STORRS, Conn. — Students at the state’s flagship university will be
able to earn degrees in the study of black history and culture starting
this fall if a state board approves the school’s plans.
The University of Connecticut is asking the state Board of Higher
Education to approve an interdisciplinary major it will call African
Ten UConn professors will teach topics ranging from politics and
psychology to the roots of jazz, the impacts of racism, and the culture
and history of black Americans. The university’s board of trustees
approved the program at its January meeting.
UConn students currently can minor in African American studies or build
their own individualized major at state universities. However, Wesleyan
and Yale are the only Connecticut universities that offer majors in the
“It’s conspicuous that there is no African American studies major at
any public university in Connecticut,” said Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, a UConn
history professor who also is director of its Institute for African
“I really think it’s important because the university is positioning
itself as a national or international university with a reputation that
extends beyond Connecticut,” he said.
UConn Provost Peter Nicholls said the major complements UConn’s goals
to study other cultures and attract a more diverse student body, which
is now about 19 percent minority.
“Diversity is a big thing for us. It’s going to be a prominent piece of
our academic plan. If we are going to be able to mount a major of this
sort, it speaks directly to the issue,” Nicholls said.
Charles E. Jones, president of the National Council for Black Studies,
said UConn’s new major comes amid a renaissance in black studies.
An initial surge occurred during the 1960s and 1970s as students staged
sit-ins to pressure universities to diversify their curriculums.
However, black studies programs declined in the 1980s as states faced
budget cuts. Many universities downgraded these departments to
programs, or blended them into a comprehensive department studying
several racial groups, Jones said.
Another resurgence occurred in the early 1990s after Harvard University
assembled a prestigious team of top black studies scholars. Around the
same time, other universities began to offer doctoral programs.
About 300 universities nationwide currently offer black studies majors
and seven — including Yale and the University of Massachusetts — offer
doctoral programs, Jones said.