The Department of African American Studies at Georgetown University locates its mission in the rich history and futures of Black people residing and moving through the District of Columbia. From Benjamin Banneker’s mapping of space and time to Carter G. Woodson’s principles of education to the cultural innovation of Duke Ellington and Chuck Brown and centuries of Black political thought and activism, the department engages in the research and study of people of the African diaspora in the United States and globally to sustain and transform humanity and make the world anew. By studying the intellectual, historical, cultural, economic, political, religious, literary, scientific, and social ideas, institutions, movements and practices of African Americans, the department provides the tools to theorize solutions to social issues rooted in longstanding and persistent racial divides. We seek to apply those theories to bridge the gap between the classroom and community, particularly the diverse communities of Washington DC and beyond. The African American studies curriculum promotes the faculty’s cultural competencies, critical faculties, and historical sensibilities and equips students for educational and career success.
In June of 2016, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to make African American Studies the newest Department in the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences. Previously, African American Studies was an interdisciplinary program founded in 2003. Each semester, there are approximately twenty rigorous courses offered, taught by Georgetown’s distinguished faculty, that satisfy the undergraduate curriculum requirements.
African American Studies sponsors and co-sponsors a number of academic events each year, contributing to the intellectual life and student life of the campus community. African American Studies sponsors regular colloquies for faculty, staff, and students interested in, working in, or minoring/majoring in African American Studies. Since 2003, the program has hosted at least one major lecture each year, with speakers including Dr. Lee Baker, anthropologist of Duke University; Dr. Ronald Walters, political scientist of the University of Maryland; Dr. Hortense Spillers, literary and cultural critic of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Paul Gilroy, cultural theorist and sociologist formerly of Yale University, Dr. Patricia Hill Collins, sociologist of the University of Maryland, Kenneth Mack, law professor of Harvard University’s Law School, Barbara Ransby, historian of University of Illinois-Chicago, Cathy Cohen, political scientist of University of Chicago, Kiese Laymon, writer of Rice University, and Loretta Ross, activist and writer of Smith College. The program sponsored, in conjunction with the British Council, the Lannan Programs, and the GU Humanities Initiative, an annual Black British writer in residency program.
Additionally, the program has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of classroom speakers during the academic year, with lectures of interest to mathematicians, economists, literary critics, historians, musicians, sociologists, anthropologists and political scientists. In 2006, the program convened a symposium on Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement, which aired live on C-SPAN, in addition to co-sponsoring the University’s Brown v. Board of Education commemoration in 2004.
The Department will continue in these traditions and looks forward to sponsoring programs that further the Department and University’s mission.