In the spring of 1968, the Black Student Union occupied the Student Center for a two-day period and presented a list of demands to the University administration. These demands included an increase in the number of black faculty members and the establishment of an Africana Studies Program. The lobbying of the black students for a program of studies devoted to the black American experience was intended not only to fill a gap in the curriculum (reflecting a history of institutionalized racism) but also to end their feeling of isolation on a campus which remained overwhelmingly white and unwelcoming.
The following year, on the recommendation of the Scarpitti Report, the University began to address the demands presented by the students. In April of 1969, President Trabant instructed Provost John Shirley to appoint an Africana Studies Program Committee charged with “implementing an appropriate Africana Studies Program…leading eventually to a major in that area”. Seven months later that committee, chaired by Dr. Robert Rothman, recommended that the University establish an Africana Studies major for the fall of 1970. This recommendation led to the formation of a new committee, chaired by Dr. Daniel Biebuyck, charged with structuring an Africana Studies Program and laying out the requirements for a major. The Biebuyck Committee recommended to the University that the Africana Studies Program eventually enjoy departmental status and consist of a Director and a minimum of four faculty. Quoting the 1968 Yale Report on Africana Studies, the Biebuyck Committee concluded that “the experience of black people…is not merely a suitable object for serious academic study and teaching, but one too relevant, vital, important, and rich in content to ignore”.
In 1971, the University created the Black American Studies Program (now Africana Studies Program) in the College of Arts and Science. The program would eventually offer students an 18-credit hour minor, but not the major that the students demanded and the Scarpitti, Rothman, and Biebuyck Committees recommended. The program was not given departmental status and, until the fall of 2006, never had more than three core faculty members. The first two directors of the program, Dr. Livinus Ukachi and Dr. Constance Smith, only served for a short time and most of the program’s growth came under the direction of Dr. James Newton, who served from 1973 to 1994, developing the minor and revising the program’s curricula. Dr. Newton was succeeded by Dr. Carole Marks (1994-2003) and Dr. Howard Johnson (2003-2005). In the fall semester of 2005, Dr. James M. Jones was appointed Director of the Africana Studies Program.
Department of Africana Studies
417 Ewing Hall
Newark, DE 19716 , USA