Monday, February 25, 2013

African American Studies at UNCG

When organized in the 1967-1968 academic year, the Neo Black Society at UNCG expressed three primary goals for the new student group. Two social missions were recognized: a desire to help with voter registration drives and to work with the Greensboro United Tutorial Service (a community group aimed at connecting college students with community education efforts). But they also aimed to "help establish an Afro-American history course on this campus." Students argued that black history and culture merited a much larger place in the University curriculum. In 1969, a faculty committee agreed.

Loren Schweninger
The history department proposed the first course in African-American history to be taught by Richard Bardolph, a white faculty member who had published in the field. Students, however, insisted that the course must be taught by an African American instructor. For one experimental year in 1970, Bardolph traded courses with his colleague at North Carolina A&T, Frank White. The following year, the history department hired an African-American specialist, Loren Schweninger. A former student of John Hope Franklin at the University of Chicago, Schweninger continued teaching history courses on race and slavery until his 2012 retirement (he remains a professor emeritus in the Department of History).

While there was considerable discussion of a black studies program through the 1970s and a number of departments across campus joined the history department in offering courses focused on African American history and culture, an official interdisciplinary minor in Black Studies was not offered until 1982. Robert Miller, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, led the charge in the establishment of the minor. Students chose their classes from eleven existing social science, humanities, and music courses. Dr. Lee Bernick of the Department of Political Science was chosen as the first chairman of the Black Studies Program.

The course catalog from the 1982-1983 academic year described the objectives of the Black Studies Program:
  • “To signify to the university community that teaching and learning about the history and experience of blacks in American society is an integral part of a university education. 
  • To enable all undergraduate students, white and black, to learn how blacks have exerted an indelible impact on the American society and to assist black students in learning more about their history and background. 
  • To add another humanistic dimension to the liberal arts undergraduate experience of students in this university.” 
During 1985-1986 academic year, UNCG offered its first Black Studies specific courses. One course, Blacks in America: Historical and Cultural Perspective (BKS 100), provided a “historical analysis of Afro-American culture. Topics included are West Africa, folk culture, religion, music, drama, film, literature, family and kinship patterns, and black consciousness.” The other course was Blacks in American Society: Social, Economic, and Political Perspectives (BKS 110). This course focused on the “social, political, economic experience of blacks in the United States. Topics include the black family, Civil Rights Movement, black politicians, and blacks in the labor market.”

UNCG African American Studies Program website
In 1992-1993, the Black Studies Program officially changed its name to the African American Studies Program. In recent years, the department has continued to grow. On February 8, 2002, the Board of Governors approved UNCG's request for authorization to establish a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies. And in Fall 2009, the Program began offering a Post-baccalaureate certificate in African American Studies.

The Program continues to provide UNCG’s “increasingly diverse student population with an opportunity to study the cultures, histories, and experiences of the African World--from Africa, to the Americas, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean.”

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