al-Amin Mazrui, an eminent Muslim scholar and the Chief Qadi (Islamic judge) of Kenya. Immersed in Swahili culture, Islamic law, and Western education, he grew up speaking or reading Swahili, Arabic and English. He pursued his higher education in the West, obtaining his B.A. from Manchester University in England (1960); his M.A. from Columbia University in New York (1961); and his doctorate (D.Phil.) from Oxford University in England (1966). While studying in England, he married his first wife, Molly Vickerman, and they began a family in Kampala, Uganda, where he launched his academic career at Makerere University. He taught at Makerere for ten years, during which his first three sons were born: Jamal (1963), Alamin (1967) and Kim Abubakar (1968). At Makerere, he served as head of the Department of Political Science, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and Dean of the Faculty of Law. During his tenure at Makerere University, Mazrui was critical of Idi Amin (1925-2003), the third President of Uganda, which ultimately forced him into exile with his family to the United States.
Mazrui's career in the U.S. began at Stanford University, where he visited for two years (1972-1974). He then joined the Political Science Department at the University of Michigan for seventeen years (1974-1991), where he also served as Director of the Center for Afro-American and African Studies (1978-81). In 1989, the State of New York recruited him to Binghamton University to assume the Albert Schweitzer...