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.