Forty Years Later: African American Studies Flourishes

Ronald Williams II, Daily Californian (UC-Berkeley), April 9, 2010

The fortieth anniversary of African American studies at UC Berkeley is a milestone to be celebrated in every possible way. {snip} Grounded in the broader national and global struggle for human and civil rights, the institutionalization of Black studies at UC Berkeley created the space for black Americans (and other hyphenated Americans) to be included in the university curriculum. In the process, it changed the fundamental character of higher education forever.

Since its inception in 1970, African American studies at UC Berkeley {snip} has become an interdisciplinary, multi-racial intellectual center that hosts, attracts and produces some of the most diverse, complex thinking, scholars and scholarship in the world.

{snip}

Black studies at UC Berkeley has come a long way since its first 30 courses were offered in the spring of 1970. Over the years, its faculty has also pioneered substantive programs and initiatives that have made the campus more diverse and inclusive. These have included the Black Cultural Center and partnerships with the Office of African American Student Development. Reaching across the campus, African American studies played a central role in the creation of the American Cultures requirement and continues to teach a disproportionate number of AC courses.

A trailblazer in African Diaspora graduate studies, the department’s graduate program, when it was established in 1997, was only the third in the world offer a course of study leading to the Ph.D. in African American studies and the first to focus on the study of the African Diaspora. Since its inception, the graduate program has enjoyed a nearly 100 percent placement for its Ph.D. graduates, even in the some of the toughest economic times in history.

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The fortieth anniversary of Black studies at UC Berkeley presents a unique opportunity to chronicle more than four decades of efforts to create a stable academic unit in the face of daunting challenges both within the university and without. Together, the African American studies faculty, staff, students and allies have weathered academic racism, helped prove to the world that black people are, in fact, worthy of study, {snip}.

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