By Heidi Anoszko
1968 was a year of widespread upheaval, and the sphere of higher education was no different. Marginalized students and allies across the country began organizing coalitions and demonstrating for better representation on campus, culturally relevant courses, improved access to higher education, and cultural spaces for students of color.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus was at the forefront of this movement, establishing one of the first Black Studies departments in the United States. In June 1968, the UWM Faculty Senate approved the creation of the Center for Afro-American Studies, a predecessor to today’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS), and the UW System Regents approved UWM’s proposal for a permanent Center in fall 1969.
Now in 2019, AADS at UWM is recognized for the expertise of its faculty, its robust coursework, and as one of the fewer than 20 departments offering a PhD in the discipline.
This triumph would not have been possible without the activism of UWM students who fought tirelessly for a voice and place in academia. The efforts of these dedicated activists changed the trajectory of UWM and higher education.
Black Studies departments and programs across the country continue this struggle today. Focused globally and grounded in Milwaukee, the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies and its extraordinary history continue to empower the UWM Community fifty years later.
To commemorate this milestone of the AADS department, the UWM Libraries’ Diversity Advisory Committee has installed an exhibit, 50 Years of Black Studies at UWM, in the Daniel M. Soref Learning Commons, located on the first floor west wing of the Golda Meir Library. The exhibit follows the department’s journey from activism to academia and focuses on student efforts that set the history in motion.
50 Years of Black Studies at UWM was designed in collaboration with AADS faculty to complement a public celebration and panel discussion being held in the UWM Student Union Wisconsin Room April 25 at 7 p.m. Harvard University’s Dr. Evelyn Higginbotham will deliver a keynote address followed by a panel discussion featuring Dan Burrell, the first Director of the Center for Afro-American Culture at UWM; Clayborn Benson of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society; and Charmane Perry, a recent graduate of the AADS PhD program. This event is free and open to the public. Find event details on this page: https://uwm.edu/news/uwm-to-celebrate-50-years-of-black-studies/
The exhibit in the library runs through May 31, 2019.