Black Studies Programs Arose Out of Civil Rights – What’s Changed 50 Years On

The University of Texas at Austin’s Black Studies program started at the height of the Vietnam War, and has grown to have the largest faculty of any program of its kind in the U.S.

By Laura RiceMarch 12, 2019 10:00 am,

The University of Texas at Austin is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Black Studies program this week with a conference called “Black Studies @50: 1968/1969.” Since then, the program has become the largest of its kind in the country in terms of faculty, and is home to a unique collection of academics, cultural programming, arts and public policy research. It was the first program of its kind in the American South to offer a doctoral degree.

Dr. Jennifer Wilks is an associate professor of English who specializes in African-American literature and African diaspora studies. She’s also chair of this week’s conference. Wilks says the origin of black studies programs coincided with student protests against the Vietnam War and their organizing around other social-justice issues in the late 1960s.

“Young people on college and university campuses started demanding that administrators diversify their curricula, diversify their faculty, and it’s out of these movements that black studies programs emerged,” Wilks says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How universities responded to student demands in the late 1960s

– How black studies programs at UT and other universities have evolved over the years

– How the conference is a celebration of black studies at UT, and an opportunity to shape the future of the department

Written by Caroline Covington.