African American Studies at the University of Georgia began in 1969 when Dr. Myland Brown and Dr. Charles Crow realized the need for organized study in black experience. Soon a plan was formed and by September of 1969, a program of study in African American and African culture and history began. By 1970 Afro-American Studies was housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and by 1971 an Afro-American Studies certificate was approved. The Institute for African American Studies was established in 1991, and in 1992, Dr. R. Baxter Miller became its director. The board of Regents approved an African American Studies major for the University in 1999, and in 2014 a graduate certificate program was initiated.
The Institute has housed the journals The Langston Hughes Review and The Womanist, a pioneering periodical. Black Issues in Higher Education has documented the importance of the Institute as a key component in making the University of Georgia a national example of academic diversity. In 2001, UGA marked the 40th anniversary of its desegregation by among other activities unveiling a plaque renaming the Academic Building as the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building in honor of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault whose registration on January 9, 1961 changed the course of higher education in Georgia. It is in this building that the Institute now resides.
Engagement with UGA, Athens, and the surrounding communities has always been a critical component of the Institute’s mission. The Institute has developed initiatives and programs geared toward building relationships with the local community. Such programs include an African Diaspora Film Festival, poetry and literature readings, seminars and panel discussions, lectures, programs for youth, and other activities. In 1997 we began sponsorship of Mandala Journal conceived of as a medium for creative expression by students of African descent at The University of Georgia. In 2005, the journal was re-launched as a print journal with an expanded mission, to provide a medium for creative expression by UGA students, faculty, and friends, who were interested in matters concerning identity, culture, politics, and the social and ideological intricacies that shape our lives. The journal published work that rethought, interrogated, and celebrated the unity and diversity of the Diaspora and the voices within it.With the 2009-2010 issue, “Cosmopolitanism,” the journal launched itself as an online journal available to anyone with an internet connection and a computer terminal. The work of internationally renowned poets, writers, artists, and thinkers appears alongside the work of school children from Athens, Georgia and emerging writers from throughout the Americas, the African Diaspora, and points beyond.
The Institute for African American Studies Mission Statement
The Institute for African American Studies (AFAM) draws upon a variety of traditions in Africana Studies and engages fields across the humanities, social sciences, and education. The faculty are united in its mission of promoting the study of people of African descent and their experiences throughout the Diaspora; promoting the field of African American Studies as a major academic discipline; and serving as a repository for cultural and historical research.
In pursuing its mission, the Institute offers an interdisciplinary and multifaceted approach to the field of African American Studies. Its principal objectives include:
- Providing students with a learning environment in which to appreciate the history, art, and culture of African Americans.
- Developing the critical and analytical tools of inquiry for human enlightenment and informed citizenry.
- Illuminating the history and culture of African Americans in global contexts.
- Developing institutional research skills vital for success in graduate and professional studies.
The Institute's vision, like its mission and objectives, is grounded in the black intellectual tradition, building on the ideas of scholars such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Langston Hughes, Carter G. Woodson, Ida B. Wells, and others who believed in the systematic study of the black experience. From this base, it continues to explore new ways of understanding black life and experience through performance studies, transatlantic studies, visual culture, and music.