Homecoming 2011: Penn to Celebrate 40 Years of Black History at Penn

Author: Cecilia Ramirez, C’05, Sp2’10

John Wideman, C’63, Hon’86, first director of the Afro-American Studies Program. October 24, 1968

In 1971, the University of Pennsylvania welcomed its first academic program focused on studies of the African diaspora, the Afro-American Studies program. The program was led by its first director, John Wideman (C’63 Hon’86), a member in the English Department and the second black tenured faculty member in Penn’s history. Dr. Wideman, tasked with a difficult challenge, laid the foundation to successfully develop a much-needed academic program without any trained faculty members and few available courses.

Forty years later, the program, now known as the Center for Africana Studies (CFAS- through a merger with the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture), has flourished tremendously and now boasts over 50 affiliated faculty members and over 80 courses offerings for undergraduate and graduate students. CFAS also sponsors several co-curricular programs including: the Artist- and Scholar-in-Residence Programs, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice, The Africana Media Project, The Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Memorial Lecture, The annual Race and Sports program, and Brave Testimony: A Celebration of Poetry of the African Diaspora.

Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen, 1994

Dr. Camille Z. Charles is the current Director of The Center for Africana Studies, the Chair of Penn’s Faculty Senate, Professor of Sociology and Education and the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in Social Sciences. When speaking of this historic milestone, Dr. Charles explains, “These anniversaries are truly milestones in Penn’s history. I am proud to help ensure that a once overlooked field of study has remained an integral part of the academy for forty years and continues to shape the educational experiences of all Penn students.”

This fall, the University will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Afro-American Studies at Penn and the 25th anniversary of the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen, the first and, to date, only summer program of its kind and in the Ivy League.

On November 5, 2011 (Save the Date!) during Homecoming Weekend , the Black Alumni Society will join the Center for Africana Studies in a day-long series of programs and events in celebration of this milestone and in honor of Black History at Penn. The program series will include a brunch featuring the Black Alumni Society’s annual Honoring Leaving Legends program, a faculty and alumni panel, a reunion for past Summer Institute alumni and Afro-American or Africana Studies majors and minors as well as other exciting events and special guests. All alumni are invited to attend any of these historic events. For details, to RSVP, and to get involved please visit: The Center for Africana Studies Homepage or contact Michelle Houston at: mhoust@sas.upenn.edu.

Happy birthday, Africana Studies!


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Filed under Academics, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Cecilia R., Historical, Homecoming Weekend featuring arts and culture, Multicultural Outreach

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