Asante preps for anniversary

After controversy, African-American studies chair to host 25-year celebration.

After a tumultuous spring that ended with the appointment of Molefi Asante to the department chair, the African-American studies department, under Asante’s leadership, has begun the celebration of its 25th year anniversary of its Ph.D. program.

Students and community members held several rallies in April calling for Asante, who previously held the chairmanship from 1984 to 1997, to be put back in the position. The interim chair had been given to former vice dean of the College of Liberal Arts Jayne Drake —  a white woman – after former Chairman Nathaniel Norment announced his retirement in April 2012.

Prior to Asante’s appointment, there had been division within the department. Asante told The Temple News in April that Norment had twice tried to get the College of Liberal Arts to fire him.

Now in his first semester back as chairman, Asante seems focused on preparing for the 25th anniversary of the department’s Ph.D. program, the first ever in its field.

“Right now it seems to be quite peaceful, and I haven’t needed to do anything extra in order to resolve any issues within the department,” Asante said.

The department has a series of events scheduled in celebration of the anniversary, the first of which was a presentation by Adeniyi Coker, the first person to receive a Ph.D. in African-American studies in the world.  Coker now serves as a professor at the University of Missouri.

Nine more events are scheduled in celebration of the anniversary, featuring more than 20 guest speakers and presenters. On Thursday, Oct. 17, the department will hold an all-day conference in the Walk Auditorium in Ritter Hall, featuring a multitude of speakers.

Asante said the department of African-American studies is perhaps the most dominant department in the field, noting the 163 students that have received their Ph.D. since the program’s founding.

“We are pleased because, with the celebration, we have the support of the department of history, the department of sociology and the department of anthropology,” Asante said. “They’ve all supported us and are bringing these scholars here.”

Asante said this anniversary is a marker for the department, as well as departments elsewhere.  In 1988 when the program began receiving applications, 500 applications were received and 30 students were accepted for the first graduate program.  Ten years later, the second Ph. D program in African American studies emerged at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Asante served as the consultant for that program, and later served as the consultant for the program at the University of California Berkeley.

In the 25-year since Temple began the doctorate in African American studies degree program, Asante said the school has grown its influence in the field.

“Temple has done a lot for the field, we published the Encyclopedia of Black Studies, published the Hand Book of Black Studies. We edit the premier journal in the field, the Journal of Black Studies.” Asante said.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, the department is having a party hoping to recruit more undergraduate students.  The African American studies program is “healthy” but the undergraduate program has lost numbers, Asante said.

Asante said that one of the problems the department is still facing is student complaints that there are not enough courses courses in the.

“We really need another four full time faculty members which we don’t have,” Asante said.

The next event being held in honor of the African American studies anniversary is a presentation by Cheik Tidiane Gadio, the president of the Institute of Pan African Strategies and the former foreign minister of Senegal. The event is being held at 2 p.m., Oct. 4 in Kiva Auditorium.

Logan Beck and John Moritz can be reached at

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