In 1968, when Howard University students called for a Black university, they demanded a “university oriented to the reality” of the Black experience. The birth of the Department of Afro-American Studies is one of many creations tied to this demand. For nearly fifty years, following its birth and first courses, the Department has sat at the center of the “Mecca of Black Education” as a site of memory and contestation, intellectual work and community-building. A space where African ideas provide the foundation for the human understanding of reality.
Today, Afro-American Studies continues to reflect the disciplinary traditions called into existence fifty years ago by those students and by its early faculty members, like Gregory Rigsby, Stephen Henderson, Charles Frye, Russell Adams, Ethelbert Miller, and others. A tradition that requires that we maintain spaces dedicated to exploring the vast archive of Africana humanity to set into motion a world oriented to the reality that addressing questions of human existence as much as questions of the future are deeply implicated in how we think through the meaning of Africana experiences in time and space.
We celebrate fifty years of a space dedicated to a purpose at once deeply resonant with Howard’s educational mission and the sociopolitical destinies of the larger communities of meaning deposited on the Hilltop.