Africana Studies is an exciting, growing, relatively new program at Williams College. Founded in 1969 as Afro-American Studies in the aftermath of student action and protest, the program has existed in a variety of formats, tracing its roots back to the long history of African-American social protest and to the uniquely interdisciplinary mode of studying the Black experience that began as early as the appearance of Dubois’s founding work, The Souls of Black Folk, in 1903. [On the history of the evolution of Black Studies, see these recent works – From Black Power to Black Studies (Fabio Rojas), Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies (Delores Aldridge), and The African Diaspora and the Disciplines ( ed. Tejumola Olaniyan, James H. Sweet).] Only in the last few years, however, has Africana been able to hire full-time faculty in the field, adding a new vitality and stability to the program, which has grown exponentially in the last two years.
In Africana Studies, students will meet with faculty committed to both of these ideals–social activism and interdisciplinarity–and work collectively in a number of venues–the classroom, planning Black History Month, performing in Kusika and Sankofa, attending lectures and performances–to produce original, insightful, and intellectually challenging work.
Recent Honors Theses include the creative documentary by Jade Carter ’13, “Moving 4Ward: Gentrification & Renaissance in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward,”; Nneka Dennie’s ’13 engaging analysis, “Black Patriarchy, Black Women, and Black Progress: An Analysis of W.E.B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper”; Ivory Goudy’s ’13 compelling work, “(Re)Evaluating the 13th Amendment’s Duly Convicted Clause: A Study of its Historical Legacy and Contemporary Significance to African American Communities”; Nykeah Parham’s ’13 imaginative novel, “Let’s Make a Mulatto: A Guide to Swirling”; and Don Polite’s ’13 unique historical study, “Arturo A. Schomburg: Redefined Revolutionary Afro-Puerto-Rican Black Historian.”
Visiting Sterling Brown Professors help students work on independent projects. Check out the innovative projects on Blackness 2.0 directed by Prof. Kim Springer from 2010. Professors Leslie Brown, Gretchen Long, and Eiko Maruko Siniawer have launched an important oral history project that we hope will become an ongoing part of Africana’s attempt to chart the history of African Americans and other peoples of African descent at Williams College from the time of Ephraim Williams to the present.
What Africana Has Meant
“Africana has been an experience where I am constantly learning what I must become by studying where I come from. It has been the glue that connects my history to my future by having the courage to question my heritage and identity.”
~Ifiok Inyang, Class of 2011
“Opening doors, opening a whole new world… I didn’t know there were so many things to be proud of. I took [Africana] classes and found there were so many things applicable to a variety of cultures—it was something I hadn’t known to value before.”
~Jacque Magby, Class of 2011