African American Studies

About Us

Vision and Mission

We strive to:

  • offer courses that focus on both historical and cultural experiences of Black people in Africa and the Americas.
  • collect and disseminate historical and current information that provides an accurate picture of the Black experience as well as aid in the understanding and appreciation of that experience.
  • provide a body of knowledge that is an integral part of the general or liberal education of all students.
  • supply students with analytical and problem solving skills that may be useful in dealing with problems confronting Black communities and the United States at large.
  • facilitate interaction between faculty and students from different backgrounds and disciplines who share an interest in African American Studies.

Dr. Darwin teaching Our strong multidisciplinary faculty members promote excellence through outstanding teaching, research, student mentoring, study abroad, community outreach and public service.


Organized in 1970, WIU's African American Studies Department along with similar departments at San Francisco State, Harvard, Massachusetts, and a handful of others around the nation, shares a proud record of being among the oldest African American Studies departments in America.

The department helps WIU students in exploring the opportunity of the global century through its truly global Africana curriculum, study abroad, and dedicated intellectual contributions of a diverse faculty with research and teaching interest in local and international aspects of our discipline.

WIU's African American Studies Department will remain a leader in attracting a diverse pool of excellent students to Western and in producing graduates ready to meet the challenges of the global world. The department has an interesting history, but one not much different from the developmental history of similarly pioneer African American Studies departments in the nation.

Dr. JoAnnWIU's African American Studies Department developed during a period of racial strife in America in general and Macomb in particular. This period corresponded with the first significant presence of blacks on campus. In response to student demands for a black curriculum, several white instructors devised the first courses examining the black intellectual experience. English professor Norman Anderson headed this effort in 1969-1970. The African American Studies Program, then called the Negro Studies Program, came into existence at WIU in 1970, with Mr. Charles J. Evans as its first Director from 1970 to 1971. Dr. H.O. Ubamadu directed the program after Mr. Evans departure and supervised its achieving a department status. He served also as the department's first chair.

In 1974, under Dr. Ubamadu's leadership, the department offered a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in African American Studies. In 1985, the major in African American Studies was eliminated and the department downgraded into a program with a minor option. The department regained its department status in 1995, and Dr. Aaron Horne served as Acting Chair. Dr. Michael Cooke became Chair in August 1996. The department regained its major in 2003. Dr. Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah became Chair in August 2005. The department currently offers three areas of concentration for its major, Humanities, Social Sciences, and General in addition to courses for Graduate credit. Dr. Alphonso Simpson, Jr., Professor, served as Interim Chair from July 1, 2009 - Summer, 2012. Dr. F. Erik Brooks became Department Chair in July 2012.

Other scholars who served at various times as chair or director of the department/program include:

  • Gil Belles, Interim Department Chair, 1975-76
  • Dr. Essie Rutledge, Department Chair, 1976-1985
  • Dr. Abdi Sheik-Abdi, Director, 1985 - 1992

Between 1992 and 1995, various directors included:

  • Dr. John Q. Adams, Dr. Aaron Horne, Dr. Essie Rutledge, and Dr. Carl Briscoe.

WIU's African American Studies Department has remained a leader in the production of well-rounded graduates ready to contribute in shaping our global world. Our department promotes the Western Illinois University's values of "Academic excellence, opportunity, social responsibility and personal growth."