Yale Makes African American Studies Program a Department

Yale President Richard C. Levin announced today that the University will give its acclaimed African American Studies Program the status of an interdisciplinary department, starting July 1, 2000.

The Yale Corporation approved the change in status for African American Studies at its meeting on the campus last week, at which it also discussed the idea of interdisciplinary departments.

“African American Studies is a vital academic enterprise at Yale that grows stronger with each passing year,” Levin said. “Under Professor Hazel Carby’s outstanding leadership, the program has recruited superb junior and senior faculty and attracted graduate students with extraordinary talent and promise.”

Yale inaugurated the African American Studies Program in 1969. It was the first undergraduate degree-granting program of its kind in the Ivy League. In 1978, African American Studies became the first program to offer an M.A., and in 1994, it launched a Ph.D. program.

“African American Studies is composed of outstanding faculty from a broad range of backgrounds and scholarly fields whose research and teaching have justly earned international acclaim,” Provost Alison F. Richard said. “The program has grown and flourished, and I am confident that, as a department, it will continue to thrive in the years ahead.”

At Yale, African American Studies examines the experiences of people of African descent in Black Atlantic societies – including the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America – from several disciplinary perspectives.

“To be designated a department is to gain University recognition for our substantial scholarly achievements and intellectual leadership in the field,” said Carby, who chairs the program. “It will enable us to expand and grow in new and exciting directions. We are delighted.”

The Yale African American Studies Program has always been strongly interdisciplinary. All faculty members hold joint appointments with other departments or programs.

While making a few faculty appointments of its own, the new department will maintain its interdisciplinary character and continue to share faculty with American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, English, French, History, History of Art, Political Science, Sociology and Theater Studies, as well as with the Divinity School and the School of Medicine.

“Department status is a tremendous recognition of the evolution of African American Studies as a field, and of Yale’s singular role in that evolution,” Acting Chair Robert Stepto said. “This confirms the breadth of our strengths in both the humanities and social sciences and commends our vision of interdisciplinary study of the complex Black Atlantic world.

“On a personal note, I cannot help but feel that this is something of a memorial to Charles T. Davis, Sylvia A. Boone, and John W. Blassingame, our deceased colleagues who did so much, as scholars and as officers of the program, to bring on this historic moment.”

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325