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RU-N's African American and African Studies Department to Get New Name

Rutgers University–Newark’s African American and African Studies Department has led the way in the teaching of and scholarship on Black history, culture and politics—here in the U.S., Africa and the African Diaspora—since it was created in the aftermath of the 1969 takeover of Conklin Hall by members of the Black Organization of Students (BOS).

As one of the many legacies of that seminal moment in the history of RU-N, the entire university, and secondary-education institutions statewide and nationally, the department has played a groundbreaking role in educating generations of students from many backgrounds and opening up professional opportunities for majors and non-majors alike.

In fall 2022, after more than five decades doing this pivotal work, the department will get a new shortened name: Africana Studies. The rebranding comes on the heels of a rapid change within and beyond the department’s walls.

"The department's new name reflects its growth and expanding intellectual and scholarly work and research focus—which encompasses African America, Africa, and the African Diaspora—over the last 10 years,” said Department Chair John Keene.

The department's new name reflects its growth and expanding intellectual and scholarly work and research focus over the last 10 years.

Since 2012, the department faculty has grown by nearly two-thirds, to more than 10 full-time members, as well as adjunct faculty and more than 40 affiliated faculty, according to Keene. That expansion has brought with it a wider range of disciplines and perspectives brought to bear on the core subjects covered by the department’s interdisciplinary curriculum, not to mention a host of awards won by its faculty, including a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, Whiting Foundation Fellowship, Fulbright Awards, the National Endowment for the Humanities Award, and Rutgers University Teacher of the Year award.

The new name is also part of a streamlining effort meant to align the department with its counterparts within the other liberal arts colleges at Rutgers–New Brunswick and -Camden, establishing greater consistency for all three campuses, where, according to Keene, “courses are intellectually commensurate and fall within the same (inter-)disciplinary field.”

Finally, the department’s faculty also wanted to tackle administrative inconsistencies in how its name appeared on its website, catalogs, class schedules, student transcripts, and college and university databases in order to clarify things as much as possible for students. That goal, in turn, led to a broader departmental discussion of the best name in light of its current faculty, course offerings, connections with other departments and programs across all three Rutgers campuses, and the department’s vision about its place in the college, university and broader intellectual community going forward.

“Africana Studies was the most popular name overall and in its expansiveness accurately describes the local and global reach of our research and teaching,” said Keene.