African and African American Studies turns 50

This year, African and African American studies celebrates its 50th anniversary. AFAS, as it is called, was started in 1969, in response to protests by the Association of Black Collegians (now the Association of Black Students) the year before.

Originally a program, AFAS became a department in spring 2017. This means that AFAS can 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.

Recently, Washington University Trailblazers honored AFAS with a Legacy Award. The evening recognized many of the people who helped establish and build the department over the last 50 years.

AFAS is also collecting the stories from former program chairs about what it was like running the program. Check out clips below.

Clara McLeod, the earth and planetary sciences, environmental studies, and biology librarian, talks about her late husband James McLeod, who was chair of the program from 1987 to 1992. Here, she talks about why he thought AFAS was a critical part of a predominantly white college campus.

John Baugh, the Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of psychology, anthropology, education, English, linguistics and African and African American studies, was chair from 2005 to 2010. Here, he talks about expanding black studies to other departments and schools.

Rafia Zafar, professor of English, African and African American studies, and American culture studies, was chair of AFAS from 1999 to 2003. Here, she talks about why AFAS is important.



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