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The State of Black Studies: Methodology, Pedagogy and Research
From February 6 to 8, 2003, a conference on the State of Black Studies, sponsored by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Program in African-American Studies at Princeton University, and the City University of New York Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas, gathered in New York 1,200 participants and 125 speakers in 27 sessions. As Colin Palmer, Princeton University Dodge Professor of History and Conference Coordinator explained, it was "an attempt to examine where we started; where we are in terms of pedagogy and research; what type of new teaching methodologies have emerged; and where we will go from here."
Black Studies programs were created in the 1960s in the wake of the civil rights movement, and stemmed from demands by students and faculty that the experience of people of African descent be part of the curricula. Over the years, these programs, variously known as Black Studies, African American Studies, Black World Studies, or Africana Studies, have evolved, diversified, and acquired a strong identity of their own. They are now offered in 44 states and the District of Columbia. The first assessment of the state of Black Studies occurred during a conference convened in Atlanta in the early 1980s. Part of its mission was to set standards and guide the second generation of Black Studies professors.
As the twenty-first century brought in a third wave of Black Studies programs and faculty, as well as an emphasis on the study of the African Diaspora as a whole, the conveners of the 2003 conference recognized it was time to reassess the field, examine old and new issues, share best practices, and chart new directions for the future. "This is very much the moment to renew the transformative mission of Black Studies," stressed James de Jongh, Director of CUNY Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. "It is not only an intellectual enterprise. Black Studies sees itself directed at social change and social justice."
By bringing together pioneers in the field, full professors, associate and assistant professors, graduate students, and the general public, the conference offered the different generations a place to compare and confront ideas and perspectives. Expressing the expectations of the organizers, speakers, and audience, Howard Dodson, Chief of the Schomburg Center, said that the interface between the generations would hopefully "result in some sense of a shared perspective on what the challenges are facing the field and the direction we collectively should move in."
See the Virtual Conference