Greetings from the Chair:

There is no segment of our society that has not been touched, influenced, or shaped by the presence of African Americans in the United States. Politics, law, music, art, media, religion, education, healthcare, foreign policy; they all reflect the historic and ongoing struggles for citizenship rights and a basic recognition of a people's humanity. The Department of African American Studies, which will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary at Emory, brings together scholars from a range of disciplines. The centrality of black people's lives and existence to every major institution in the United States drives our scholars' research questions.

For example, how has democracy been shaped by attempts to disenfranchise blacks through efforts such as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and, in this century, requirements for government-issued voter IDs? How has our understanding of God and Christianity been influenced by the enslavement of Africans? What are the cultural means of resistance, survival, and resilience that come through in jazz, blues, gospel and hip-hop? What are the linkages and divisions between literature and social justice movements? How do images in the media influence and shape public policy and vice versa?

Such questions, posed by our faculty, have led to award-winning research in English, history, religion, art, public health, and education. The work has also produced a New York Times best seller. The books and articles written by our faculty are broad-ranging and impressive. But the discipline of African American Studies is about more than the academy. It also is about applying that knowledge in ways that empower students, other members of the Emory community and ultimately, the society at large.

From our teaching to our research we have and will continue to reach beyond the academy and make our presence felt in the public domain. Our scholarship and expertise eddies out from news forums such as CNN, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. We weigh in on public policy for the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, and as expert witnesses in immigration hearings. We create resources, such as the database for Civil Rights Cold Cases in Georgia, that further the cause of justice. We are represented in TheHistoryMakers, the nation's largest African-American oral history collection.

We are committed to working with the community through a number of non-governmental human rights and civil rights organizations. We have created literacy programs for the incarcerated, engaged in struggles that have opened up access to health care and living wages for workers and the poor, and have been recognized for our efforts by the Steed Media Group and DeKalb County for our work in Atlanta.

Our students embody this excellence, as well. Award-winning and publishable student research emerges year-after-year from our classes. Our majors and minors go on to fulfilling careers in law, business and public service, as well as top graduate and professional degree programs throughout the nation.

Welcome to Emory University’s Department of African American Studies, where academic excellence and commitment to social justice is more than a motto. It’s a mission.


Carol Anderson

Announcing the African American Studies PhD Program

Pending Final Review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

W.E.B. Du Bois, a scholar-activist and one of the early forerunners of Black studies, insisted on the essential link between social justice and rigorous scholarship. In keeping with this mandate, the African American Studies (AAS) Ph.D. program provides interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary, intersectional, and transnational training to tomorrow’s leading researchers of African-descended people in the United States and beyond. Our curriculum offers expertise in the cultural practices, visual arts, histories, intellectual traditions, and politics accentuating the global importance of the field and its attendant systems of knowledge production.

As an interdisciplinary graduate program, the AAS Ph.D. Program—the first of its kind in the U.S. Southeast—is a highly selective course of study combining the expertise of an esteemed group of more than 50 core and affiliated graduate faculty with research specializations in disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields such as African & African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literature, Creating Writing, Educational Studies, English, History, Music, Political Science, Religious Studies, Sociology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The program provides rigorous training and preparation for Ph.D. students interested in careers within and outside of academe. Our program is organized around the four pillars upon which African American Studies as a field rests: interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, community engagement, and transnationalism. In addition, each student enrolled in the program will be equipped with specialized training in African American Studies through one of three cognate fields: Gender & Sexuality, Social Justice & Social Movements, and Expressive Arts & Cultures.

Beginning with the first AAS Ph.D. cohort in Fall 2023, we expect to enroll four new Ph.D. students each year. We also anticipate that each student will complete the degree within five to six years. All Ph.D. students are fully funded for five years with an annual stipend of at least $31,000, a tuition remission, and health insurance. Though each student is guaranteed funding and support for five years, funding for a sixth year—if needed—will be possible.

Stay tuned for further announcements about this new and exciting endeavor.

Announcing “Visions of Slavery,” the 2022-23 Mellon Sawyer Seminar:

With a $225,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation, this seminar brings together humanities and social science faculty from Emory University and a diverse range of Atlanta-area colleges and universities for a yearlong series of workshops to explore the manifold ways slavery in the Black Atlantic has been archived, interpreted, memorialized, mobilized, and resisted. The Atlantic slave trade birthed the racial world order, setting the logics of racial inequalities, terror, and violence that resonate throughout the Atlantic world. Understanding the histories of slavery and the struggles against it are necessary components to overturning centuries of racial hierarchy and violence that continue to devalue Black lives. We also seek to assess historical and contemporary forms of “unfreedom”—the various modes of forced labor inclusive of, and extending beyond, chattel slavery, such as peonage, indentured and debt servitude, convict leasing and prison labor, child labor, and sexual exploitation. Our focus on slavery and unfreedom arises from our commitments to social and reparative justice movements in the here and now.

The Sawyer Seminar working group includes Mariana Candido (Associate Professor of History), Adriana Chira (Assistant Professor of History), Bayo Holsey (Associate Professor of Anthropology & Director of Emory’s Institute of African Studies), Walter C. Rucker (Professor of African American Studies & History), Dianne Stewart (Professor of Religion & African American Studies), and Meina Yates-Richard (Assistant Professor of African American Studies & English).

With a concentration of 20 faculty working on various aspects of historical and contemporary forms of slavery and unfreedom, Emory is particularly primed to host the “Visions of Slavery” seminar. These faculty hail from a range of Emory College departments and programs including African American Studies (AAS), Anthropology, Comparative Literature, English, History, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Middle Eastern & South Asian Studies, Philosophy, Religion, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies (WGSS)—as well as from schools throughout Emory University including the Candler School of Theology, the Law School, and the Rollins School of Public Health. Several outstanding doctoral students associated with the Emory faculty targeted for participation in the proposed seminar further augment the number of conversation partners and interlocutors. During the 2022-23 academic year, members of the working group have committed to offering graduate-level courses related to “Visions of Slavery”—including a team-taught and crosslisted offering entitled “The Black Atlantic” (Anthropology/History)—to incentivize active participation in the Sawyer Seminar. In addition, the working group will hire a postdoctoral fellow and appoint two dissertation fellows to participate in the seminar.

Importantly, the seminar will also include faculty experts from local colleges and universities in and near Atlanta, including Agnes Scott College, Clark-Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the University of Georgia. This diverse group of more than a dozen external scholars include faculty in departments of African American Studies, Art History, English, History, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. These faculty come from a diverse range of institutions, ranging from historically Black colleges and universities, to small, women-centered liberal arts colleges, to large, public research universities.