As students at historically black colleges and universities celebrate black history month, majority white schools offer the most departments and degree programs in African and African-American studies.
The reason for this disparity is linked to funding, interest and importance.
History professor David Jackson Jr. said funding shortages are one of the main reasons Historical Black Colleges and Universities don’t offer programs in African or African American history.
“We were trying to add a Ph.D. program in African-American studies and FAMU encounter problems in funding,” Jackson said.
“It’s difficult to set up a department. You have to put together a proposal, the university has to provide a money and there has to be a certain number of teachers per person. There are so many restrictions,” said William Butler, also a history professor.
Also, without sufficient interest, the university cannot maintain a degree program.
“We don’t have enough students majoring in African-American studies to justify an entire department,” Jackson said.
Some students believe African-American history is a vital department to have.
“African-American studies is part of who we are; other schools have studies in European history,” said Nikia Williams, 20, a sophomore biology student from Atlanta.
“I think an African studies department is important because there’s a need for awareness about Africa amongst African-Americans,” said Papaa Amissah, 20, a sophomore economics student from Accra, Ghana.
Though black universities such as Howard and Lincoln have African-American studies departments, the majority of the programs are at large, predominantly white universities. Butler believes the reason for African-American studies departments at majority white schools is not what many assume it to be.
“They made the departments because they didn’t want to dilute or denigrate the authenticity of their American history departments,” Butler said.
Though students already learn black history in most of their classes, the need for programs at HBCU’s is still a constant plea of faculty and students.
“It’s one thing to experience it coincidentally and another thing to do it deliberately where you contribute to the field of study,” Jackson said.
Most African and African-American studies departments at predominantly white schools are a result of the militant stance taken by black students at these schools in the 1960s.