About Pan-African Studies

The history and mission of the Department of Pan-African Studies is located below.

History of the PAS Department...

The Mission of the Department Today...

Career Opportunities in Pan-African Studies


In the 1960s and 1970s the demand for a more inclusive curriculum, faculty, and students resulted in the emergence of the people of African descent inside of universities and colleges across America. This was the beginning of the development of the discipline of Black Studies (Afro-American, Africana, African American, and Pan-African Studies). The number of programs in Black Studies, while slowly increasing, is still largely underrepresented in universities and colleges locally and nationally. Moreover, no two Black Studies programs are alike and few like ours are multidisciplinary in composition with a geographical focus on the African Diaspora. It is reported that nationally there are 300 degree granting institutions that offer Black Studies programs. In Kentucky, the number of institutions that have established Black Studies programs and/or departments have increased to approximately 9 in 2010. Overall, there are 40 degree granting institutions in Kentucky and only 22.5% offer Black Studies and PAS at the University of Louisville is the only degree granting department.
The Department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) at the University of Louisville is part of this history and movement. It traces its origins to the campus unrest of the late 1960s. The first "Black Studies" courses were offered in Summer 1969 in response to the "demands" of African American students and their community allies. After hiring a small complement of faculty, the Department itself was established formally in 1973. Although many "Black Studies" programs soon disappeared, PAS survived as a small Department through the 1970s and 1980s due to the dedication of its faculty, students, and community supporters. In 1990-1991, then president, Dr. Donald C. Swain, approved a "Plan to Enhance the Department of Pan-African Studies" which enabled the Department to expand its faculty and strengthen its programs. Today, PAS is the only Black Studies Department in Kentucky with a comprehensive undergraduate curriculum, evolving graduate programs, and a strong commitment to research and service.
In 1997 an external evaluation of the department reported that the University of Louisville's PAS program ranked in the top 10 percent of "Black Studies" programs in the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. More recent recognition of the department's scholarship is reflected in an award for Outstanding Institutional Achievement in African Studies presented to the department by the National Council for Black Studies in 2009. The award is based on the level and consistency of presentations by the department's students and faculty at the NCBS annual conference.
Overall, the department occupies an important place within the larger mission of the University of Louisville's quest for advancing knowledge and understanding of problems of the twenty-first century. The goals of the department include the advancement of scholarship, research, and knowledge that contributes to the understanding of social inequality and cultural diversity particularly as it eschews racial and ethnic bigotry and the intersectionality with other forms of oppression.

The richness, breadth and depth of the multidisciplinary field of Pan-African Studies are reflected  in the curriculum and programs of the Department.  The PAS core curriculum focuses on Africa and the African Diaspora (i.e., persons of African ancestry in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America).  In addition, PAS offers field study and internships experiences, and special coures on research methods, race, gender, diversity and inter-cultural education.


The Mission of the Department of Pan-African Studies Today


The department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) fosters the multidisciplinary study of the societies and cultures of Africa and persons of African ancestry past and present, throughout the world. To this end, PAS offers an extensive program of study, including undergraduate major and minor and, ultimately, graduate programs focusing on Africa and the Diaspora. This program of study seeks to:

  1. Give students a broad understanding of the history, societies and cultures of the African world;
  2. Equip students to apply Pan-Africanist scholarship to the analysis of and engagement with contemporary social and cultural issues;
  3. Engage in the interrogation of prior research and build new scholarship that reflects the perspectives and experiences of people from the African Diaspora;
  4. Prepare students for the workforce or for graduate work in Pan-African Studies and/or related fields;
  5. Add an inter-cultural dimension to other academic programs.

Fifteen faculty members hold full or joint appointments in the Department of Pan-African Studies with areas of specialization that include art, religion, music, communications, literature, popular culture, history, anthropology, education, sociology and political science of the African world.

As scholars, the faculty of the Department contributes to the creation of new knowledge and the development of new methodologies emerging from Pan-African experiences and formulations of meaning. The Department is committed to sharing this knowledge through teaching and research, and applying it through service in the local, state, regional, national and international communities. PAS aspires, as its ultimate goal, to become a Department of national and international distinction.


Career Opportunities in Pan-African Studies


PAS majors have career options quite similar to those of students with baccalaureate degrees in the humanities and social sciences and a PAS minor often enhances the employability of students who major in other fields.

Increasingly, PAS majors are also finding career opportunities specific to the discipline itself. Such opportunities are most common in social, cultural and educational agencies/organizations, and in business and international affairs initiatives that concern people of color. Other PAS graduates choose to pursue graduate degrees. Programs in Education, Social Work, Law and the liberal arts, including advanced work in Black Studies, are the most common choices.