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Department of African and African-American Studies Records

Identifier: WUA-01-wua00334

The Department of African and African-American Studies Records documents the development of Black Studies Program at Washington University based on one of the principal demands presents in the Black Manifesto position paper issued by the Association of Black Students in 1968. Includes are reviews and progress reports of the Black Studies Program, black student guides, honors and awards information for black students and alumni, chancellor’s roundtables on African-American recruitment, publications, etc.


  • 1973-1997


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1.00 linear feet

1 boxes

Historical Information

In December 1968, African American students at Washington University, organized under the name of the Association of Black Students, and acting similarly to their counterparts across the nation in that turbulent year, confronted the administration with a position paper during the take-over of Brookings Hall.  This paper’s list of demands was later expanded as The Black Manifesto which became a kind of bill of rights and expectations for black students at the university.  One of the principal demands was the institution of a Black Studies Program, “which will radically reform our future education.”  The document continues, “We ask for this Black Studies Program because we feel it is not only necessary for our education, but for our very survival.”  Doubtless, for many black students, adjusting to the alien environment of a predominantly white university and the particular pressures, stresses, and humiliations such an adjustment subjected them to, may very much have seem a matter of psychic survival.  What black students was not necessarily to feel less alienated from the whites around them but rather to put their alienation to a political and social purpose that would advance their interests as blacks.  A Black Studies Program for many such students was not only place to study about African-descended peoples but also to protect themselves from “miseducation,” to borrow historian Carter G. Woodson’s term, or from being de-racinated or alienated from their own group for what these students sought was not integration but independence, the sort of specialized independence they felt they needed as young African American adults being forced to operate in a world largely based on white sensibilities.  A Black Studies Program was meant to reassure these students about the core mission of their education: to change the world’s values to bring about the liberation of African-descended peoples from the thralldom of Eurocentric hegemony.  The Black Manifesto was of such importance in the history of black student consciousness at Washington University that new, updated versions of it have been issued in 1978, 1983, and 1998 as repeated calls for action.

The Black Studies was formally established in September 1969 with a part-time director.  Robert L. Williams became the first full-time director when he was appointed on June 15, 1970.  The original faculty included Williams, Ph.D. (Psychology), Jack Kirkland, MSW, (Social Work), Ronald S. Bailey, Ph.D., (Political Science), Curtis Lyle, poet in residence, Tilford Brooks, M.A., (Music), Robert C. Johnson M.A.T. (Education), and Paul Smith, B.D. (Religion).

In 1978, when the Black Studies Program did a lengthy ten-year review, it assessed in separate chapters, how it had changed, in cooperation with others on campus, the culture for black students, faculty, and staff at the university through direct or indirect involvement in the creation of:

Study abroad initiatives to the Caribbean and Africa

The Martin Luther King Symposium (launched in the spring of 1970)

Black Honors and Awards (established in the spring of 1972)

The Fall Black Arts and Sciences Festival (begun in the fall 1972)

The Black Graduate Luncheon (begun in 1970)

The Black Repertory Choir (begun in 1968)

The Black Theater Workshop

The program was renamed African and Afro-American Studies Program in 1985 and African and African American Studies Program in 2005. In the spring of 2017, African and African American Studies Program became a full department, Department of African and African-American Studies (AFAS). This means that AFAS would be able to confer PhDs, hire its own faculty (previously, faculty could only hold a joint appointment with AFAS and another full department), and be a primary major for undergraduates. Overseeing the transition of AFAS from program to department was longtime faculty member Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters and professor in the Department of English and African and African-American Studies. Previously, Early was director of the program in the early 1990s for nine years. African and African-American Studies - About the Program

Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers WUA2015-099 and WUA2016-005. This material was donated to the University Archives.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are interfiled within the collection.

Related Materials

See also WUA00049 Black Manifesto Collection and WUA00506 Jack A. Kirkland Papers

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Schnuriger in December 2017.

Department of African and African-American Studies Records
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May 13: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the University Archives Collecting Area

Sonya Rooney
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495