History & Mission

History of the Department

Africana Studies, formerly known as "Black Studies", is a department dedicated to the intellectual expression of Africana peoples.  The Department has been a part of Wellesley College's campus since 1972.  Today, the Department has evolved to include a Pan-African curriculum through an array of courses, accomplished faculty members, notable alumnae, and numerous students majoring or minoring in Africana Studies.

Mission Statement

Africana Studies is designed to acquaint students with a critical perspective on the Africana World, that is found primarily in Africa, the United States , the Caribbean and South America, but also among peoples of African descent in Asia and Europe. Grounded in the history, culture and philosophy of Africana peoples, Africana Studies promotes a knowledge of the contribution of Africana people to the world, develops a critical perspective to examine the experience, and cultivates a respect for the multiracial and multicultural character of our common world humanity. Although Africana Studies emphasizes an interdisciplinary and multicultural approach to scholarship and learning, it also seeks to provide a grounding in a specific discipline and an understanding of the breadth of the Africana experience. As a result, the Africana Studies Department expects its students to develop an intellectually critical and analytic apparatus to examine knowledge, seeks to contribute to a student's self-awareness, and attempts to broaden a student's perspectives in ways that allow her to understand her world in its diversity and complexity.

Africana Studies aims to enhance the Wellesley curriculum by providing different pathways to knowledge production and learning in an increasingly interdependent world, with a view to enriching and expanding the life of the mind. Africana Studies sees itself as the central site in the college where a coherent and consistent analysis of the Africana world is offered. As such, its objectives are twofold; to service the academic needs of the college by providing a broad array of courses in the area and to provide a specific and coherent concentration for its majors and minors. While it offers its students an introduction to the Africana world, Africana Studies simultaneously provides its majors and minors with specialized training to enable them to enter graduate and professional fields. As a result, the Africana Studies Department offers training to students considering admission to graduate and professional schools and careers in such fields as education, journalism, law, medicine, business, city planning, politics, psychology, international relations, creative writing, drama or social work. The interdisciplinary structure of the concentration offers students an opportunity to satisfy the increasingly rigorous expectations of admissions committees and prospective employers for a broad liberal arts perspective that complements specialized knowledge in the field. It also allows students to enter fields in the international arena.

To accomplish its goals, the Africana Studies Department encourages extracurricular activities such as conferences, faculty and student colloquia and field trips. It also encourages its majors and minors to take advantage of existing opportunities to study at home and abroad, follow internships in professional/governmental programs (such as the Black Caucus, United Nations programs, etc.) and to work with think tanks. In other words, where it is possible and /or necessary, the Department views practical hands-on experience as an important complement to a student's preparation for the twenty first century.

The Africana Studies Department also sees students' participation in its activities as central to its mission, and our system of advising and mentoring as essential to the achievement of its goal. Although it sees the classroom as an important dimension of their learning and training - perhaps, the most important dimension of its mission; it also sees its non-class related activities (student and faculty colloquia, guest lecturers, attendance at conferences etc.) as critical to the making of a responsive and responsible citizen of the community and the world.

Given the limited number of faculty members, the Africana Studies Department also wishes to deepen its on-going relationship to other departments that offer related courses. As such, it sees itself as working closely with related departments, such as English, Art, Anthropology, Philosophy, History, Political Science, Sociology, Women's Studies, Economics and Psychology. Cooperative efforts would include the offering of courses to departments, and recruitment for joint appointments to fulfill mutual goals. In pursuit of these goals, the Department will continue to develop collaborative relations with faculty members of other departments and will meet with related departments periodically to discuss areas of common interest and mutual concerns.

The African Studies Department wishes to continue its role as a good citizen both as a role model of multi-and interdisciplinary work and in the ability to work with other departments and colleagues to use college resources in a rational manner.