The Center for Africana Studies is dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding of the peoples of Africa, their disapora and the impact of this diaspora on humanity. Through its research, academic initiatives and public programming, the Center’s work seeks to explore the profound ways in which African peoples have functioned on a global scale and how their experiences have resonated around the world throughout history.
The Center for Africana Studies was founded in 2002 through the merger of the Afro-American Studies Program, the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture, and other Africana institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. Extending the Afro-American Studies Program’s legacy, the Center’s work focuses on creating an interdisciplinary community that provides members of the University, surrounding communities and the academy with the opportunity to understand and critically evaluate the various forces working to shape the African, African American and African Diaspora experiences in the world.
During the first ten years of its existence, the Center provided an intellectual home base for Africana-centered courses throughout the University and was instrumental in advancing the academic mission of Africana Studies at Penn. In 2002, founder and director Tukufu Zuberi led the effort to change the name of the undergraduate program from “Afro-American Studies” to “Africana Studies” in recognition of the need for the program’s name to reflect a more inclusive and comprehensive study of the Diaspora. Through the work of the Center’s faculty associate director Camille Z. Charles the Center also created the Graduate Certificate Program in Africana Studies in 2007 and the Ph.D. Program in Africana Studies in 2009, both administered by a graduate group of Africana Studies faculty. The creation of the certificate and Ph.D. program appropriately expanded and institutionalized the study of Africa and the African Diaspora at the graduate level at Penn.
The Center for Africana Studies also enhanced and broadly expanded the co-curricular programming, begun forty years prior, by the Afro-American Studies Program into an impressive slate of public programs, further promoting active engagement and enlightenment across the University on issues pertaining to race and the African American and African Diaspora communities. Through these public events, the Center continues to involve the entire University and broader community in debate, discussion and learning.
Currently under the direction of Camille Z. Charles, the Center for Africana Studies seeks to have a lasting impact on the discovery and dissemination of knowledge about the African Diaspora.