College of LAS « Illinois

African American Studies

African American Studies Is Alive and Well in the U.S.

Department of African American Studies surveys 1,777 educational institutions.

report cover

The field of African American studies in U.S. higher education “is alive and well, and, in fact, growing and maturing,” despite some reports to the contrary, says a new study published online by the Department of African American Studies.

Through a national Web-based survey of 1,777 U.S. colleges and universities, researchers found that 76 percent of those institutions had some form of black studies. Twenty percent, or 361 institutions, had formal academic units, most classified as departments or programs, according to the study.

This positive assessment conflicts with many studies in recent years, which have suggested that black studies programs are disappearing, according to Ronald Bailey, the head of the Department of African American Studies.

Abdul Alkalimat, a professor in African American studies and in library and information science, was the lead author of the report, titled “African American Studies 2013: A National Web-Based Survey.”

Co-authors of the report were Bailey; Sam Byndom, Desiree McMillion, and LaTasha Nesbitt, all doctoral students in the College of Education; Kate Williams, a professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS); and Brian Zelip, a master’s degree student in GSLIS.

Gauging the state of black studies in its broad, historical context is important, Bailey says, because its influence has often gone beyond its size.

“Many people assume that black studies was simply a political response to the turmoil of the 1960s,” Bailey says. “What is not fully appreciated is that black studies also spurred and inspired many significant transformations in higher education.”

Winter 2014