University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences Establishes Africana Studies Department

PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania has established the Department of Africana Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences.   

The new department will be devoted to the study of the historical and contemporary experiences of Africans and peoples of the African diaspora.  The initial roster of 11 standing faculty are all current SAS professors who will now hold joint primary appointments with their original home departments.  Additional faculty from across SAS and from several other Penn schools are expected to assume secondary appointments. The department will administer the Africana Studies undergraduate major and minor, Ph.D. and graduate certificate that were previously offered through Penn’s Center for Africana Studies.  

“Penn has a deep and eminent tradition of research and teaching excellence in Africana Studies,” said Rebecca W. Bushnell, dean of SAS.  “This new department will allow us to showcase and build on that great work.  The faculty’s global, cross-regional approach to Africana Studies, one that draws on disciplines across Penn, will make the department distinctive in this important field.” 

The department has its roots in what was originally known as the Afro-American Studies Program, established in 1972, although distinguished scholarship in this field has been done at Penn since the late 19th century when W. E. B. Du Bois wrote The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, the first scientific sociological study of race.  In February, Penn awarded Du Bois a posthumous professorship in sociology and Africana Studies.

In its inaugural year, the department will be chaired by Camille Z. Charles, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Social Sciences.  The department will be housed in 3401A Walnut St., adjacent to the Center for Africana Studies.