Skip to main content

Symposium to Celebrate 50 Years of Black Studies at UK

By Lindsey Piercy

Expanding on the University of Kentucky's 70 Years of Integration series, the College of Arts and Sciences is commemorating 50 years of Black Studies at UK.

In 1968, African American and Africana Studies (AAAS) began with an interdisciplinary course, Afro-American Life and Culture. Later that year, the Black Student Union launched a campaign for more courses. As a result of their successful efforts, the African American Studies and Research Program was born. The program, founded by Emeritus Professor Doris Wilkinson, would eventually become African American and Africana Studies.

Students can now major and minor in AAAS — opening a world of possibilities in today's rapidly diversifying, global economy. A background in AAAS gives students an edge in understanding cultural and structural forces. What students learn throughout the program could lead to career opportunities in business, education, communication, medicine, law and politics.

"We share this important anniversary because of the role of students in pushing institutions to broaden their academic inquiry to include the study of Africa and the black diaspora," Melynda Price, director of the Gaines Center and professor in AAAS, said. "We are one of the few academic units in the university that owes its presence to students and like-minded faculty who everyday ask the university to stretch and grow in curricular coverage of the lives, culture and history of the Black world globally."

To reflect on the rich history of Black Studies at UK, AAAS is hosting a 50th anniversary symposium Sept. 19-20.

"This symposium allows us to hear from some of the students who pushed the university to offer Black Studies courses," Price explained. "We will also hear from a wide range of faculty who are affiliated with the program about the way their teaching and research fulfills the charge from those early students and successive generations who populate our classes."

Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019

A keynote panel titled, "1968: Student Advocacy in the Beginning of Black Studies and Expanding the Study of Race in Higher Education and the Community," will be held at 6 p.m. in Woodward Hall Room 207, located inside the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Panel participants will include Black Student Union founders and activists Jim Embry, Theodore Berry, Guy Mendes, William Turner and Elaine Adams Wilson. Gerald Smith, professor in the Department of History, will moderate the panel.

Friday, Sept. 20, 2019

9:15 – 10:20 a.m.: Gender and Sexuality in the Shaping of Black Studies

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.: Creativity and the Imagined Future of Black Studies

Noon – 1 p.m.: Lunch:  Envisioning the Future

1:15 – 2:30 p.m.: Africa and the Diaspora in the Future of Black Studies

2:40 – 3:50 p.m.: New Voices in AAAS

4 – 5:30 p.m.: Closing Keynote: Nathan Connelly

Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and co-host of the U.S. history podcast, BackStory. His writing focuses on black family, property and citizenship. Connolly is also the author of "A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow South Florida."

To register for the symposium, which is free and open to the public, please visit the UK Alumni Association website.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.

Online exhibit of documents relating to the Black Student Union and to Black Studies/African American Studies/African American Studies and Research Program