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Celebrating 50 Years of African American Studies

October 18, 2021

Dear AFAM Community:

On October 18, 1971, in the minutes of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University, the Chancellor reported the “Establishment of The Department of Afro-American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.” Today we celebrate 50 Years of African American Studies at Northwestern.

Our department was born of the struggle and demands of students and community members to create space on campus for the research and teaching of Black history, literature, arts, culture, politics, social life, and theory-building. And to address that research to the aims of Black liberation. As our colleague Martha Biondi writes in her book The Black Revolution on Campus, the early years of African American Studies at Northwestern were rocky. Nonetheless, “the department hung on, proving itself and laying the groundwork for expansion” (p. 101). Today we are a robust and respected campus unit with world-renown faculty, awesome graduate and undergraduate students, a terrific staff, and many allies and affiliates across the university.

Stay tuned for programming throughout the year to celebrate this milestone. Especially, SAVE THE DATE OF MAY 20, 2022, when we will have a day of charting the next 50 years of the department, with an emphasis on building community both on and off campus.

We give honor and respect to all of the people who did the work and made the sacrifices for us to exist today. And we send encouragement and strength to everyone and all of us who continue to use our knowledge and resources to fight for Black life.

In solidarity,

Mary Pattillo
Chair, Department of African American Studies
Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies