Week 3: Black Studies definitions, founding, and structure

Image: the sankofa bird, an Adinkra symbol translating into “return and fetch it”, meaning reaching back to the past for wisdom needed to go forward into the future.

First, a few housekeeping details:

  • Remember that this class doesn’t use Blackboard. Check the course website every week for updates and detailed reading instructions which will appear on this page
  • Get a copy of the two required course book if you haven’t done so already. You will need it to do the reading assignments for the rest of the semester.  If ordering online, you should order it now so it’ll arrive in time. Details on the books page. I’m aware of the issues with the bookstore and am looking into the situation.
  • Sato has generously volunteered to provide copies of this week’s reading for anyone who doesn’t have the book yet: see the class WhatsApp group for details
  • Please sign up for the class text message service run by Remind(.com) if you haven’t done so yet
    • You can sign up online here or send a text message to (608) 467-4328 and type the following as the message: @aas166.
    • Makes it easy for me to quickly send out important messages–like today when I was way too sick to run my classes

On the weekly Zoom sessions:

  • The sessions will be recorded starting from now on: still figuring out the best way to post them. Stay tuned.
  • Sign-up info for weekly Zoom sessions is on the Zoom meet info page. I recommend saving the meeting ID and password in your calendar or elsewhere to easily join

General Announcements:

  • Lehman has emergency grants available to quickly provide money for housing, medical, food, transportation, and other needs. Details at the Student Affairs office.
  • The Lehman Food Bank offers food assistance. Details here.
  • Lehman has a very comprehensive page of students resources including laptop/tablet loans. Details here.

Quick highlights from second class on 2/10

  • Website review
  • Zoom wait room music: Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage
  • Musical selection: Kamasi Washington’s “Change of the Guard.”
  • Re-reading of Dr. Leonard Jeffries Jr’s “The Essence of Black Studies” (handout and also on the Readings page). What’s his view of a Black Studies methodology (i.e. ways to analyze information and do research) and how should it approach the world?
  • Reviewed key points of the Dr. John Henrik Clarke documentary A Great and Mighty Walk. It’s on YouTube if you want a refresher. (Consider sharing the link with your own intro to it on social media. Think about watching it with family members, your church group, tenants’ association, PTA chapter, etc.)

What to do for Week 3–February 17:

READ Chapters 1 and 2 in Maulana Karenga’s Introduction to Black Studies (pages 1-60).

  • Skim (read quickly and to gain an overview) pp 1-17 on history and development of the discipline.
  • Focus (read carefully and closely) on the following sections: (pp 17-27) 1.3 (Relevance of the Discipline) and 1.4 (Scope of the Discipline) and sections 2.3-2.7 — the different developmental initiatives.
  • Read only pp 39-60 (“Developmental Initiatives”) in chapter 2
  • This book is on reserve at Lehman’s library if yours doesn’t arrive in time.
  • Pay special attention to section 2.6 (“Classical African Studies”). Focus on pp. 54-57, particularly the section on Cheikh Anta Diop.
    • Know why Diop is a significant figure and his intellectual contributions.
    • Also be able to explain Karenga’s reasons for the importance of Egypt and Nile Valley civilization on pp. 56-57

RESPOND to the questions at the bottom of this post and DISCUSS them with classmates and myself

ATTEND the weekly Zoom session @ 6 PM EST on Wednesday February 17

General reading strategies:

  • Underline/highlight key points in the text
  • Use the reading questions at the back of chapters to focus you: read those first
  • Try to understand the definitions of the key concepts listed at the back of the chapter
  • Make a note to ask the instructor to clarify anything you don’t understand
  • Note key issues, approaches, and dilemmas/challenges Dr. Karenga outlines

Discussion questions

  • What is worldview?
  • What’s the importance of worldview to the discipline of Africana Studies?
  • How does the origin of the discipline shape the approach?
  • How does the issue of relevance shape the discipline?
  • Why is Cheikh Anta Diop important to Africana Studies?

What’s Next?

Chapter 3 in Introduction to Black Studies: “Black History: African Background”

Comments on posts:

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for the “Leave a Comment” button below. Here’s how it works: you can use this to discuss points raised here.  A few points:

  • Your first comment will have to be approved by me: after that, you can comment without approval
  • Comments section will only be open to enrolled students
  • You have to leave your name (enter as first name and last initial only) so a) I can make sure only people in the class are commenting and b) you get credit for the comment
  • Remember to be respectful, especially when responding to classmates
  • The comments section closes 14 days after a post goes live

To ‘participate’ in the class, I’d like to see everyone 1) post a substantive comment of their own based on either the reading or my lecture using some of the questions raised or conversation prompts, and 2) to respond thoughtfully to someone else’s comment—not just agree/disagree, but add on evidence or ask a follow-up question. You can also ask a question–for me or others–but that doesn’t count toward your comment and reply needed for the grade. It’s fine with me if conversation continues in a thread as long as it does, but two responses showing a clear engagement with the reading will count for being ‘present.’ Does that make sense? You have two weeks to write those two comments for credit.



34 thoughts on “Week 3: Black Studies definitions, founding, and structure

  1. As the field of Black Studies/Africana Studies developed from the 1960s, scholars affirmed the need to build a strong knowledge base around classical African civilizations, that is, the African societies that developed and flourished prior to the appearance of outside influences. This idea would be key to seeing history from an African perspective. By placing a focus on Africa’s past, Africana Studies would be empowered to build an intellectual and cultural future. A truthful, factual account of African civilization, from an African perspective, would restore an accurate historical memory to the world historical stage and nurture a modern body of human sciences.

    The Senegalese scholar Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop supported this view and promoted the centrality of Ancient Egypt—Kemet—to the endeavor. He argued that Kemet’s antiquity would enable a long view of African history and a “restoration of African historical consciousness.” He argued that by studying the prehistoric migrations from the African Great Lakes region into the Nile basin, and properly reintegrating Kemet into African history, it would be possible to trace the extraordinarily long history of the African peoples. Dr. Diop affirmed that Kemet’s copious extant texts, preserved in books, scrolls, and in art and architectural inscriptions, would document a rich civilization that had made manifold contributions to humanity’s understanding of philosophy, ethics, arts, and sciences. However, for academics and universities entrenched in a Eurocentric view of world history, this view posed difficulties. First, for many of them, Egypt occupied a place in history apart from Africa—ruled over by the Macedonian Ptolemies, later the Ottomans and the British. Then, it was not clear to these historians that the ancient people of Egypt were even African at all.

    Dr. Diop offered powerful correctives for these prevailing misconceptions. First, he proved Kemet was an African civilization by employing the methodologies of physical and cultural anthropology as well as linguistics. He conducted bone and melanin tests on preserved remains and quoted ancient texts describing physical characteristics of the Kemet people as Africanoid (to use his term); he studied the features of ancient sculptures, which supported the same conclusions. Dr. Diop also documented numerous cultural elements common to other African civilizations: circumcision, concepts of divine kingship, totemism, theories of the origin of the universe, and similarities in architecture and musical instruments. Dr. Diop mapped the linguistic relationships of Kemet’s language with Wolof (a major African language used in Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, and elsewhere), asserting that Wolof was as close to ancient Egyptian as was the Coptic language; he demonstrated that the “African languages constitute one linguistic family, as homogeneous as that of the Indo-European tongues” (Diop, Black Africa, 7, 9-14). He also pointed out what was obvious geographically: Egypt lies on the African continent and wrote: “Far from being a diversion in the past, a look back toward ancient Egypt is the best way to conceive and build our cultural future” (qtd. in Karenga, 56). Egypt’s “removal” from Africa was, in Dr. Diop’s words, a falsification of African and human history, and an error that his body of scholarly inquiries and writings set out to restore.

    Attached below: Cheikh Anta Diop, Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State, Rev. ed. (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987), pp. 1-36.


  2. /Users/satomoughalian/Downloads/Black_Africa_The_Economic_and_Cultural_Basis_for_a…_—-_(Part_I_Historical_Unity_The_Restoration_of_African_Historical_Consciou…).pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  3. AAS 166 Ismail Shokeye

    Black studies was a period where there was segregation among blacks, blacks basically had to struggle

    to fit in because they were viewed as not accepting. so blacks seek reform so as the be treated equally

    and just and not unjust.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You right Ismall but in my own opinion it feels like we still living back in 1960 , As black, latina and spanish speaker we still struggle in 2021 to fit in this society …. thank you for your comment …


      • I agree with you Brigida whether its Blacks or latino’s its like we struggle and don’t get the

        recognition, but we must continue to struggle in order to be relevant.


  4. AAS 166 – Gail Irby

    Worldview is how we see the world around us. This ideal is important to African culture and African Studies because it gives us a chance to discover how modern history generates a false relationship between African and American history. Learning the concepts of African diaspora creates an image for us that shows the true meaning of the history of our ancestors, Some of these concepts include, our search for faith; kemetic spirituality which derived from Egypt, the escape from enslavement and development of communities we’ve created, the role we had to live through during segregation from Africa to the Caribbean and so much more.


    • I agree! I would also add that Africana Studies allows for us to learn the true history of our ancestors and recognize that there is so much more to our history that extended earlier than chattel slavery. Black studies produces knowledge to individuals that is relevant to their experience, rather than have it suppressed by white-washed history.


  5. The idea of seeing the world from an African perspective allowed the 1960’s culture to develop an understanding of the ancient African civilizations. This led to a big movement in black culture for equity and equality while understanding the accomplishments of ancient civilizations and where their ancestors come from. This relates to their worldview and how learning about African culture led to a better understanding of their daily life and how they want to fight and stand up for themselves. This book has many different avenues where the African point of view is applied and it’s an exciting read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed you are right, African’s had to take initiative and learn from experience how to get by

      in terms of survival, where to get food, clothing, how to live in a suitable place etc. How that

      knowledge helped them to be who they are. Black studies exemplifies the cultural standard of

      what the typical standard for blacks is, the struggle and so on.


    • I agree with your post that worldview is seeing the world in a certain perspective. By disciple we are able to learn and understand about black culture and their struggles. This helps us learn about the movements that happen in 1960-1970s and embrace it and not just ignore it. As well as to be able to learn from it and move towards a better future with black culture. By learning about black culture and their struggles helps us not repeat history as well as to respect it and honor it. Cheikh Anta Diop was a major figure in African Studies because he worked towards a cultural unity of Black Africa. He also advocate for African federalism and who wrote the foundation of the history of Africa without racist bias.


      • Hey Brandon, I like how you stated that, “By learning about black culture and their struggles helps us not repeat history as well as to respect it and honor it.” I think this statement clearly summarize what black people have been through. Black people have been in the history throughout all their life, they have been slaved, murdered/lynched, segregated and most importantly never been considered a part of humanity. Many believe that “there is only one race. The human race.” However, no one applies the concept of this quote to their life. If there is only one race, then why are people divided into different categories.


  6. Within every movement in black culture, especially in movements for equality and equity, there is always an understanding of the accomplishments of their ancestors. I love how I got to read and understand the different perspective of the ancient African civilization. To learn that the culture in the past followed in the path of their ancestors with the knowledge of their ancestor to fight for justice and equality was amazing. It seems that in every generation involved in a movement for equality fight with the knowledge of the ancient African civilization even if they do not know it.


  7. 1-worldview is to talk of a frame of reference and conception of the world rooted in Africa culture.
    2-the most important worldview to the disciplined of Africa studies is derived from an African conception of knowledge and education as not only an indispensable path to understanding the world, but also as a vital instrument in changing it, not only an invaluable resource for enhancing the life of the mind, but also an equally essential resource fro improving and expanding the life of other people.
    3-the origin of the discipline shape the approach black studies requires from its professors achievements beyond routine competence, skill-full renderings of established order ideas or complaint acceptance of inherited frameworks, contentions and conclusion from others discipline.
    4-does issues of relevance shape disciplined speaking to the principles of shared responsibilities for building the good community, society and world we all want and deserve.
    5- Cheikh Anta was a champion of African history, devoting his life and brilliant intellect to proving the critical role Black Egyptian people played in the development of arts and sciences, dispelling long-held ideas that Africans contributed nothing of importance to humanity


  8. Viewing “World history” From a Eurocentric point of reference and excluding African history, the birthplace of humanity and civilization as we know it should be deemed a crime to humanity. Black Studies provides an African Worldview of a body of knowledge that has been previously ignored, distorted or in many cases removed from “World history”. Having this information is vital if we wish to obtain a deep understanding of humanity.
    An important figured in Africana studies was Cheikh Anta Diop. He managed to challenge the Eurocentric world views in his attempt to correct world history by presenting evidence of Egypt African origins, he also managed to inspired others to preserve and further legacy.


    • I agree, Angel, viewing history only from a Eurocentric point of reference is like a double crime. First came the atrocities of the original crimes of oppression, theft of resources, and enslavement, and then the imposition through educational and social structures of a very biased view of history. Africana Studies is the corrective and I wait for the day when it will be at the center of world historical studies.


    • Well said, Angel. I have to agree! Removing or covering up the true contributions of an entire people that preceded so many other cultures (given their full due in the history books) is a disservice to every human being. I’m already blown away by the amount of new information I’ve taken in from just the first few chapters and these classes. It just feels like we should have been taught these things in our world history classes the same way we learned about The Crusades or World War 2, like they should be common knowledge, and yet…I suppose it’s better late than never, but I’m hopeful the academic curriculum can be adjusted so that future generations are not deprived of a full history that includes contributions like these.

      – Julie W.


  9. 1. Worldview is a perspective on society or life. It is the foundation for an individual’s understanding and interpretation of their reality.
    2. Worldview is important to the discipline of Africana Studies because if one centers African culture and ideals in the foundation for understanding their reality, it’ll change their perspective and how an individual navigates in the world.
    3. The origin of the discipline shaped the approach by restating that the struggle for black studies is a necessary component for black liberation.
    4. The issue of relevance shapes the discipline by linking knowledge, power, education, the obligation to serve, student learning, and student activism and directing it towards achieving the good in and for the community, and the world.
    5. Cheikh Anta Diop was an African intellectual that challenged other intellectuals to use Ancient Egypt as a foundation in all areas of human knowledge. He is important to Africana Studies because Diop’s worldview was centered around African culture and ideals and it poured into his academia. His way of thinking contributed to the international discourse in Africana Studies. Thus, Temple University Africana Studies professor, Molefi Kente Asante honored Diop by creating The Cheikh Anta Diop International Conference in 1988.


  10. Worldview is important to the discipline of African Studies because it evolves with the main understanding that African lives and culture are worthy to be studied carefully and with details throught history.


    • Hi Raquel,

      I agree on your statement about worldwide. It allows us as people to see the world that we’re living in.It reveals the different aspects such as culture, ethics, and religion of one’s self.


    • I agree, the world needs to see the truth and the value in all people but especially African people as they were the people who were in beginning.


  11. I believe that worldview is the perception that each one has of the world, that is compose of different attitudes, values, stories, and ethics that informs us about the world’s history. It is important to be able to inform, reflect and learn on traditional African values and studies. It is a way to understand the experiences of African people and their descendants. As chapter one states Black Studies is one of the most important disciplines that has been develop in the last four decades because it portrays the struggle for their freedom, justice, equality, and power.
    From the first movement made by black students and it’s allies in 1960, the goal was to make an impact that will bring attention to race. In desperate need to find a way to solve the oppressions that Black community was experiencing different movements like the free speech movement, the anti-war movement, the black power movement, took place to bring out to bring awareness. The origin of discipline shapes the approach bringing again awareness in the present of the past Black communities struggles and mistreatments of the past as a to educate and avoid a similar future. With the education, knowledge, and the learning of these events we are not only avoiding a similar future, but we are building and growing a greater community and world. Moving towards a better world would of not be possible without the advocation and the concerns of social struggles to obtain justice as a society.
    Cheikh Anta Diop is important to African Studies not only because he was a great theorist and thinker but also because he went beyond Pan-Africanism. By using disciplines of linguistics, cultural and physical anthropology, history and the knowledge of chemistry and physics he was able to reveal new evidence in the journey to uncover the ancient origins and undying principles of classical African civilization. He also demonstrated that ancient Egypt was Negro-African. He advocated for the independence of African countries and became a major figure of the federalist African movement.


  12. In chapter 1, Karenga notes that “Black Studies advocates argued for the need to teach Black Studies from ‘a black frame of reference'”, which would later be called “Afrocentric perspective”. He also discusses Diaspora in Chapter 1. I think these are important when discussing the concept or definition of “worldview”, because of course any kind of view, whether it’s a point of view or a worldview, depends upon any individual or group of individuals. The worldview presented in the history books of America, for example, is from the Eurocentric American perspective and, therefore, left out or purposefully omitted much of the full picture. To limit Black Studies, for example, to only the African-American worldview as opposed to ensuring the inclusion of the African Diaspora worldview, would not do justice to the African worldview (or, from there, true worldview in general), since it most encompass all frame of reference rooted in African culture. I think these principles are extremely important in shaping the approach scholars like Cheikh Anta Diop took in establishing undeniable evidence of historical white-washing that traces back to nearly the earliest of civilization.

    Diop achieved this by producing unequivocal proof of physical anthropology (melanin tests, blood tests, iconography) that established African character in Ancient Egypt, undisputed by any historian worth their salt to be among the most (if not the most) sophisticated early civilizations and to have had an immense influence and effect on world history then and from then on. This goes back to the importance of worldview, and understanding just how deep and how far back the African culture and character can be found, and just how profoundly these connections and contributions have been purposely lost throughout the ages that followed.

    – Julie W.


  13. According to Karenga Black Studies is easily one of the most influential yet questionable and far reaching discipline to develop in the last four decades. This discipline came into existence in the 1960s apart of African American struggle in that era for privilege, fairness ,egalitarianism and physical ability. black Studies make it accessible and aid as a valuable model for other barred and disparage groups in their strive for appreciated presence and legitimate likeness in the cirriculum and on campus.

    As as discipline Black Studies is the urgently important precise study of the thought and usual procedure of African people in their current and factual development. As affirmed by Karenga Black Studies is a demanding study in that it distinguish by cautious scrutiny and thought out common sense.

    Arguably one of the most substantial concepts in the the black student movement which carry on strive for black studies was the concept of a relevant education. An appropriate development of knowledge for black studies proponent according to the author was an education which is significant ,beneficial and thoughtful of the existence of society and the world.

    The basic intention around the interest that black studies proponent across the country laid out some fundamental, philosophy and social objectives which interlock and jointly supported each other. The second aim of black studies was to put together and constitute a body of insight which provide to intellectual and political liberation. The third objective was creating intellectuals who were dedicated to community service and development. This objective was closely linked to the second objective. The third objective was creating intellectuals who were dedicated to community service and development. This objective was closely linked to the second objective. The fourth objective where black studies proponent posed an objective which was the cultivation, maintenance and continuous of mutually beneficial relationship between the campus and the community.

    The Cheikh Anta Diop International Conference was founded in 1988 by Molefi Kete Asante, who was a professor of African American Studies at Temple University. The conference had three objectives: Introduction of the new discipline; professional and collegial networking among students and faculty in black studies; and advancement of disciplinary knowledge around the Afrocentric idea. The conference was named after a Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop because of vast knowledge in various fields he has earned the tittle of being an Imhotepian. When one gets the term Imhotepian is because they are well verse in many fields also the term is derived from the name of an ancient Egyptian scholar Imhotep. Diop challenge African intellectuals to return Egypt in all domains and use ancient Egyptian civilization as a fundemental source for paradigm of excellence.

    Afrocentrism is an approach to the study of world history of people of recent African decent. Eurocentrism is a worldview that is centered on western civilization or a bias view that favor it over non-western civilization. African worldworld vies is the worldvies that is informed by African culture.


  14. I love this quote from the first chapter “that Black Studies developed its self-understanding as both an area of critical intellectual study and an instrument of social change in the interest of African and human good.” While learning the history is important, it is equally important to move forward and see positive change and fight for positive change… “Student learning with student service and activism in and for community, society, and the world.”


  15. From the chapter I have learned many unique and informative information. As we talk about the black studies, we are not just focusing on the continent of Africa, matter of fact, we are talking about the Diasporas Africans and all the blacks that have been spread across the world. The black studies has never been taken seriously. However, according to the chapter, it informs us that the black studies enhances “intellectual and social discourse and expanded the concept of quality and comprehensive education.” Now the question here is, Why is Black studies so important in the history of America? the reason it’s important because African people are the father and mother of both mankind and and human civilization. As the chapter also enlightens us about how studying African people can help us get an understanding about the earlier human life. The black studies doesn’t just rely or focuses on one specific field. Matter of fact, it focuses on social sciences, natural and physical sciences. As we desire to learn more about the black studies today, we must not forget to understand the past and the root of this study.


  16. Worldview is a piece of glass; it is how you perceive the world and how the world perceives you. It is the image that you put out to the world to be recognized as. The importance of worldview to African studies is that it was to show that Africans have a history; they aren’t just slaves that were brought from Africa that wasn’t their origin. It is also to prove that there was a way to study African culture and to have it be learned here in the U.S. The origins of discipline shape this approach by showing us how Black studies started and how when it did start it was “both a political and academic demand”. Why because it struggled to be seen as an actual practice. The relevance of discipline helps us understand how these studies could help solve problems in Black communities and how they should be taught to that same community. To teach the history of said Black community. Cheikh Anta Diop is important to African Studies because he was the man who revolutionized the African study and built the framework in how African studies are taught today. Without him African studies would not be recognized as an actual subject because it had no stable/consistent way of teaching or learning the subject. He was known for his knowledge of many cultures. He was the one who challenged other African researchers to go to Egypt and study their disciplines on the understanding of human knowledge.


  17. 1. Worldview is how us as people to see the world and it’s surroundings .It helps to reveal the different aspects such as culture, ethics, religion of an individual.

    2. Worldview is important to Africana Studies because to allows Africans to share their history with the world. Worldview also helps Africans to get their recognition for their ideas that were stripped and stolen from them

    3. The origin of the discipline shapes the approach by unfolding the meaning of Black Studies. Black Studies is how we perceive the interest of the larger black community around our academic programs and how we carry out those interests in the relationship to the larger community. It also is a body of knowledge about black experience from the black perspective.

    4. The issue of relevance shapes the discipline by Black Studies scholars and students linked knowledge, power, student learning, student service and activism in as well as for the community and the world.

    5. Cheikh Anta Diop is important to Africana Studies because he wanted to make a change for African history. He wanted reconciliation of African civilization with history, to enable Africans to “build a body of modern human sciences”, and to renew African culture.


  18. In the readings I appreciate Cheikh Anta Diop’s approach on proving African History as being detrimental to the world’s history. The fact that Africa had a peak of greatness and through the civilized encounter of a less civilized people, broken, it was pillaged, and erased. Diop doing the work to bringing our truth to light with a focus of our impact on the world is much impowering.


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