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."

Click here to visit an online exhibit about related archival documents from the University of Kentucky Archives.

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Black Studies @ 50