Louisiana State University Elevates Black Studies to Departmental Status

The Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors recently elevated the African and African American Studies program to department status. Previously, students could only minor in African and African American or make it a concentration of a liberal arts degree. Now, as a department, African and African American Studies will see its budget substantially increase, with more resources devoted to teaching, researching, and recruiting students and faculty.

A decades-long movement at the university to create an independent Black studies department regained steam over the summer amid the resurgence of civil rights protests across the country. The cause was championed as early as the 1970s, but it was not until 1994 that a Black studies program was established at the university.

Thomas Durant was the first leader of the program and now is a professor emeritus. He asked this past July, “How can you get more majors and graduate more students with degrees when you don’t have any faculty, not an established budget and all the faculty are part-time faculty whose major allegiance is to other departments?”

Dr. Durant holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin. He is the co-author of Plantation Society and Race Relations: The Origins of Inequality (Praeger, 1999).

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Comments (2)

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  1. Michael says:

    Too bad LSU don’t value having Black Studies Department in the same way they value all of those Black student athletes playing basketball, football, and running track. That said, the first order of business for the Black Studies Department should be an exhaustive study on “Cancer Alley” and the amount of Reparations the oil companies owe to the thousands of Black families impacted by the scores of deadly chemicals they manufactered in their communities.

    • Thomas Durant, Jr. says:

      Michael is right on all accounts concerning the need for LSU to make an investment in Black Studies by elevating it to full departmental status. Recruiting Blacks for football, basketball, track, and other athletics programs should not take priority over investing in Black Studies. In regard to the adverse impact of chemical plants on the health Black in “Cancer Alley,” more than 20 years ago I recommended that LSU establish a project on The Study of Black Life in the South, that would include social, cultural, economic, psychological, political, and demographic components, that could be a major part of the foundation of Black Studies at LSU. The challenge now is to provide the necessary funding and support to make the newly approved Black Studies Department one of the premier programs in the nation.

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