Skip to main content

Statement from the Director

James L. Conyers, Jr., Ph.D., Director & Professor of African American StudiesI would like to offer greetings from my desk as the director of the African American Studies program at the University of Houston. The transition to the Lone Star State has been positive, and we look forward to the formation and advancement of African American Studies (i.e., use of terms, Africana Studies and Africology, are used interchangeably) at the University of Houston.

Proffering a historical context, the movement for the organizational structure of African American Studies on the UH campus began in the spring of 1968. Indeed, as a sign of the times, protest and social activities were important features of advancing societal change during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s.

Celebrating the 45th anniversary, there has been a renewed initiative from students, faculty and administration to facilitate African American Studies' advancement from a program to an autonomous departmental unit. A department of Africana Studies at the University of Houston would entail a number of significant firsts. With the vision of departmental status, African American Studies at the University of Houston would exist as the first and only departmental unit in the southwestern region of the United States and, equally important, the state of Texas.

Further, the existence of an Africana Studies department would provide University of Houston students the unprecedented opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in this specified field of study. On the national and international scene, there has been debate and discussion concerning the validity and existence of Africological Studies. Detractors continuously posit ideas of the irrelevance and stature of the discipline. On the other hand, those committed scholars in the discipline of Africology have maintained defending, preserving and advancing this interdisciplinary African-centered study of Africana phenomena.

Accordingly, the publication of books, monographs, articles and the development of scholarly journals have anchored this holistic movement. Still, the challenges of enhancing and advancing theory, methodology and praxis are critical to the prioritization and mission of Africana Studies. Certainly, my vision and mission for the unit, along with the support and input from members of the campus and external community, is to build and develop a nationally visible department of African American Studies at the University of Houston. Some readers could envision this task to be ambitious. On the other hand, the advancement of the University of Houston as a tier-one research university establishes a lexicon and barometer for academic units to prioritize research, teaching and service.

African American Studies shares these responsibilities and duties in fulfilling its objectives and vision as an academic unit of the University. Furthermore, there are various resources throughout the Houston community to support and sustain applied research projects with emphasis on Africana phenomena. Likewise, with a committed staff and active student body, an African American Studies program will continue with a charge and vision to prioritize research and undergraduate education at the University of Houston.

Last, I welcome all of you to visit the new office suite of the African American Studies program at 629 Agnes Arnold Hall. I also welcome you in joining us in the important and pioneering work of developing and building the first departmental academic structure in African American Studies in the state of Texas and the southwest region that is dedicated to the research, teaching, writing and service of Africana phenomena.

— James L. Conyers, Jr., Ph.D., Director & Professor of African American Studies Program at UH