Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.39.09 PMIn 1968, San Francisco State College became the first university to have a black studies department and degree. Nearly 50 years later, students can find black studies, Africana studies, or African-American studies from HBCUs to Ivy League universities. Such is not the case for British universities.

University of London lecturer, William Ackah, wonders why there are no black studies programs – which ultimately lead to an emergence of more black professors, heads of department, and university administrators – in the U.K. where the black population approaches 3 million.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, Ackah writes:

“Black students are being encouraged to enter higher education in ever increasing numbers, yet there are no courses or departments where we can learn about ourselves, there is very little likelihood of being taught by a black professor, and according to the latest data there is no chance of seeing a black person leading and shaping the strategic direction of the university.

No wonder many black students, according to the National Union of Students, have a demoralising experience in higher education and on average are leaving university with poorer results than white counterparts who entered with equal A-level grades.

Black Studies – a social science covering subjects such as history, politics, religion, the arts, economics, geography and psychology – is needed to counter the damaging and corrosive idea that black culture is somehow anti-intellectual and that black people are not capable of contributing meaningfully to the intellectual life of this country. For example, it could include study of the Notting Hill carnival, building insight into its historical significance and connections to the Caribbean, South America and Africa, the complex religious symbolism that underpins it, its economic, geographical and cultural impact, and its role in establishing London as a global city.”

On May 15, a group of black scholars will meet to found a British Black Studies Association, which will call for black studies degree programs to be established. The hope is that the study of the black experience would result in more black teachers, intellectuals, and professionals transforming schools, police forces, and mental health and other public services that view black communities as “problems.”

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  • Anthony

    Black studies is so obvious that it should be embarrassing to thoughtful scholars and administrators that the UK does not already have black studies departments.
    My guess is that given the existence of places like SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) UK academia felt Black Studies were covered. The problem is that a place like SOAS follows an imperial model of whites studying blacks as the other instead of black studies, which tends to emphasize work done by black scholars.