About 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 courses on research methods, race, gender, diversity and inter-cultural education.