African and African American Studies at Loyola
Loyola’s program in African and African American Studies launched in fall 2010 with a splash: an inaugural fall lecture by Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of the NAACP. The talk and Q&A were lively as McGuire Hall filled with over 400 students, faculty, administrators, staff, and Baltimore community members. That spring, AAAS graduated its first two minors and we began the slow process of building an AAAS presence on campus through regular programming, an associated faculty and steering committee, and curricular advocacy. While the AAAS program is relatively new at Loyola, its launch built on decades of work and commitment from dedicated faculty, administrators, students, and staff. Nationally, black studies programs began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s in response to student and faculty activism, beginning with the first black studies program in 1968 at San Francisco State University. Like those early programs, AAAS at Loyola also continues the legacy of over a century of intellectual work on black history and thought, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with the work of W. E. B. Du Bois and other pioneers.
At the heart of our program, of course, are the students. They tend to be energetic and driven by commitments to both social engagement and intellectual curiosity. AAAS now has a cadre of talented alumni pursuing many directions: speech language pathology, urban reporting, K-12 education, community-based education, nonprofit programming, and health services. Soon we will be able to ask them to return to campus to speak to current students about how AAAS is shaping their lives and careers. In addition to AAAS coursework and a portfolio, the AAAS program has begun to nurture student leadership development outside the Loyola classroom. We have sent students to national meetings of the National Council for Black Studies and the African Studies Association. We have experimented with a mentoring program to connect students with professionals in their chosen field. And we have begun to ask students to share their knowledge with the rest of the campus, such as through a teach-in on the Trayvon Martin verdict and a capstone presentation on race and fair housing policy.
From the beginning, the AAAS program has been committed to contributing to the intellectual life of the university. Our staple is the annual fall lecture to address a topic of both academic and social import. In addition to the inaugural lecture by the President of the NAACP, the series has 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. This year we added Food for Thought, a lunchtime series of conversations about faculty research open to the whole Loyola community. Over 100 people participated in conversations with Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead on personal narratives and social media, Dr. Robert Simmons on African American males in American schools, and Dr. Jean Lee Cole on reading black comics. The final installment was a capstone experience from our graduating minor, Andrea Awde (’14, Global Studies) on race, fair housing policy, and structures of racial injustice. 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. With its record of on-campus success, AAAS is now looking to increase its focus on community engagement and partnership.
There are 28 faculty members on the Associated Faculty list whose training, research, or teaching in some way contributes to the field of African and African American studies. They come from twelve different departments and show the breadth of the interdisciplinary field. I am particularly happy to see many tenure-track faculty members, which bodes well for the growth and future leadership of AAAS on campus. The AAAS program will continue to advocate for AAAS expertise in hiring considerations. In addition to the program Director, a five-member rotating faculty steering committee provides leadership input and cultivates a roster of potential leadership. The current steering committee includes Dr. Adanna Johnson (Psychology), Dr. Heather Lyons (Psychology), Dr. Robert Simmons (Education), Dr. Lovell Smith (Sociology), and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead (Communication). Other faculty who have served so far include Andrea Giampetro-Meyer (Law & Social Responsibility), Dr. Cheryl Moore-Thomas (Education), Dr. Elizabeth Schmidt (History), and Dr. Arthur Sutherland (Theology), with support from Dr. Martha Wharton (Academic Affairs). The program has also supported faculty development through engagement with the national field, such as through attendance at the National Council for Black Studies annual meetings or training workshops.
There are typically about ten to fifteen AAAS-related courses on offer each semester. Therefore, students have had a good deal of flexibility and diversity in curricular offerings, from African history and art to the civil rights movement to multicultural and consumer psychology. Dedicated faculty across campus offer important courses that have been here longer before AAAS and many have developed new courses, such as CM330 Stereotypes in U.S. Film and Television, EN376 African American literature, FR376 Outsiders in Sub-Saharan Francophone Literature, HS366 The Civil Rights Crusade, PL 399 Anthropology of Slavery, PY 418 Research Seminar in Black Psychology, and more. I am especially glad that some of the newest AAAS-related courses will provide access early in a student’s career, such as SC105 Education in U.S. Society and HS 106 The Making of the Modern World: Africa, which will be offered as a Messina pairing in the fall by Dr. Lovell Smith and Dr. Elizabeth Schmidt.