The Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University commemorated its fiftieth anniversary by hosting a two-day symposium on Friday, February 28, and Saturday, February 29, 2020. The two-day symposium began at 1:30pm on Friday, February 28 at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard and included a round table discussion with key members of the Harvard community reflecting upon the early days and founding of the department. There were musical performances by Harvard’s Kuumba Singers, who also turned fifty this year, and by the Yosvany Terry Quintet. Friday’s keynote address, “Fixed and Calmly Brilliant: Fifty Years of African and African American Studies at Harvard,” was given by Farah Jasmine Griffin, ’85, a Harvard alum and current chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies department at Columbia University.
The symposium continued at 9:00am on Saturday, February 29, in Tsai Auditorium at CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street. Saturday’s event had three panel discussions: one, an intergenerational discussion among alumni from the department; another with chairs from other African Studies departments in the country regarding degrees in African Studies; and a third discussing scholar-activism and community engagement. Saturday’s keynote address, “Contesting Africa’s ‘Dissimilarity’: Reflections on Global African Studies” was given by Wale Adebanwi, the Director of the African Studies Centre and the Rhodes Professor of Race Relations at the University of Oxford.
“Harvard’s African and African American Studies department is a leader and exemplar in the field,” said Professor Tommie Shelby, the current chair of the department and the Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and Professor of Philosophy, “I’m proud to be chairing our department at this significant moment in its history. This symposium was an opportunity to reflect upon the department’s past, its changes and growth over the last fifty years, and to explore how we might move it forward into the next fifty years.”
The symposium was live streamed over the internet and recordings can be viewed on this website.