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Michigan State University

African American Studies Research Guide: Background

African American Studies at MSU

African American and African Studies.  African American and African Studies (AAAS) at MSU consists of three components: a Ph.D. degree program; a Master of Arts degree in AAAS; and an undergraduate minor .   For more information, consult the African American and African Studies Handbook.

Follow AAAS on Social Media:


African American Organizations at MSU

African Student Union.  An innovative student organization at Michigan State University born out in a grand mission of preparing future leaders that will serve the African continent and help relieve it from the socio-political and economic crises that ravaged its member states for a period of more than 300 years.

Black Student Alliance.  The Black Student Alliance was founded in the spring of 1969 by a group of dedicated students concerned with the state of Black in the Black community at Michigan State University. Their primary focus was to encourage activism through heightened conciousness. During the late 1960's our institution was plagued by campus racism, high drop out rates among Black students, and low numbers of Black faculty and staff- issues we still face today.  BSA was created to serve as the central resource organization for all students at Michigan State University, with a primary focus on the needs and concerns of the Black community. As the premier organization for Black students, it is our hope to serve as a unified and progressive voice for the members of our community.  More recently the Black Student Alliance made a list of demands which it submitted to the Vice President's Office for Research and Graduate Studies October 28, 2011.

Black Studies Institute for Campus Community Change.  An initiative of the African American and African Studies Program.

Caribbean Students Association

Sankofa Graduate Student Association.  Sankofa is committed to the advancement of the Black community through their academic research, advocacy, and service. Sankofa provides academic, social, and cultural experiences to help enrich, and expand the ideologies of AAAS students. Sankofa seeks to engage in critical discourse and action, particularly concerning the educational and social issues of our community and other students of African descent at Michigan State University.

MSU Black Alumni.

W.E.B. Dubois Society of James Madison College is an organization fighting to achieve racial justice through continued education.

African American History Month

African American History Month Portal by the Library of Congress.  February is African American History Month.  The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

African American Studies

African American studies (also called Afro-American Studies, African and African American studies, Africana Studies, Africana and Pan-African studies,  African diaspora studies, Africology, Afrocentricity, and  Black Studies) combines general intellectual history, academic scholarship, and a radical movement for fundamental educational reform. From its inception the field has embraced the focus of academic excellence and social responsibility in a unique approach that addresses traditional issues of “town and gown.” Though born out of turbulence, the discipline’s ability to persevere since its formal establishment in university settings makes it a lasting testament to the legacy of the Black Power movement and the goals of a long list of black intellectuals dedicated to bringing the history and culture of African Americans into a place of prominence in the American academy.

Source: African American Studies entry from International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. William A. Darity, Jr.. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. p32-34.

An Introduction to African American Studies : An online course offered by Dr. Abdul Alkalimat, the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 2007.

Rethinking Theory in Black Studies : A five part online lecture series by Dr. Abdul Alkalimat, the University of Illinois, Urbana.

eBlack Studies : Recording the History of African American Studies.

Africana/Black Studies in the United States. A compilation of information by Abdul Alkalimat about the state of the field, programs around the country, etc., March 2007.

What is Black Studies? A response by Melba Boyd, Wayne State University. (Click on Melba Boyd's photograph to listen.)

What is Black Studies?  Episode 1.  Darius Spearman.  January 12, 2012.   In this episode, we look at the origins of a relatively new academic discipline. How did Black Studies come about and how is it distinct from other academic disciplines? Also, what are the challenges faced by scholars, academics and students of Black Studies in higher education?

Why Pursue Black Studies?  Episode 2.  Darius Spearman.  January 20, 2012.  In this episode, why pursue Black Studies? What is the significance of Black Studies in higher education? How has the Black Studies pioneered and developed theories and approaches to problems in ways that have added to academia and society as a whole? Is Black Studies solely for the consumption of Black students? Why should Asian, Latino, or White students have an interest in pursuing Black Studies?

Africa in Historical Context.   Episode 3.  Darius Spearman.  In this episode, we look at Africa in historical context and the events leading up to the Atlantic slave trade. What does an alternative context look like? We will explore rise and fall of powerful and wealthy African kingdoms as well as the fateful path they took that ultimately led to the Atlantic slave trade -the trafficking of millions of human beings from West Africa to the Americas.  Note subsequent episodes in this series are listed under the African American Online Courses and Lectures series.

African American Studies 2013: A National Web-Based Survey. 29 pages. Abdul Alkalimat, Ronald Bailey, Sam Byndom, Desiree McMillion, LaTasha Nesbitt, Kate Williams, and Brian Zelip.  University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Department of African American Studies, 2013

Black Studies Matter : How one of the nation's biggest—and most violent—campus protests brought diversity to the rest of America. Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones, May 19, 2016

African Americans

African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black populations of Africa.   In the United States, the terms are generally used for Americans with at least partial Sub-Saharan African ancestry.

Most African Americans are the direct descendants of captive Africans who survived the slavery era within the boundaries of the present United States, although some are—or are descended from—immigrants from African, Caribbean, Central American or South American nations. As an adjective, the term is usually spelled African-American.

African American history starts in the 17th century with indentured servitude in the American colonies and progresses onto the election of an African American as the 44th and current President of the United States – Barack Obama. Between those landmarks there were other events and issues, both resolved and ongoing, that were faced by African Americans. Some of these were: slavery, reconstruction, development of the African-American community, participation in the great military conflicts of the United States, racial segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Black Americans make up the single largest racial minority in the United States and form the second largest racial group after whites in the United States.

For more information, visit Wikipedia.

For another source, see Black History Milestones shared by the History Channel.


H-AFRO- Am.  Essential listserv archives for those interested in keeping up-to-date with African American Studies.

H-AFRO-Am Archives.  You can view by day or you can search the entire 16 years by key words.

Subject Guide

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Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
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East Lansing, MI 48824

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