Harvard's New Chapter in Black Studies: A Neglected African Studies Program Finally Gets a Departmental Home

By Roach, Ronald | Black Issues in Higher Education, October 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

Harvard's New Chapter in Black Studies: A Neglected African Studies Program Finally Gets a Departmental Home


Roach, Ronald, Black Issues in Higher Education


From afar, it seemed that Afro-American studies at Harvard had taken a nasty tumble when two of its best-known scholars announced their resignations in early 2002, and its venerable chairman, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., let it be known that he stood perilously close to leaving the department he had been building for more than a decade. Although Gates' colleague and close friend Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah attributed his departure to personal reasons, Dr. Cornel West made it known that the private rebuke of his scholarship by Harvard president Dr. Lawrence Summers had made it professionally unsuitable for the popular philosopher to remain at Harvard (see Black Issues, May 9, 2002).

While Gates anguished over the departures and the alleged mistreatment of West until December 2002 when he announced he would stay, a new direction for Black studies at Harvard began taking shape that Fall. By this past May, the direction became apparent when the Harvard faculty unanimously voted to approve the expansion of Afro-American Studies into the African and African American Studies department.

After 34 years of being relegated to the purview of a coordinating committee, African studies was given what it most sorely needed--a departmental home. The expansion will give prominence both to Africa and the African diaspora, the past and ongoing movement of African peoples and cultures throughout the world.

"It was an unanimous vote. The faculty believed in the rationale of African studies being in a department," says Dr. Emmanuel Akyeampong, the chairman of the Committee on African Studies and a newly appointed professor in the expanded Black studies program at Harvard.

"We as a university are now going to be taking on African studies in the way we take on Asian studies or Latin American studies or have traditionally taken on European studies," Harvard's president Dr. Lawrence Summers told the New York Times.

While proponents of African studies in American higher education hail the expansion as a positive development, they have been as equally likely to wonder aloud why it took an institution of Harvard's stature so long to anchor African studies within a department. Over the years, the university is said to have attracted a core of highly regarded Africanists in fields ranging from economics, government, medicine, music, anthropology to visual art. Through the African studies committee, these scholars were largely empowered to dole out research grant funding to students and to oversee an undergraduate certificate program in African studies.

"It's surprising that Harvard hadn't established a program in African studies in the way Yale and other universities have," says Dr. Beverly Grier, the president of the African Studies Association and a faculty member at Clark University in Wooster, Mass.

The lack of a departmental anchor meant that African studies scholars at Harvard long labored under more isolated circumstances than Africanists in high-profile programs at schools, such as the University of Wisconsin, Boston University, Yale University, the University of Michigan, New York University, Indiana University, Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina, where African studies either was pursued in a standalone department or co-existed with Afro-American studies in a department.

By Harvard merely having in place a Committee on African Studies, courses on Africa were scattered throughout departments within the Arts and Sciences division and in its schools, such as public health and the Kennedy School of Government. The arrangement made it virtually impossible for interested faculty members to establish an African languages program, a necessary component for African studies to be established in or as a department, according to officials.

However, one of the most anticipated developments of the expanded department is that starting in the 2004-2005 academic year, undergraduates will be able to major in African studies as a concentration within African and African American studies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Harvard's New Chapter in Black Studies: A Neglected African Studies Program Finally Gets a Departmental Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.