Opolot Okia, Ph.D.

Sch of Humanities & Cult. Studies
Professor, History
Allyn Hall 442, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy, Dayton, OH 45435-0001

Dr. Opolot Okia is a professor of African History at Wright State University. His research examines forced labor in colonial East Africa and the impact of changing international discourses on acceptable labor practices. He has published several articles and two books, Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya: The Legitimization of Coercion, 1912-1930 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Labor in Colonial Kenya After the forced Labor Convention (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Dr. Okia has also twice served as a Fulbright scholar at Moi University in Kenya (2007-2009) and Makerere University in Uganda (2016-2017).

Education History

  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

Ph.D., 2002

African History, with emphasis on Modern East Africa (colonial) Secondary fields are trans-Atlantic slave trade, African Development

  • Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

M.A. 1992

African Studies

  • Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

B.A., March 1990



I teach courses that cover general African history, East African history, colonial African history, slavery and the slave trade, African labor history and forced labor.

Research Statement


My research focuses on the issue of forced labor in colonial East Africa.  More specifically, my work has analyzed the ways in which the use of forced labor evolved over time from clearly recognized forms of labor coercion to hidden, so-called, labor taxes or communal labor that were equally exploitative.


Director, African African American Studies Program (2012-2016)


Google Scholar

Scholarly Books

Labor in Colonial Kenya after the Forced Labor Convention, 1930–1963 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya: The Legitimization of Coercion, 1912-1930 (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012)


  • “The Migration of Nilotes and Their Settlement,” in Wanjala Nasongo, Maurice Amutabi and Toyin Falola, Eds., The Palgrave Handbook of Kenyan History (Springer International, 2023)
  • “Migration and Labor in Sub-Saharan Africa During the Colonial Period” in Marcelo Borges and Madeline Hsu, Eds., Cambridge History of Global Migrations, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2023)
  • “From Black Studies to Multiculturalism: The Evolution of the Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center at Wright State University, 1971-2018,” Ohio Valley History, Vol. 22 No.1 (2022).

  • Forced Labor and Migration in British East and West Africa: Shifting Discourses Practices During the Colonial Era,” in Michiel de Haas and Ewout Frankema, Eds., Migration in Africa: Shifting Patterns of Mobility From the 18th to the 21st Century (London: Routledge, 2022).
  • “Ainsworth after Dark: The Pied Piper of African Development in Colonial Kenya,” in Nicholas Githuku, Ed., A Tapestry of African Histories: With Longer Times and Wider Geopolitics (Lexington Books, 2021)
  • "Emergency Communal Labor and Gender in Central Province During the Mau Mau War in Kenya, 1953-1960," Journal of the Middle East and Africa Vol. 11 No. 1 (2020)

  • “Subjusdice” in Colonial Kenya: Women and Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya, 1920-1963, Eastern African Journal of Historical Studies Volume 1 2018, 195-223.

  • “Virtual Abolition: The Economic Lattice of Luwalo Forced Labor in the Uganda Protectorate” African Economic History Vol. 45, No. 2 (2017)

  • “The Windmill of Slavery: The British and Foreign Anti Slavery Society and Bonded Labor in East Africa” Middle Ground Journal No. 3, Fall (2011), 1-35

  • “The Role of the Police in the Post-Election Violence in Kenya, 2007/08 Journal of Third World Studies Vol. 28, No. 2 Fall (2011), 259-275

  • “The Northey Forced Labor Crisis: A Symptomatic Reading” International Journal of African Historical Studies Vol. 41, No. 2 (2008), 95-123

  • “In the Interests of Community: Archdeacon Walter Owen and The Issue of Communal Forced Labor in Kenya, 1921-1930” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Vol. 32, No. 1 January (2004), 19-40

  • “Promethean Fire: Free Labor Ideology and Trusteeship” Journal of Cultural Studies Vol. 3, No. 2 March (2001), 549-565

Professional Affiliations/Memberships

  • Ohio Academy of History

  • African Studies Association

  • Third World Studies Association

  • Middle States African Studies Association

  • American Historical Association



  • Association for the Study of the Middle East And Africa Research Grant (Summer 2018)

  • Fulbright Scholar, Uganda (2016-2017)

  • College of Liberal Arts Faculty Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Grant (2013)

  • Wright State University Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, Early Career Achievement (2012)

  • Fulbright Scholar, Kenya (2007-09)

  • Winthrop University Research Council Grant (2006)

  • University of Tennessee Provost's Professional Development Award (2003)

  • NEH Summer Institute “Indian Ocean Cradle of Civilizations” University of Pennsylvania (2002)

  • Dissertation Scholar in Residence, Ohio University(2000-2001)

  • W. E. B. Du Bois Fellowship, West Virginia University (1995)

  • Board of Regents Minority Doctoral Fellowship, West Virginia University (1995-1999)


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