Loyola University Maryland

African and African American Studies Interdisciplinary Minor

John Lewis - Presidential Medal of Freedom

Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.

– From John Lewis's 2017 memoir, "Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America"

Left: President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman John Lewis

(Author: Lawrence Jackson)

 About African and African American Studies (AAAS)

AAAS offers opportunities for critical examination and sophisticated understanding of the cultural, social, political, economic, and historical factors that have created and shaped Africa and its diaspora, including black experiences in the United States, the Caribbean, and throughout the globe.  Launched in the fall of 2010, the minor is meant to be complementary with any major field of study. Awareness of the history, diversity, and cultures of people of African descent, along with the habits of mind nurtured by the broader liberal arts curriculum, is a valuable asset to a variety of careers, including in the education, business, law, social services, academic, and non-profit sectors.

Fr. Linnane with Ben Jealous
 The minor also contributes to the enrichment of the whole person and prepares students to be responsible, aware citizens of local and world communities. The black experience is at the heart of many key social justice issues, from slavery and abolition to the anti-colonial, anti-segregation, anti-apartheid, and civil rights movements of the twentieth century. Rigorous academic study of these experiences tells us not only about ourselves and our past, but also how to participate in a diverse and rapidly globalizing world.

AAAS is now looking to increase its focus on community engagement and partnership. In fall 2010 Ben Jealous (pictured left with Fr. Linnane), President of People For the American Way, Visiting Scholar Annenberg School for Communication , and Fmr. President of the NAACP, gave the inaugural lecture for AAAS.  AAAS has also featured the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, a foreign policy expert on the promises and pitfalls of U.S.-Africa engagement, and a political scientist and congressional fellow on race and voting rights. The AAAS program has also partnered with other groups to deliver AAAS-related programming, from teaming up with the Women’s Center for a conversation with women of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), with ALANA services and CCSJ for a conversation on white fear in the wake of the Jordan Davis ruling, and with the department of Modern Languages for a symposium on comparative slavery, including a speaker who is a survivor of modern slavery. 

Black Lives Matter

In his 1903 work The Souls of Black Folk, civil rights activist, sociologist, author, WEB Dubois prophesied that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line."  Well over 100 years later, DuBois's prophecy still rings true.

The summer of 2020 has proved to be a pivotal moment for race relations in the United States.  The tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have forced many Americans to realize the existence of systemic racism and to fully understand the meaning of Black Lives Matter.  Americans of all races and  ethnicities are now protesting for dynamic and lasting change.

To address systemic racism and white supremacy, scholars in all fields of study must address the impact of systemic racism; the task of dismantling white supremacy is not only the job of historians.  For example, 

To effectively disassemble systemic racism from American life, scholars in all fields of study must be armed with the knowledge of how systems in their specific discipline are designed to cause racial inequities.  Thus, the interdisciplinary nature of AAAS at Loyola is a unique way students of any major can address systemic racism.