In honor of 50 years of Black Studies at UW-Milwaukee, The Department of African and African Diaspora Studies hosted a special 50th anniversary event on April 25, 2019 in the Wisconsin Room at the UWM Student Union. The event was co-sponsored by the Division of Global Inclusion & Engagement, the College of Letters and Science, and Africology Now.
Fifty years ago, students in Wisconsin and across the country struggled to create a place for Black Studies in the university. The Center for Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was approved in 1968 and opened in 1969, evolving over time into a department that today offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. In the five intervening decades, students and faculty continued to create scholarship centering the unique and critical perspectives and knowledge of Africans and the African Diaspora. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Evelyn Higginbotham, is an esteemed alumna and Honorary degree recipient who was on campus at the time of the student struggles for Black Studies. Dr. Higginbotham is the former chair of African and African American Studies and current chair of History at Harvard University.
Prof. Higginbotham reflected on the important history of Black Studies programs on our campus as well as the urgent need for African and African Diaspora Studies in our world today and for our future. After her presentation, she joined in a conversation with Dan Burrell (one of the student demonstrators during the inception of the department and its first Chair), Clayborn Benson (a UWM alum and director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society), and Charmane Perry (a graduate of the department’s PhD program) to discuss the turbulent days of the program’s establishment and how Black Studies programs continue to press for transformation of campuses and communities.
Keynote Presentation & Panel Discussion
Thank you to everyone who attended the 50th Anniversary of Black Studies at UWM. It was an overall extraordinary event. In addition, we’d like to extend a special thank you to our co-sponsors, donors, and volunteers for their commitment to making this event so successful.