African American Studies: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.
Subjects: Cultural Studies

African American studies (alternately Black studies, or Africana studies, among other terms) is an interdisciplinary academic field that is primarily devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of black people from the United States . African American studies are a sub-field of African diaspora studies and Africana studies, the study of the people of African origin worldwide. The field has been defined in different ways, but taken broadly, it not only studies African slave descendants but also any community of the African diaspora linked to the Americas. The field includes scholars of African American (as well as Caribbean, African, and Afro-European) literature, history, politics, and religion as well as those from disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, psychology, education, and many other disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. And, increasingly, African American Studies departments are hiring and partnering with STEM scholars. Intensive academic efforts to reconstruct African American history began in the late 19th century (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave-trade to the United States of America, 1896). Among the pioneers in the first half of the 20th century were Carter G. Woodson, Herbert Aptheker, Melville Herskovits, and Lorenzo Dow Turner. Programs and departments of African American Studies were first created in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of inter-ethnic student and faculty activism at many universities, sparked by a five-month strike for black studies at San Francisco State. In February 1968, San Francisco State hired sociologist Nathan Hare to coordinate the first black studies program and write a proposal for the first Department of Black Studies; the department was created in September 1968 and gained official status at the end of the five-months strike in the spring of 1969. The creation of programs and departments in black studies was a common demand of protests and sit-ins by minority students and their allies, who felt that their cultures and interests were underserved by the traditional academic structures. Black studies is a systematic way of studying black people in the world – such as their history, culture, sociology, policies, experience, issues and religion. It is a study of the black experience and the effect of society on them and their effect within society. This study aims to, among other things, help eradicate many racial stereotypes. Black studies implements history, family structure, social and economic pressures, stereotypes, and gender relationships.

  • black studies
  • racial
  • gender

1. Origins

1.1. The Civil Rights Context

In the United States the 1960s is rightfully known as the "Turbulent Sixties". During this time period the nation experienced great social unrest, as residents challenged the social order in radical ways. Many movements took place in the United States during this time period, including women's rights movement, labor rights movement, and the civil rights movement.[1]

The students at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) were witnesses to the Civil Rights Movement, and by 1964 they were thrust into activism.[2] On October 1, 1964, Jack Weinberg, a former graduate student, was sitting at a table where the Congress of Racial Equality was distributing literature encouraging students to protest against institutional racism. Police asked Weinberg to produce his ID to confirm that he was a student, but he refused to do so and was therefore arrested. In support of Weinberg, 3,000 students surrounded the police vehicle, and even used the car as a podium from where they spoke about their right to engage in political protest on campus.[3] This impromptu demonstration was the first of many protests, culminating in the institutionalization of African American Studies.

Two months later students at UC Berkeley organized sit-in at the Sproul Hall Administration building to protest an unfair rule which prohibited all political clubs from fundraising, excluding the democrat and republican clubs.[2] Police arrested 800 students. Students formed a "freedom of speech movement" and Mario Savio became its poetic leader, stating that "freedom of speech was something that represents the very dignity of what a human is ...."[3] The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a well-connected and organized club, hosted a conference entitled "Black Power and its Challenges".[2] Black leaders who were directly tied to then ongoing civil rights movements spoke to a predominantly white audience about their respective goals and challenges. These leaders included Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Educational conferences like that of SDS forced the university to take some measures to correct the most obvious racial issue on campus—the sparse black student population.[4] In 1966 the school held its first official racial and ethnic survey, it which it was discovered that the "American Negro" represented 1.02% of the university population.[5] In 1968 the university instituted its Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) facilitated the increased minority student enrollment, and offered financial aid to minority students with high potential.[4] By 1970 there were 1,400 EOP students. As the minority student population increased tension between activists clubs and minorities rose, because minority wanted the reigns of the movement that affected them directly. One student asserted that it was "backward to educate white people about Black Power when many black people are still uneducated on the matter.[6] "The members of the Afro-American Student Union (AASU) proposed an academic department called "Black Studies" in April 1968.[7] "We demand a program of 'Black Studies', a program that will be of and for black people. We demand to be educated realistically and that no form of education which attempts to lie to us, or otherwise mis-educate us will be accepted."[8]

AASU members asserted that "The young people of America are the inheritors of what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, and threatening set of social circumstances that has ever fallen upon a generation of young people in history ...."[8] Everyone learns differently and teaching only one way is a cause for students to not want to learn which eventually leads to dropping out. All students have their specialties but teachers don't use that to help them in their learning community. Instead they use a broad way of teaching just to get the information out.[9] AASU used these claims to gain ground on their proposal to create a black studies department. Nathan Hare, a sociology professor at San Francisco State University, created what was known as the "A Conceptual Proposal for Black Studies" and AASU used Hare's framework to create a set of criteria.[10] A Black Studies Program was implemented by UC Berkeley administration on January 13, 1969. In 1969, St. Clair Drake was named the first chair of the degree granting, Program in African and Afro-American Studies at Stanford University.[11] Many Black Studies Programs and departments and programs around the nation were created in subsequent years.

At University of California, Santa Barbara, similarly, student activism led to the establishment of a Black Studies department, amidst great targeting and discrimination of student leaders of color on the University of California campuses. In the fall of 1968, black students from UCSB joined the national civil rights movement to end racial segregation and exclusion of Black history and studies from college campuses. Triggered by the insensitivity of the administration and general campus life, they occupied North Hall and presented the administration with a set of demands. Such efforts led to the eventual creation of the Black Studies department and the Center for Black Studies.[12]

Similar activism was happening outside of California. At Yale University, a committee headed by political scientist Robert Dahl recommended establishing an undergraduate major in African American culture, one of the first such at an American university.[13]

When Ernie Davis from Syracuse University became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy in college football, it renewed debates about race on college campuses in the country. Inspired by the Davis win, civil rights movement, and nationwide student activism, in 1969 Black and White students led by the Student African American Society (SAS) at Syracuse University marched in front of the building at Newhouse and demanded Black studies be taught at Syracuse.[14] It existed as an independent, underfunded non-degree offering program from 1971 until 1979.[15] In 1979 the program became the Department of African American Studies, offering degrees within the College of Arts and Sciences.[15]

1.2. Recent Challenges and Criticism

One of the major setbacks with Black Studies/African American Studies Programs or departments is that there is a lack of financial resources available to students and faculty.[16] Many universities and colleges around the country provided Black Studies programs with small budgets and therefore it is difficult for the department to purchase materials and hire staff. Because the budget allocated to Black Studies is limited, some faculty are jointly appointed, therefore causing faculty to leave their home disciplines to teach a discipline with which they may not be familiar. Budgetary issues make it difficult for Black Studies Programs and departments to function and to promote themselves.[17]

Racism perpetrated by many administrators is alleged to hinder the institutionalization of Black Studies at major universities.[16] As with the case of UC Berkeley, most of the Black Studies programs across the country were instituted because of the urging and demanding of black students to create the program. In many instances black students also called for the increased enrollment of black students and financial assistance to these students.[16] Also seen in the case of UC Berkeley is the constant demand to have such a program, but place the power of control in the hands of black people. The idea was that black studies could not be "realistic" if it were taught by someone who was not accustomed to the black experience. On many campuses directors of black studies have little to no autonomy—they do not have the power to hire or grant tenure to faculty. On many campuses an overall lack of respect for the discipline has caused instability for the students and for the program.

In the past thirty years there has been a steady decline of Black studies scholars.[16]

1.3. Recent Trends: Emergence of Black Male Studies (BMS)

African American studies scholars have often explored the unique experiences of black boys/men. This line of research dates back to W. E. B. Dubois in his analysis of black male training in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk. Though African American studies as its own discipline has been in decline, its perpetuation as a sub-discipline in various social science fields (e.g., education, sociology, cultural anthropology, urban studies) has risen. This rise has coincided with the emergence of men's studies (also referred to as masculinity studies). Since the early 1980s increasing interest in Black males among scholars and policy makers has resulted in a marked rise in the sub-discipline Black Male Studies. Today, numerous books, research articles, conferences,[18] foundations,[19] research centers[20][21] and institutes,[22] academic journals, initiatives,[23][24][25] and scholarly collectives[26] emphasize or focus entirely on the status of Black boys and men in society.

2. Universities and Colleges with African American Studies Departments and Programs (Incomplete)

  • American University
  • Amherst College
  • Baruch College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Carleton College
  • Cleveland State University
  • College of William and Mary
  • Columbia University
  • California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • California State University, Fullerton
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • Dominican University
  • Duke University[27]
  • Emory University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Eastern Michigan University[28]
  • Fordham University
  • Guilford College
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia State University
  • Indiana University
  • Ohio State University
  • Oberlin College[29]
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Luther College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Pennsylvania State University[30]
  • Portland State University[31]
  • Princeton University
  • Purdue University
  • Syracuse University
  • San Jose State University[32]
  • Temple University
  • The College of New Jersey
  • Tufts University
  • University at Albany[33]
  • University at Buffalo
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California Irvine[34]
  • University of California Los Angeles
  • University of California Davis
  • University of California Santa Barbara
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California Berkeley
  • University of Florida
  • University of Houston
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Montana
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill[35]
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte[36]
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro[37]
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Puget Sound
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of Virginia
  • University of the Virgin Islands
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Valdosta State University
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Western Illinois University
  • Wright State University
  • Yale University
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Wright State University
  • Nassau Community College

3. Universities with Ph.D. Programs in African American Studies

  • Ohio State University
  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University
  • Michigan State University
  • Northwestern University
  • Pennsylvania State University[38]
  • Temple University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Texas at Austin[39]
  • University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
  • Yale University
  • University of Pennsylvania[40]
  • University of Louisville

4. Prominent Academics in African American Studies

  • Maulana Karenga
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • Molefi Kete Asante
  • M.K. Asante Jr.
  • Houston A. Baker Jr.
  • Horace Campbell
  • Hazel Carby
  • Bill Cole
  • Patricia Hill Collins
  • Edward W. Crosby
  • Allison Davis
  • Angela Y. Davis
  • St. Clair Drake
  • W. E. B. Du Bois
  • Michael Eric Dyson
  • Melissa Harris-Perry
  • Tricia Rose
  • Gerald Early
  • Shawn Alexander
  • John Hope Franklin
  • E. Franklin Frazier
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  • Paul Gilroy
  • Farah Griffin
  • Nathan Hare
  • Melville Herskovits
  • bell hooks
  • Charles S. Johnson
  • Glenn C. Loury
  • Manning Marable
  • Janis Mayes
  • Micere Mugo
  • Mark Anthony Neal
  • Robin D.G. Kelley
  • Adolph Reed
  • Cedric Robinson
  • Milton Sernett
  • Renate Simson
  • Robert B. Stepto
  • Akinyele Umoja
  • Cornel West
  • William Julius Wilson
  • Carter G. Woodson
  • Sylvia Wynter
  • Walter Rodney
  • Geneva Smitherman
  • Oliver Cromwell Cox
  • C.L.R. James
  • Maulana Karenga
  • Kwame Ture
  • Vincent Harding
  • Cynthia A. Young
  • Fred Moten
  • Saidiya Hartman
  • Christina Sharpe

5. Scholarly and Academic Journals

  • African American Review
  • Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies
  • Afro-Americans in New York Life and History
  • The Black Scholar: A Journal of Black Studies and Research
  • Callaloo
  • The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies
  • International Journal of Africana Studies
  • Journal of African American History
  • Journal of African American Males in Education (JAAME)
  • Journal of Black Studies
  • Journal of Negro Education
  • Journal of Negro History
  • Journal of Pan African Studies
  • Journal of Western Black Studies
  • Negro Digest
  • Negro Educational Review
  • Negro History Bulletin
  • Phylon
  • Race & Class
  • Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society
  • Transition Magazine

The content is sourced from:


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  2. Philips, Mary (2010). "Origins of Black Studies at UC Berkeley". Journal of Western Black Studies 34: 256. 
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  4. "EOP Offers Aid". Daily Californian. October 19, 1970. 
  5. "Racial, ethnic minorities 7.02 percent of Cal Students". California Monthly. July–August 1966. 
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  7. "Origins of Black Studies at UC Berkeley". Journal of Western Black Studies: 257. 2010. 
  8. "Afro-American Studies Proposal", Daily Californian, Editorial, March 4, 1969.
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  12. "About the Department". Department of Black Studies, University of California - Santa Barbara. 
  13. Martin, Douglas; "Robert A. Dahl Dies at 98; Defined Politics and Power", The New York Times , February 8, 2014.
  14. "Revolutionary Minds". The NewsHouse. S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University. 
  15. "Redirect". 
  16. "Black Studies: Challenges and Critical Debates". Journal of Western Black Studies: 273–274. 2010. 
  17. Patton, Stacey (April 12, 2012). "Black Studies: 'Swaggering into the Future'". The Chronicle of Higher Education. ISSN 0009-5982. 
  18. "Black Male Development Symposium". 
  19. "50 State Black Boys Report". Schott Foundation. August 17, 2010. 
  20. "OSU Office of Diversity and Inclusion | Homepage". Ohio State University. 
  21. "The Center for African American Male Research Success and Leadership". 
  22. "UCLA Black Male Institute". University of California - Los Angeles. 
  23. "Home". 
  24. "Black Male Initiative – Current Initiatives". City University of New York. 
  25. "About us". The Morehouse Male Initiative. November 1, 2006. 
  26. "Brothers of the Academy Institute". 
  27. "Duke African & African American Studies". Duke University. 
  28. "Africology and African American Studies". Eastern Michigan University. 
  29. "Department of Africana Studies". Oberlin College & Conservatory. October 24, 2016. 
  30. "African American Studies". Pennsylvania State University. 
  31. "Black Studies Department". Portland State University. 
  32. "SJSU Department of African-American Studies". San Jose State University. 
  33. "Department of Africana Studies". State University of New York at Albany. 
  34. "Home - UCI African American Studies". University of California Irvine. 
  35. "Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies". 
  36. "Department of Africana Studies". 
  37. "African American Studies - Majors - UNCG Admissions". 
  38. "Graduate — African American Studies". Pennsylvania State University. 
  39. "Graduate Admissions for Master's and Ph.D. Programs". African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin. 
  40. "PhD Program". University of Pennsylvania. 
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