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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Program of African Studies


Northwestern University's Program of African Studies, founded in 1948, was the first program on Africa in the nation and the first multidisciplinary program at Northwestern. Developed by anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits to train a corps of scholars maintaining African interests across disciplinary lines, the Program grew to include core and associated faculty from such diverse disciplines as African-American studies, art history, history and literature of religions, law, management, medicine, music, and technology, as well as anthropology, history, political science, and sociology.

Following Herskovits' death in 1963, Gwendolen M. Carter, formerly of Smith College, became director of the Program in 1964. Assisted by Associate Director Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Carter presided over considerable expansion of the Program and of African studies in general. At Carter's retirement in 1974, linguist Abraham Demoz became director, assisted by Assistant Director Fay A. Leary. In September 1980, political scientist John Paden became the director of the Program.

Founded with Carnegie Corporation funding, the Program has received support from a number of public and private sources outside the university, among them the Ford Foundation, the Office of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Private benefactors have also been cultivated. Numerous special projects and seminars have been conducted by the Program, including a Ford Foundation funded project to study factors affecting national unity; summer institutes in Ghana and Ethiopia; Office of Education sponsored seminars for high school teachers; and a project, also sponsored by the Office of Education, to design curriculum for a basic course in African Studies.

African languages, which were not stressed in the Program's early years, became a major part of the curriculum in 1964 with the establishment of the Department of African Languages (later the Department of Linguistics). Supported by Office of Education Language and Area grants, this department has offered training in a wide range of African languages, including, at various times, Yoruba, Twi, Swahili, Hausa, Amharic, Akan, and Arabic.

The Program has long maintained close contact with Africa and with Africanists from around the world. Visiting professors and lecturers are traditional, the Monday Night Lecture Series, one of the Program's oldest activities, draws both the Northwestern community and the general public to hear prominent Africanists. In addition, the Program strongly encourages both students and faculty to do field work in Africa, often supporting such research with various fellowships and grants.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Records of the Anthropology Department

Identifier: 11/3/2/4
Abstract The Records of the Anthropology Department, filling five boxes, span the years 1964 to 1973. No records exist for the 1965-66 academic year. The bulk of the records fall between 1964 and 1969 and include, but are not limited to, annual reports, applications for graduate study or employment, budgets, correspondence, curriculum, department memos, faculty curriculum vitae, and materials relating to fellowships, the Program of African Studies, research proposals, and summer sessions.
Dates: 1964 - 1973; Other: Majority of material found within 1965 - 1969

Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963) Papers

Identifier: 35/6
Abstract Anthropologist Melville Jean Herskovits presided over the creation of the department of anthropology at Northwestern University in 1938. In 1961, Northwestern appointed Herskovits to the Chair of African Studies, the first such position in the United States. The Melville J. Herskovits Papers document Herskovits' career during a period of very rapid growth of both anthropology and African studies. The bulk of the collection consists of professional correspondence and manuscripts of publications,...
Dates: 1906-1963