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Welcome to Africana Studies at the University of Delaware! We are an intellectual community committed to producing and advancing knowledge about the rich and varied experiences of Black people across the African diaspora. We work to uplift and empower Black communities and inspire social change and permanent liberation.
In the spring of 1968, marches and sit-ins erupted across the University of Delaware campus amid the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. During that turbulent and historic time, a group of Black UD students led by fellow student and activist Mary Ruth Warner founded the University’s first Black Student Union. Their activism laid the foundation for the Africana Studies Department.
The students sought to fill a gap in the curriculum (reflecting a history of institutionalized racism) and to end their feelings of isolation on a campus that remained overwhelmingly white and unwelcoming. The group advocated for change in the University’s policy and culture as their first order of business. They presented a list of demands to the University administration, calling for more Black faculty members, a Black cultural center, and courses on African American and African history.
To improve the campus climate for Black students and other minority groups, UD’s new president, Edward A. Trabant, appointed an advisory committee chaired by sociology professor Frank Scarpitti. The March 1969 report on “The Black Student and the University of Delaware” became known as the Scarpitti Report. It addressed long-held racist attitudes and stereotyping within the UD community.
“It became a scathing report in terms of what University of Delaware should be doing for Black students,” said James E. Newton, the original director of Africana Studies. Professor Newton, who served from 1973 to 1994, was known as an advocate and ally for Black students at UD.
In April 1969, Trabant moved forward with the report’s recommendations and approved a new program for African American history, literature, and culture. In 1971, the University launched the Black American Studies Program (now Africana Studies Program) in the College of Arts and Sciences.
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The Africana Studies Department works to enrich our students, our scholarly fields, the University, and the State of Delaware. With a goal to generate new knowledge and scholarly analysis on African Americans and the African diaspora, the interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on four pillars:
We employ this interdisciplinary approach to interrogate the significance and ongoing impact of the history and legacy of slavery and colonialism in the United States, as well as in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Europe.
Through the study of race and racism, Africana Studies contributes to the urgent need for public scholarship and service—especially for Black Delawareans. To that end, we are forging community partnerships with those who pursue similar objectives of advancing diversity and anti-racism at the University and beyond. On campus, we broaden our reach through associations with other departments (English, art history, sociology, political science, anthropology, psychology, public policy and women's studies) and interdisciplinary programs (African studies, Latin American studies and international relations).
Dr. Newton first developed an 18-credit hour minor for undergraduate students. Today, the Department of Africana Studies offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree options including a bachelor of arts degree, a master of arts degree, a 4+1 degree option for current students, and a graduate certificate. In addition to offerings at the graduate level, the department plays a critical role in the African American Public Humanities Initiative. AAPHI is an interdisciplinary initiative that provides stipend support for PhD. students whose focus is African American/Africana studies.
A bachelor's or master's degree in Africana Studies offers limitless opportunities. Africana Studies alumni have earned advanced degrees from graduate or professional schools. Others have built careers in education, legislative and public affairs, counseling and community organizations, journalism, advertising, marketing, human resources, social services, fashion and more.
Our Africana faculty are thoughtful teachers who are nationally and internationally renowned scholars. In addition to Africana Studies methodologies, they have expertise in art and design, art history, history, sociology, cultural studies, performance, anthropology, political science, theology, and literature.
As leaders in their fields, Africana faculty bring meticulous research and dynamic conversations to the classroom. They offer a range of courses that explore the African diaspora through citizenship, economics, class, psychology, gender, science, health care, culture, social, visual arts, music, literature, fashion, design and pretty much any topic that concerns humanity. Africana Studies innovates and supports student research with our department faculty, through the University's Undergraduate Research Program and within the University's Honors College.
Together, the Africana Studies faculty at UD cultivate and advance the department's mission to engage in research that is accessible and relevant to Black communities, and to practice teaching that develops deeper and broader understandings of justice and freedom in our society. Africana Studies is a vibrant, always evolving learning community. Come and discover with us!
—Kimberly D. Blockett, Chair and Professor of Africana Studies, University of Delaware