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African American Studies
University of Mississippi

History of the African American Studies Program

The African American Studies program grew out of demands from African American students attending the University of Mississippi. On February 25, 1970, more than 80 students demonstrated at the university for the establishment of a Black Studies program and the hiring of black faculty and administrators. After the protest, a number of students were arrested. Protesters were housed in the Lafayette County Jail, and over 40 were sent to the Mississippi State Penitentiary known as Parchman Farm until they were bonded out. Eventually, eight students were expelled from the university, but in the fall of that year, the university hired Ms. Jeanette Jennings as the first black faculty member. Also during that year, the first classes were offered under the Black Studies Program. The program has published newsletters, developed the Afro-American Novel project, and organized conferences on Richard Wright, Black Language, Archeology, and the Annual Experience of Black Mississippians.

Chronology of African American Studies Program Administrators:

1978–1980 Dr. Cleveland Donald, first director of Black Studies Program
1980–1981 Dr. Cleveland took leave of absence to work for the National Endowment for the Humanities
1980–1981 Dr. Donald Cole, appointed coordinator
1981–1982 Dr. Thomas Eric Green, acting director
1983–1989 Dr. Ronald Bailey, director (renamed Afro-American Studies Program)
1989–1990 Ms. Marilyn M. Thomas-Houston, coordinator
1990 Dr. Bruce B. Williams, acting director
1990–2003 Dr. James F. Payne, director (renamed African American Studies Program)
2003 Dr. Charles Ross, director
1970–1978 Dr. Harry P. Owens and Ms. Jeanette Jennings, co-advisors of Black Studies Program