Alagoa, Ebiegberi Joe 1933-

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* Indicates that a listing has been compiled from secondary sources believed to be reliable, but has not been personally verified for this edition by the author sketched.

ALAGOA, Ebiegberi Joe 1933-

PERSONAL: Born April 14, 1933, in Nembe, Bayelsa State, Nigeria; son of Joseph Ayibatonye (a chief) and Jane Furombogha (Obasi) Alagoa; married Mercy Gboribusuote Nyananyo, September 26, 1961; children: David Ayibatonye. Education: Attended University College (Ibadan, Nigeria); University of London, B.A. (with honors), 1959; American University, certificate in archives administration, 1960; University of Wisconsin, certificate in African studies, 1965, Ph.D., 1966.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o School of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, P.O. Box 125, Uniport Post Office, Choba, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria; P.O. Box 893, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria; P.O. Box 126, Nembe, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: National Archives of Nigeria, Ibadan, began as archivist, became senior archivist, 1959-62; University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria, lecturer in African history, 1965-67; University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, senior research fellow at Institute of African Studies, 1967-72; University of Lagos, professor of history and director of Centre of Cultural Studies, 1972-77; University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, dean of School of Humanities, 1977-80, deputy vice chancellor, 1980-81, acting vice chancellor, 1982, dean of School of Graduate Studies, 1982-83, 1985-87, chair of faculty of humanities of Niger Delta Research Group, 1990-98. Frobenius Institute, visiting scholar, 1989; Bellagio Study and Conference Center, resident scholar, 1990; Brown University, research scholar, 1993-94. Member of Nigerian National Archives Committee, 1966-70, National Antiquities Commission, 1972-76, National Council for Arts and Culture, 1975-76, 1990-94, Nigerian Television Authority, 1984-86, Nigerian Copyright Council, 1989-93, and Nigerian National Merit Award Board, 1998-2001. Rivers State Council of Arts and Culture, chair, 1972-75; Rivers State Chieftaincy Enquiry, member, 1975; Rivers State Cheiftaincy Review Commission, chair, 1975-76; justice of the peace of Bayelsa State, 1999. Rivers State College of Science and Technology, member of council, 1972-75; Niger Delta University, prochancellor, 2001.

MEMBER: Historical Society of Nigeria (fellow; president, 1981-83, 1991-94), Nigerian Academy of Letters (fellow), Nigerian Association for Oral History and Tradition (president, 1985-94), American Anthropological Association, Knights of St. Christopher.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholar, 1983-84; Rockefeller Foundation scholar, 1990; senior Fulbright scholar, 1993-94; officer, Order of the Niger, 2000.


The Small Brave City-State: A History of Nembe-Brass in the Niger Delta, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1964.

Jaja of Opobo: The Slave Who Became a King (juvenile nonfiction), Longman (London, England), 1970.

(With Adadonye Fombo) A Chronicle of Grand Bonny, Ibadan University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1972.

A History of the Niger Delta: An Historical Interpretation of Ijo Oral Tradition, Ibadan University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1972.

King Boy of Brass (juvenile nonfiction), Heinemann Educational (London, England), 1975.

(With Nwanna Nzewunwa) The History of Ogbakiri: An Introduction, [Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria], 1980.

The Python's Eye: The Past in the Living Present, [Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria], 1981.

Sagbe Obasi: Amanyanabo of Okpoama, 1845-1862, [Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria], 1986.

People of the Fish and Eagle: A History of Okpoama in the Eastern Niger Delta, Isengi Communications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1996.

Okpu: Ancestral Houses in Nembe and EuropeanAntiquities on the Brass and Nun Rivers of the Niger Delta, Onyoma Research Publications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 2001.

Shorter works include "The Akassa Raid 1895," [Ibadan, Nigeria], 1960; "War Canoe Drums and Topical Songs from Nembe, Rivers State," Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture (Rivers State, Nigeria), 1974; "The Ijaw Nation in the New Millennium," Onyoma Research Publications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1999; and "Beke you mi: Nembe against the British Empire," Onyoma Research Publications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 2001. Contributor to books, including International Handbook of Historical Studies: Contemporary Research and Theory, edited by G. G. Iggers and H. T. Parker, 1979; Groundwork of Nigerian History, edited by O. Ikime, [Ibadan, Nigeria], [Westport, CT], 1980; UNESCO General History of Africa, Volume 6, edited by J. F. Ade Ajayi, [California], 1989; Museums and History in West Africa, edited by Claude Daniel Ardouin and Emmanuel Arinze, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 2000; and Ways of the Rivers: Arts and Environment of the Niger Delta, edited by Martha G. Anderson and Philip M. Peek, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of CaliforniaLos Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Nigerian Heritage, Nigerian Field, Nigerian Archives, Kiabara, Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, New Culture: Review of Contemporary African Arts, Journal of African History, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Africa, and Journal of American Folklore.


(With Bolanle Awe, and contributor) NigerianAntiquities, [Ibadan, Nigeria], 1972.

(With Tekena N. Tamuno; and contributor) EminentNigerians of the Rivers State, Heinemann Educational Books (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1980.

The Teaching of History in African Universities, Association of African Universities (Accra, Ghana), 1981.

(With Kay Williamson) Ancestral Voices: Oral Historical Texts from Nembe, Niger Delta, [Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria], 1981.

More Days, More Wisdom: Nembe Proverbs/Noin nengia bere nengia: Nembe n'akabu, University of Port Harcourt Press (Port Harcourt, Nigeria), 1983.

Tarikh, Volume 8: Oral Historical Traditions in Africa, Longman (Ikeja, Nigeria), 1987.

(With F. N. Anozie and Nwanna Nzewunwa) The EarlyHistory of the Niger Delta, 1988.

(With Tekena N. Tamuno) The Land and People ofNigeria: Rivers State, Riverside Communications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1989, revised edition (with Abi A. Derefaka) published as The Land and People of Rivers State: Eastern Niger Delta, Onyoma Research Publications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 2002.

Oral Tradition and Oral History in Africa and theDiaspora: Theory and Practice, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (Lagos, Nigeria), 1990.

(And contributor) Dike Remembered, African Reflections on History: Dike Memorial Lectures, 1985-1995, University of Port Harcourt Press (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1998.

A History of the University of Port Harcourt, 1977-1998, University of Port Harcourt Press (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1999.

The Land and People of Bayelsa State: Central NigerDelta, Onyoma Research Publications (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1999.

Also compiler of "Kien abibi onde fa pugu/Nembe (Ijo) Numerals," Nembe Cultural Association, (Lagos, Nigeria), 1967.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Kaliye Opuye, Opuye Kaliye: A History of Nembe in the Niger Delta; The Practice of History in Africa: A History of African Historiography; The Life and Times of Earnest Sisei Ikoli, Journalist, Nationalist, with John H. Enemugwem; The Ossomala Kingdom of the Lower Niger and Its Neighbours; research on drum praise poetry of the Niger Delta, African proverbs, and the ancient Egyptian wisdom literature, and the environment, society, and cultural heritage of the Niger Delta.

SIDELIGHTS: Nigerian historian and educator Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa has written numerous works about his homeland, the Rivers State region of Nigeria. Many of these works deal with history and folklore as incorporated into the oral tradition of Africa. In his 1964 work, The Small Brave City-State: A History of Nembe-Brass in the Niger Delta, Alagoa chronicles the history of the Nembe people who have lived near the Brass River estuary of the Niger Delta since the fifteenth century. Drawing on oral sources preserved in the national archives, as well as other published sources, Alagoa describes the social and political organizations, commerce, and politics of the Nembe Brass. He also describes the Akassa War between the Nembe and the British colonial trading company.

Several commentators have praised Alagoa's contribution to the recorded history of Nigeria. Judging Alagoa to be "well equipped to fuse the oral traditions of the Nembe people with the more standard sources," Robert O. Collins, writing in the American Historical Review, called the work "first a most useful contribution to the local history of the delta region and second a scholarly addition to the history of Nigeria as a whole." "The chapter on the Akassa War is particularly useful to the African historian," Collins added. In addition, a critic for Choice called the work "well written," noting Alagoa's "excellent analysis" of the region's institutions, commenting that it supplements other works on Nigeria.

"Alagoa has written a historical study rather than an ethnography, thus omitting many cultural features which would interest anthropologists," wrote Donald C. Simmons in a review for American Anthropologist. "However, anyone interested in the area can glean much background ethnological information from this interesting, well-documented study, whose minor faults are due not to the author but to the paucity of data available for reconstructing Nembe history." The "principal weakness" of The Small Brave City-State is Alagoa's "failure to carry the history of Nembe-Brass well into the twentieth century," according to Collins.

For young readers, Alagoa has contributed to the "African Historical Biographies" series of London, England, publisher Heinemann. The goal of this series is to present African history from a native point of view, rather than from the colonial perspective so frequently employed. Thus, King Boy of Brass tells the story of a nineteenth-century boy-king of the Niger Delta, who is at first a disappointment to his father, but who redeems himself as a ruler and trader. Abiola Odejide, writing in Reading Teacher, mentioned that Alagoa's book turned the reader into a "detached observer, an auditor rather than a vicarious participant of a past experience." "The authors in all the Heinemann series are strongly aware of the historical perspective, leading to an overwhelming factual tone and the relegation of literary quality to the background," stated Odejide. On the other hand, the critic judged Alagoa's 1970 biography, Jaja of Opobo: The Slave Who Became a King, to be the more successful of the historian's two juvenile biographies. Because the author fictionalizes the early life of Jaja of Opobo, maintained Odejide, young readers are more likely to become engaged in the work.



Ejituwu, Nkparom C., editor, The Multi-DisciplinaryApproach to African History: Essays in Honour of Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, University of Port Harcourt Press (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria), 1998.


American Anthropologist, June, 1965, Donald C. Simmons, review of The Small Brave City-State: A History of Nembe-Brass in the Niger Delta, pp. 793-794.

American Historical Review, April, 1965, Robert O. Collins, review of The Small Brave City-State, pp. 880-881.

Choice, February, 1965, review of The Small BraveCity-State, p. 584.

Reading Teacher, March, 1987, Abiola Odejide, review of King Boy of Brass and Jaja of Opobo: The Slave Who Became a King, pp. 642-643.