The Center for African American History (CAAH) draws together scholars from across the disciplines to promote the study of all aspects of African American history and the history of the African Diaspora. Defining African American history in the broadest possible terms with a commitment to Diasporic scholarship, CAAH calls upon a fine cadre of scholars who specialize in the histories of the U.S., Latin America, Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean. The Center is an outgrowth of the great strides that the departments of African American Studies and History have made in recruiting prominent new faculty to enhance the university’s longstanding strength in African History, and the study of the African Diaspora in the Americas. It is a testament to these scholars’ commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship and intellectual collaboration.
In the nine years since its founding, the Center has grown into a vibrant community of engaged faculty and students across departments. With generous funding from Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the CAAH continues to sponsor a fall lecture series, an annual symposium on a burgeoning subfield within African American history and the history of the African Diaspora, and a graduate student-led dissertation-working group.
Dr. Darlene Clark Hine, Northwestern University Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies and History, served as the inaugural director for 2004-2007 and continues to spearhead this innovative endeavor. The University of Illinois Press published the Center’s first publication, a co-edited Anthology, Black Europe and the African Diaspora in August 2009. Seven faculty affiliates serve as the Center’s planning board, assisting in the Center’s governance, programming and intellectual life.
We believe that there are a number of reasons why the Center for African American History is poised to become one of the nation’s leading Centers for the study and teaching of African American history. First, Northwestern has a long tradition in training scholars of African American history and the history of the African Diaspora. This legacy of excellence is due in no small measure to the exceptional collection of Africana documentary evidence housed in Northwestern’s Melville Herskovits Library of African Studies. Second, Northwestern now holds the distinction of having twelve scholars working in African American history and the history of the African Diaspora, a feature that many of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning cannot claim. The intellectual range and depth embodied within these scholars provides the Center for African American History with a truly rare set of skills and talents. Third, the geographical context of the university provides a wonderful environment for the development of intellectual partnerships with a range of institutions. Departments of History and African American Studies, programs and centers at the University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago State University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University, and DePaul University offer unique opportunities in this regard.
In addition to these institutions and Northwestern’s extensive library holdings, area research institutions such as the Chicago Historical Society, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Newberry Library, and the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature offer additional opportunities for intellectual collaboration. While most centers operate primarily as research-supporting entities, CAAH has distinguished itself as a service oriented enterprise dedicated to training and mentoring teachers and students of African American history and the history of the African Diaspora. In an effort to achieve the Center’s mission, we envision sponsoring a series of summer workshops aimed at three initiatives: “training high school teachers of African American and American history,” “graduate students professionalizing,” and “mentoring assistant professors working to transform dissertations in African American history into book manuscripts.”