Africana Studies at Lehigh

Africana Studies at Lehigh

The purpose of the Africana Studies Program is to engender in Lehigh students an intellectual appreciation of the life and culture of people of African descent worldwide, especially in the United States, thereby enriching the Lehigh curriculum and increasing the relevance of a Lehigh education to a culturally diverse society and world. In the best tradition of a liberal arts education, Africana Studies expands all Lehigh students’ critical understanding of their own heritage in interaction with other cultures.  Lehigh’s Africana Studies program is interdisciplinary in orientation providing wide ranging foci and research interests including Hip Hop cultural studies, African-American Literature, Identity and Difference, art history, theory and method in the study of religion, critical race theory, Women, Gender, Sexuality in the African Diaspora, African-American theatre history/performance, race and culture in Africa and the African Diaspora, and so much more. 

In the 1960s black students across the United States demanded Africana studies programs at their universities. While a handful of dedicated faculty at Lehigh began teaching, speaking, organizing programming and hosting events on African and African American topics, it was not until 1990 that Professor William (Bill) R. Scott was hired to direct a program dedicated to these studies. Africana Studies was born. The program still struggled to provide sufficient courses, programming and events to meet the needs of Lehigh Students, although many faculty dedicated their time and energy to increasing diversity in courses offered, mentoring minority students and advising the University on how to improve these efforts. James Braxton Peterson was hired in 2011 as director to expand and invigorate the program.  A cluster of new faculty was hired in 2012-15, many new courses were offered and campus programming increased exponentially. What began as the initiative of a few dedicated faculty in the 1970s has become a vibrant program that significantly impacts the intellectual and community life on and off campus. Today the Africana Studies Program offers more than 50 public programs each year, while more than 15 faculty offer over 35 classes each year, reaching over 450 undergraduate and graduate students. We welcome you to join us! 

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Watch "Uhuru: Rooting Our Voices," a film/documentary which details the evolution of African American Studies at Lehigh University.

The Africana Studies Program’s position on recent racist attack on Africans and Haitians

Black Publics / Lived Experience

Lehigh’s Africana Studies program has been awarded a prestigious $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency that funds high-quality research, education and public programs at colleges and universities, museums and other institutions across the United States. - See more at:

The three-to-one matching grant, announced in December, will require Lehigh to raise $1.5 million over the next five years. The funds will be used to create an endowment to expand the Africana Studies program at Lehigh, including enhancing curriculum, increasing public humanities initiatives and strengthening the program’s community partnerships to further explore public concerns and social justice issues related to race, politics, gender, religion and other areas. 

Programs that will be funded through the NEH Challenge grant include: 

Public Humanities Programs: Including a new Community Visions Program in which faculty and students will join with Bethlehem, Pa., residents and other community partners in forums, town halls and public meetings to deliberate on local concerns that they can address together.

Student workshops: Africana Studies faculty will work in partnership with teachers and administrators to create classroom, curriculum and workshop events that regularly connect high school students with collegiate scholarship. In turn, these partnerships will help inform curriculum development in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Digital documentation: The Africana Studies program will more robustly document and archive its efforts, allowing for broader dissemination to area schools, church and community groups. 

Public Humanities Visiting Fellows: Nationally and locally recognized public intellectuals, artists and activists working in the arts, humanities and social sciences will take up residencies on the Lehigh campus to provide public lectures or performances, conduct workshops or visit classrooms at area schools, among other activities. 

Public Humanities Graduate Fellows: A yearly tuition and stipend will be established for a graduate student pursuing work in Africana Studies and the public humanities. The emphasis will be on linking scholarship to public knowledge building through research activities directly related to community concerns.

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