Department of African American Studies records, 1970-2003

Emory University

Emory University Archives

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/bmfh0

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Emory University. Dept. of African American Studies.
Title: Department of African American Studies records, 1970-2003
Call Number:Series No. 135
Extent: 8.75 linear ft. (17 boxes)
Abstract:The Department of African American Studies was established at Emory University in 2003 from the African American Studies Program, 1992-2003, previously known as the Black Studies Program, 1971-1980; Afro-American and African Studies Program, 1980-1984; and African American and African Studies Program, 1984-1992. Prominent faculty members included Dolores P. Aldridge, the program's first chairperson, and Rudolph P. Byrd. The collection is chiefly the records of the Department of African American Studies' institutional predecessors at Emory University. Records consist of administrative materials, curriculum and course offerings, correspondence, programs and event planning, annual reports and audio-visual materials. There are also materials related to Emory University's affirmative action program, racial inequities at the University, and the recruitment of African American faculty members and students.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Selected materials are restricted in accordance with Emory University Archives policy for student educational records and personnel records

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.




[after identification of item(s)], Department of African American Studies records, Emory University Archives, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, 2011.

Collection Description

Administrative History

In 1968 undergraduates at Emory University joined in national calls for the expansion of academic curricula to include the study of African American history, society, culture and politics. Along with the organizational efforts of Emory's only full-time African American faculty member, Delores P. Aldridge, this call resulted in the creation of an undergraduate program in Black Studies at Emory in 1970 which began operation the following year. Aldridge was named the first director and remained so until 1991. In its first ten years, the program struggled with a lack of funding, an absence of permanent faculty or staff, and the small number of African American faculty, staff and students at Emory. Nevertheless it managed to establish a body of course offerings across a range of academic departments within the University. Its influence extended beyond curriculum to address awareness of racism on campus and advocacy for African American students and organizations. The program also sponsored exhibits, lectures, symposia and conferences, pushed for greater library holdings, fostered awareness about discrimination and encouraged the recruitment of minority faculty and staff. The program's early institutional years should be seen in the context of growing awareness of these issues at Emory and the subsequent creation of the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Affirmative Action Program.

In her report "10 Years of Struggle" in 1981, Aldridge listed survival as the single most impressive achievement of the program. Catering to significant and unaddressed demands but with minimal institutional support and no control over the recruitment of its interdisciplinary faculty entailed serious and not always fully compensated effort on the part of Aldridge and others. From these challenging institutional beginnings, by the late 1980s the program was becoming more established. In 1989 it hosted the first annual Grace Towns Hamilton lecture named after a native Atlantan who was the first African American woman elected to a state legislature in the Deep South. The program also sponsored the annual keynote lecture during Martin Luther King Jr. week.

In 1992, Rudolph Byrd was appointed the first full-time director of the program. In the same year the expanding African studies portion of the department was relocated to the Institute for African Studies that had been created in 1988. The two institutions maintained close contact and encouraged students to pursue studies across both fields.

Rudolph Byrd increased the already active presence of the African American Studies Program in a host of individual and recurring events. From 1993-1995 Byrd cooperated with the Atlanta History Center in the series "Exploring the Problem of the Color Line" as well as the Symposium "Remembering Frederick Douglas" that coincided with the centennial of the Cotton State and International Exhibition. The following year the AAS brought in Nobel Prize winners Wole Soyinka and Desmond Tutu to speak during the Cultural Olympiad as part of the Atlanta Summer Olympics. In the same year the AAS co-hosted the first annual Lecture on Race and Gender with the Women Studies department. In 1997 Byrd was involved in the establishment of a student exchange with the University of the West Indies entitled "Emory in the Caribbean." He also traveled to South Africa to explore exchange programs with a range of universities. The records also make clear that AAS was more directly involved than in the past with joint candidate searches among other departments. As such they were able to have a voice in selecting future faculty that would form core and affiliate members of the program.

By 2003 the over thirty years of organizing by Aldridge, Thee Smith, Byrd, Mark Sanders and Leslie Harris among many others resulted in the creation of an official department of African American studies.

Scope and Content Note

The collection is chiefly the records of the Department of African American Studies' institutional predecessors at Emory University. The earliest materials relate to the founding of the Black Studies Program in the early 1970s. The records in this collection measure approximately 8.75 linear feet of which 2.25 linear feet are audio-visual material. The collection is organized into three series: Administrative Materials, Programs and Events and Audio-Visual Materials.

The Administrative Materials series (1970-2000) is arranged into Budget, Correspondence, Committees, Subject Files, Personnel, Curriculum and Reports subseries. The Budget sub-series contains the program's financial reports and expenses which are only complete for the 1990s. For other budget related issues see the Annual reports. The correspondence subseries covers communication surrounding a range of issues but especially the organization of events, lecture and the establishment of programs. The collection respects the original order in which this correspondence was filed by the program even though the correspondence subseries overlaps with a number of other sub-series and the Programs and Events series. The volume of letters increased drastically after the program hired its first full time secretary Rudolph Byrd in 1992. The correspondence subseries also includes letters of recommendation which are restricted for privacy. The Committees subseries contains the meeting minutes of the Executive committee. The Subject Files subseries contains information related to a range of institutional moments that fall outside the purview of other subseries. These include the library endowment fund, the recognition of the National Council for Black Studies, the creation of a minor concentration in African studies that led to the separation of African American and African Studies, the construction of the website, affirmative action statistics and a fraternity incident from 2000. The Personnel subseries contains information about individual core and associate faculty of AAS organized alphabetically. The Curriculum subseries contains a thorough listing of "course offerings" of the program from the early 1980s through to 2000, including descriptions and some syllabi. This subseries also contains meetings of the Curriculum Committee. Finally, the reports subseries consists of Annual Reports of the program as well as several other special reports of sub-committees, external reviews and anniversary reports such as the 10 year report entitled "A Decade of Struggle."

The Programs and Events (1973-2002) series is divided into two subseries: recurring and non-recurring. The recurring programs/events subseries contains folders organized under specific program and event names that were annual or permanent. These include the undergraduate internship program of the AAS, the annual Grace Towns Hamilton Lecture, summer retreats, the Summer Study Abroad Program, Emory in the Caribbean, Martin Luther King Jr. Week, and Black History Month. The non-recurring events/programs subseries contains one-time events, lectures and programs. Within this series there is a separation between events that produced little supporting information which are organized chronologically under the generic term "events." Larger events with more significant supporting materials are foldered separately. These include "Exploring the Problem of the Color Line" (1993-1995), the ILA Summer Retreat (1994), Remembering Frederick Douglas(1995), the Cotton States and International Exhibition Centennial(1995) and the Cultural Olympiad(1996). Other frequent one-time events that produced less documentation are contained under chronologically organized "Events" folders within the same sub-series.

The Audio-Visual (1985-2003) series is divided into subseries according to the medium of production. These include images (photographs and slides), VHS tapes, an audio cassette, and several of the original camcorder tapes (large format 8mm Beta) all corresponding to events sponsored by the department. The photographs have been foldered chronologically. Within the folders, photos from specific events have been grouped in separate envelopes with the event flyer clipped to the front. Unlabelled photos have been labeled as such and enclosed within the date range that their original placement suggests. All slides are contained in a single box and remain in the organization in which they arrived in the archive. VHS cassettes take up 2 boxes(2 linear feet) within the collection. Box 15 consists of those that are dated and labeled. They have been organized chronologically with the Grace Towns Hamilton lecture recordings grouped separately. Labeled but undated materials, organized alphabetically, and those with no labels whatsoever are contained in box 16 along with several of the original camcorder tapes. All of the original camcorder tapes have also been copied onto VHS and are found labeled and dated in box 15. Unlabelled VHS tapes have not been viewed to determine content.

Arrangement Note

The archives of the Department of African American Studies are divided by subject at the Series, sub-series and folder level. At the folder level they are organized chronologically within each subject heading. The Audio Visual section is divided by the medium of production and then chronologically. The VHS cassettes are organized chronologically within the boxes.

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