About Us

Philosophy and Mission

The Brown University department of Africana Studies is dedicated to the critical examination of the theoretical, historical, literary, and artistic developments of the various cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora. Our commitment to rigorous scholarship and robust student development and community empowerment is grounded in a truly global understanding of the reach and implications of the Africana world. The department is an institutional member of the National Council of Black Studies.

A Meeting Place of Ideas

The department is a meeting place for faculty and students from across Brown University who are concerned, in the broadest sense, with Africana experiences in all their complexity. All faculty members have research and teaching specialties that provide students with the broadest understanding of the discipline of Africana Studies as well as innovative interdisciplinary scholarship. Africana Studies at Brown is distinguished by its focus on the ways of thinking and the various knowledges produced by Africana thought, practice and experience.

Creative Intersections

Central to the work of the department is Rites and Reason Theatre, a forum for arts and ideas. This unique intellectual and artistic space allows artists to collaborate closely with scholars to discover the underlying harmonies between academic and artistic perceptions of the world. Rites and Reason provides the department with important means of interaction with various academic and non-academic communities.

The department also has special strengths in the literary arts. Several highly distinguished writers from Africa and the African Diaspora are members of the Africana Studies faculty. In addition, the department has several noted scholars of Africana literature and literary criticism.

Global Dialogues

The department is also involved in international collaborative research projects. Our past partnership with the University of Cape Town, South Africa and the University of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica demonstrates the department’s strong interests in forging educational ties with scholars and research institutions in continental Africa and the African Diaspora.  Such research collaborations provide undergraduate and graduate students with research and study aboard opportunities that enrich their understanding and analysis of Africa and the African diaspora. These and other collaborative research and teaching projects reflect the department’s dedication and commitment to the global examination of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Local Roots

The department has a proud history of commitment to engaging in the civic life of the greater Providence community and continues to provide significant opportunities for students to become involved in a variety of social and civic activities in Providence. 

Original Research Opportunities

In addition to the strong ties with our departmental colleagues across the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences, the department maintains collaborative research relationships with a variety of centers, programs, and initiatives at Brown including:

Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Brown International Advanced Research Institutes 
Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies
Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
Cogut Center for the HumanitiesCreative Arts Council
John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women
Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions
Watson Institute for International Studies

The Brown University Library provide numerous opportunities for original research in Africana Studies. The John Hay Library has the Harris Collection on American Poetry, Popular Entertainment and Plays; the McClellan Lincoln Collection; and the Metcalf Collection of Pamphlets. The John Carter Brown Library has one of the best collections in this hemisphere of works published in and about the New World before the nineteenth century. The Brown libraries are particularly outstanding for their extensive holdings in the areas of slavery, colonialism, and race relations. Microfilm collections include the FBI files on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as the papers of W. E. B. Du Bois, Alexander Crummell, and Carter G. Woodson.