Mission Statement

The mission of Temple University’s Department of African American Studies is to provide students with a textured intellectual experience through the systematic Afrocentric study of the thought, behavior and practices of African people in the Americas, the Caribbean and the continent of Africa. As such we are a trans-generational and trans-continental program that seeks to sustain a full analytical and critical discourse on all issues related to the Africana experience. Inasmuch as our faculty and students pursue knowledge from the internal perspective of African people as agents and subjects of experience we also remain open to plural understandings and the multicultural nature of contemporary society.

Thus, while we emphasize and encourage the Afrocentric study of phenomena we are committed to engagement with scholars on comparative analysis of African societies, class and gender critiques of established regimes, and historical and archival materials that impinge on knowledge of the African world.  Our department expects students to reach for excellence by interrogating African cultural frames of reference, from the classical to the contemporary period, while plunging into the depths of African continuities in Diaspora communities. This means that we have as a part of our mission the exploration of issues of race, ethnicity, and African regionalism over time and place.

Department Spotlight

  • Department founded in 1971
  • Evolved from the Afro-Asian Institute
  • Established the PASCEP in l978
  • Most famous student, Paxton Baker, Vice President BET
  • Established first PhD in African American Studies, l987
  • Famous faculty included C. T. Keto, Charles Fuller, Theophile
  • Obenga, Thelma Ravell, Rita Smith, Yosef ben Jochannon, Nah
  • Dove, Kariamu Welsh, Tran van Dinh, Odeyo Ayaga, Alfred
  • Moleah, Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay
  • First PhD graduate was Dr. Adeniyi Coker
  • Faculty members hold six National Council for Black Studies Awards
  • Faculty members hold seven awards from the Diopian Institute
  • Faculty members edit the Journal of Black Studies

Features of the Department

  • Coherent Study of African People – Temple’s African American Studies courses are central sites for the rational, coherent and concentrated study of African peoples in their diversity and commonality. The Department therefore offers a wide range of courses for the specialized concentration of its majors and minors in various interest areas and also courses for general academic interest and requirements of the university. The subspecialties of the discipline include: social-behavioral studies and cultural aesthetic issues.
  • Training Pathway to Success – The Department offers training that provides a pathway to success for those interested in: (1) majoring in African American Studies (2) seeking to find a solid foundation for study in areas such as law, education, social and behavioral sciences, and business, (2) seeking to enhance their education and employability by adding a multicultural and diversity aspect to it (teaching, administrators, counselors, business persons, etc.); (3) pursuing various careers, especially those which increasingly require or prefer multicultural knowledge and competence. African American Studies majors have been successful in a variety of fields, including education, law, politics, urban planning, business, government, religion, journalism, psychology, social work, criminal justice, astrophysics, theatre, creative writing, and Civil and Foreign Service.
  • National and International Dimension – The department constantly seeks to expand links with the local, national and international African community.  We are dedicated to the study of the African presence in the Caribbean and in North and South America as well. We always encourage our students to take advantage of opportunities to do service learning and internships, and study abroad.  We include the preparation of our students for participation in the profession as one of the central goals of our training. We do this by encouraging faculty/student collaboration in research, conferences, forums, field trips and joint writing projects. The Department of African American Studies also puts great emphasis on enhanced mentoring and advisement in the interest of a cooperative pedagogy.  Our department fosters academic excellence, student achievement, social responsibility, character maturity, and political engagement as expressions of the best African academic traditions.

Department FAQs

When did your graduate degrees start?
The MA and PhD began in 1988.

What is the meaning of Afrocentricity?
Afrocentricity is the idea that people of African descent must be viewed and must view themselves as agents, actors, and subjects rather than objects on the periphery of European experiences. Thus, graduate students in African American Studies seek to locate the agency of African people in all relevant phenomena, exploring, discovering, constructing, and re-orienting historial, social, literary, economic political, and cultural sites in order to reveal new interpretations and analyses.

How many students have received the doctorate at Temple in African American Studies?
From 1992, 163 students had received the PhD in African American Studies as of 2013. The first student to receive the doctorate was Dr. Adeniyi Coker, E. Desmond Lee Professor, University of Missouri, St. Louis. The last student to receive the doctorate was Dr. Antwanisha Alameen, Assistant Professor, California State University, San Diego.

What is the rank of Temple’s PhD program in African American Studies?
On the basis of the number of graduate students, important journals edited, number of publications of the faculty, and significance of the alumni, Temple’s faculty and students claim to be the number one program in the nation.  Temple’s faculty edit the top journal in the field, Journal of Black Studies, and faculty members participate in all the significant associations, publish in international journals, and maintain a high profile in domestic and international conferences.