of Africana Studies
Afro-American Studies Program and the Center for the Study of Black
Literature and Culture have merged into the newly created Center
for Africana Studies.
Center for Africana Studies is a space for "the critical examination
of not only the cultural, social, political, economic and historical
experiences of African-Americans, but of the African Diaspora,"
said Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, who has headed the Afro-American Studies
Program and is now the director of the new center.
Tuesday, President Judith Rodin, Dr. Zuberi, SAS Dean Samuel Preston
and others welcomed four new faculty members (Michael Eric Dyson,
Leslie Callahan, Timothy Rommen and Cheikh Babou) and invited guests
to the official opening of the Center located in Suite 331A, 3401
Center is a mecca for research projects, fellowships for emerging
and established scholars, publications, conferences and working
groups. The Center continues to promulgate the mission of the Afro-American
Studies Program by offering a major and minor in African-American
Studies, and producing cutting-edge programming that includes public
conferences, lectures, book talks, and forums," said Dr. Zuberi.
Program, one of the nation's oldest research programs dedicated
to the study of Africa and the African Diaspora, was founded in
1972. It was established in response to a national movement by college
students across the U.S. to add courses exploring black history,
literature and culture to their school's curricula.
Preston noted that "Penn's legacy in Afro-American studies
reaches back much further than 30 years, to the late 19th century
when W.E.B. Du Bois wrote The Philadelphia Negro while affiliated
with Penn. In 1898 he wrote that "It is to the credit of the
University of Pennsylvania that she has been the first to recognize
her duty and in so far as restricted means and opportunities allowed,
has attempted to study the Negro problem in a single definite locality."
Dr. Preston went on to note that Du Bois was in fact denied
formal faculty status and that it would be 70 years before the first
Afro-American studies courses were taught at Penn. He concluded
his remarks by suggesting that "we have acted upon Du Bois'
notion of a "single definite locality" for Afro-American
and Africana studies at Penn. With the talented faculty brought
together under the aegis of the center, the sky is the limit."
Program has experienced major expansion in the past few years with
Penn's renewed commitment to the recruitment of African-American
Studies faculty. Dr. Rodin noted that the recent faculty hires "strengthen
an already formidable lineup of scholars from a wide range of disciplines."
She also added that "we need just the kind of path-breaking,
interdisciplinary scholarship in Afro-American studies that is taking
place at Penn now." The establishment of the Center will "capture
these synergies to enrich our understanding of all the dimensions
of the African American experience. I wish to stress my belief that
all literary genres, all artifacts, and all
forms of cultural expression are fertile ground for "serious
Center will mark the 30th anniversary of African-American studies
with Back to the Future of Civilization, a year-long series
of events, including moderated panel discussions on literature,
society, arts and culture, critical theory and history in the African-American
and African Diasporic experiences. Issues in Black Independent
Cinema: The Documentary begins at 7 p.m. tonight at DRL. Reservations:
call (215) 735-3785.
Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 6, October 1, 2002