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In Memoriam

Said S. Samatar

Said S. Samatar, 71, professor in the Department of African American and African Studies and the Department of History, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University–Newark, died February 24, 2015. He had been injured in a fall in his home.

No funeral services are planned. The Department of History and the Department of African American and African Studies will host a tribute event. Details have not yet been announced.

Professor Samatar was born in 1943 in the Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia inhabited by Somalis. He came to the United States to study at Goshen College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. In 1979 he received his doctorate in African history from Northwestern University. After teaching at Eastern Kentucky University, he joined Rutgers University–Newark in 1981.

One of the world’s leading authorities on the history of Somalia, Professor Samatar authored several books, including Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism: The Case of Sayyid Mahammad 'Abdille Hasan (Cambridge University Press, 1982), and Somalia: Nation in Search of a State (co-authored with David Laitin, Westview Press, 1987). He edited the volume, In the Shadow of Conquest: Islam in Colonial Northeast Africa (Red Sea Press, 1992). For the past 25 years, he served as editor of the journal, The Horn of Africa. At the time of his death he was working on a book tentatively titled Fool’s Errand: The Search for a Central Government in Somalia. He published many articles and essays as well and lectured widely in the United States and abroad.

Professor Samatar appeared frequently in the media, including the BBC, CBS, CNN International, the PBS News Hour, the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. In 1992, he went to Somalia as a consultant and interpreter for Ted Koppel, then anchor of ABC News’ Nightline.

Professor Samatar’s advice was constantly sought and freely given with candor and often with his characteristic sense of humor. Serious issues were treated as such, but, as his colleagues and students know, Professor Samatar never failed to see the absurd in the human condition. He was a colleague engaged in the affairs of Rutgers and the larger world, a joyful dining companion, an engaging and popular teacher, and a true friend to his colleagues. His is a voice that will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege to know him.

Professor Samatar, a resident of South Orange, N.J., is survived by his wife, Lydia Samatar; a daughter, Sofia Samatar; a son, Delmar Samatar; and four grandchildren.

The family requests that contributions in memory of Professor Samatar be made to the Rutgers University Foundation. Please include "in memory of Said Samatar" in the memo section and send checks to: Rutgers University Foundation, c/o Marcel Vaughn-Handy, 360 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Hill Hall, Room 323, Newark, N.J. 07102-1801.

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