The Growing Need for Insurgent Black Studies

Black studies or Africana Studies emerged from the larger social and political movement of global Black liberation in the late 1960s as a nascent academic field. Notably, Black students at San Francisco State College in 1968 mobilized a mass protest strike to demand their ‘white’ controlled institution alter its curricula centering Europeans to study people of the African diaspora, and to re-center their teaching and scholarship to meet the needs of everyday people, particularly African people. Their protest led to the creation of the first Black Studies department in the United States. According to Turner and McGann, the intellectual foundation of Black Studies began with sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois who maintained that within the context of a white supremacy capitalist society only skilled Black scholars could provide an accurate interpretation of Black life. Historian Carter G. Woodson was also a founding framer of Black Studies who created the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915 to promote the study of Black life and history in order to “bring about harmony between the ‘races’ by interpreting one to the other.” Du Bois and Woodson’s contribution to the development of Black Studies is often erased, just as are the various movements throughout history that called for the recognition of Black contributions to the advancement of humanity and knowledge.

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Johnny Eric Williams, Ph.D., Trinity College. David G. Embrick, Ph.D., University of Connecticut.  

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