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What is Africana Studies?

Black Studies, or Africana Studies more broadly, is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach to studying and understanding the experiences of African people and African-descended people across the Diaspora.  It grew most directly out of campus demands made by black students, and their allies and supporters, during the mass protest movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  From the outset, the goal of Africana Studies was to transform higher education, chiefly by addressing the lack of faculty and staff diversity; altering traditional curricula limited by Eurocentric paradigms; centering the study of people of African descent in the university canon; linking academic teachings and scholarship with social and civic engagement; and raising critical questions about the purpose of scholarly knowledge production, the nature of truth claims, and the overall mission of higher education.

Africana Studies was “the first in a series of academic fields that would challenge social hierarchies and diversify the academy.  Soon after Africana Studies units appeared, ethnic studies and women’s studies followed.” (Rojas, From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline, 2007, pp. 93-94)  That is, Africana Studies was a scholarly innovation that seeded the soil for the growth of other contemporary areas of knowledge production centered on identity, difference, and representation; and it provided a critique of, and corrective to, forms of social dominance.  As a result, attention to race, class, gender, and sexuality have become normative in liberal arts and humanities curricula across private and public institutions of higher education. 

Significantly, Africana Studies also became a laboratory for multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary approaches combining humanities and social science literatures and methods, which most U.S. colleges and universities now actively promote as being key to higher education in the twenty-first century.  At the University of Kansas and elsewhere, Africana Studies has encompassed multivalent approaches to such topics as Diaspora; art, culture, and religion; women, gender and sexuality; health; politics; and social and economic policy.  The changing focal points of Africana Studies have also reflected important demographic transformations among the black population in the United States, most especially the post-1970s rise of mass incarceration, as well as the growth of immigrants from Continental Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.





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KU announces first Diversity Leadership Awards
Thursday, October 13, 2016


The Langston Hughes Center received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a June 2017 summer institute for high school teachers, entitled "Teaching the 'Long Hot Summer' of 1967 and Beyond."  The project will be led by Shawn Alexander, Clarence Lang, and John Rury.


Teresa Leslie-Canty, AAAS Lecturer and a Topeka High School teacher, nominated by her students in February, won a free Nissan Versa Tuesday night as the KSNT News and Capital City Nissan of Topeka “Teacher of the Year”. Teresa Leslie-Canty was previously the February “Teacher of the Month” after being nominated by 13 of her students.


Professor Jessica Gerschultz has been awarded the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. The Fellowship is for her book project, Decorative Arts of the Tunisian Ecole: Fabrications of Modernism, Gender, and Class in Tunisia (1948-1972).


African and African-American studies professor Professor Beverly Mack wins inaugural engaged scholarship award

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Professor Dorthy Pennington was inducted into the Central States Communication Association Hall of Fame (April 2015)

Student Spotlight

Second year AAAS MA student, Caroline Kastor is also a professional athlete.  This summer Caroline, former KU soccer standout, signed with FC Kansas City and topped off her rookie season by helping lead the organization to their second straight National Women’s Soccer League championship on October 1, 2015.


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