Transforming the Curriculum: Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies

By Johnnela E. Butler; John C. Walter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Black Studies in Liberal Arts Education

Johnnetta B. Cole

As an African American and as an educator, I turn with you to a critical assessment of Black Studies in liberal arts education. 1 I dare to do so not in conflict with but rather in concert with of other scholars and activists in this process. The Curriculum Development Project of the Institute of the Black World; the Howard University Fifteen Year Assessment of Black Studies Conference; the symposium on Black Studies and Women's Studies entitled "An Overdue Partnership" organized by Smith College's Afro-American Studies Department and the University of Massachusett's Women's Studies Program; and the ongoing work of the National Council of Black Studies are only a few of the many organized discussions of the state and potential of Black Studies. Thus my comments and analysis should be viewed as a part of this widespread and ongoing discussion.

This discussion of Black Studies is limited to liberal arts curricula in predominantly white institutions of higher education, but not because what takes place in Black colleges, elementary schools and high schools, and in community settings is unimportant. It is simply that clarity and conciseness require that we place some limitations on the boundaries of this discussion.


The History of Black Studies One More Time

"Any attempt to discuss the question of what has come to be called Black Studies . . . outside of a political perspective is futile" 2. This is very obviously the case for the late 1960s surge for Black Studies. It is equally so when we review the prolonged history of what is the minimal call of Black Studies: "the inclusion of our point of view and our cultural heritage in educational curricula on a basis of equality . . . " 3 A political perspective is essential to an understanding of the most comprehensive meaning of Black Studies: the development of a fundamentally new way for Black people to look at them-

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