February is African American Heritage Month, an event that comes
along every year, but this year Emory has something extra to celebrate:
the 30th anniversary of the Universitys own African American
Launched in September 1971 (anniversary events originally were
planned for last semester but were delayed in the wake of Sept.
11), Emorys was the first degree-granting undergraduate program
at a major Southeastern university, according to its founding director,
Emorys program was established with no models or guidelines
to follow and by a freshly minted Ph.D. director, said Aldridge,
Hamilton Professor of Sociology and African American Studies. Emorys
program served to open the way for so many other initiatives at
the University. To have come into existence, survived and thrived
for 30 years is an awesome accomplishment which delights me to no
Originally called Black Studies, the programs
name changed in 1980 to African American and African Studies
before it became known under its present title. For six years after
its founding, Aldridge was the programs only associated, tenure-line
faculty member, and she served as director for 29 years before stepping
down in 1990.
Today the program features 19 core faculty and another 13 associated
faculty from across Emory College and the Institute for Liberal
Arts. In 200102, 15 students majored in African American studies,
and another four listed it as their minor.
Mark Sanders, associate professor of English and African American
studies, took over as director in 2000, and he said the challenges
facing not only Emorys but all African American studies programs
have changed in the past 30 years.
One of the fundamental changes has been from the negotiation
of a strictly academic or scholarly agenda to one that addresses
our social responsibility, that takes our work beyond the academy
and seeks to establish links with the community, Sanders said.
The culture of research institutions emphasizes scholarly
production and doesnt necessarily create time and space where
a social agenda can be valued, he continued. But the
longevity of African American studies programs insists upon a balance,
where faculty produce scholarly work as well as contribute to the
A number of events are planned to celebrate the programs
30th anniversary, including a panel discussion, led by Aldridge,
featuring African American studies program founders and directors
from across the country, Feb. 21 from 46 p.m. in Harris Parlor.
The next afternoon a group of alumni from Emorys program will
discuss their experiences in another panel held Feb. 22, also from
46 p.m. in Harris Parlor.
Finally, a banquet celebrating the anniversary will be held the
evening of Feb. 22 in Cannon Chapels Brooks Commons, just
before a jazz vespers service. Seats for the banquet must be reserved
A full calendar of African American Heritage events appears on
page 7. To make reservations for the banquet or for more information
about anniversary events, call African American studies at 404-727-6847.