Afro-American Studies

by Dr. Russell Adams

     Since this space will regularly feature material from the Afro-American Studies (or African-American Studies) field, the inaugural issue of HUArchivesNet is the appropriate place to describe an area of scholarly endeavor also variously known as Black Studies, African American Studies, Africana Studies, and Africology. This interdisciplinary field emerged out of the desire among minority scholars to counter mainstream myths, distortions, omissions and misunderstandings of the Black communities, cultures and experiences, particularly in North America. While the field itself is often erroneously defined simply as "Black History," its practitioners use the disciplines and fields appropriate to a given academic task.

     Most of the units in this field were established in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. On a current list of 100 college level units with the Black experience as their subject matter, 32 were cited as "African-American Studies," 24 as "Black Studies," 23 as "Afro-American Studies" and 12 as "Africana Studies," with the remaining units having other names such as "Ethnic Studies," "Urban Studies," etc. Although the term "African American" is now generic, Howard University's department retains the name it was given when formed in 1969.

     Of the 65 units offering an undergraduate major in the field, six offer the Masters degree and two the doctorate, Temple University and the University of California at Berkeley, with Harvard University in the final Ph.D. program approval stages.

     Whether full-fledged departments, special programs or on-going institutes, most units in the field are found at predominantly white educational institutions.


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August 1999