Black Studies at the University of Oregon: A Liberation Project

The Mission

Black Studies is a liberation project for Black people in the United States and across the Diaspora. As an academic discipline, we will strengthen opportunities at our University for faculty, students, and staff committed to bringing to light the hidden histories, submerged thought, and radical visions of a future without racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty and food insecurity, militarism, and settler colonialism. We do so by centering Black thought, by honoring centuries of Black people’s interrogations of Western thought and history, and by committing this program to the struggle for America to finally live up to its founding ideals, or, the radical dreaming of new ideals so people can have a different relationship to one another and to the planet.

The Vision

Our minor is a foundation, a starting point for a deeper commitment by the University of Oregon to repair decades of systemic anti-Black racism that has left Black faculty, staff, and students not only under-represented, but under-valued. We envision growth. We see a bright future where the UO can stand as a beacon in the region as a place where Black thought shines brightly. While we are incredibly blessed and grateful to begin the work of Black Studies – known as BLST – formally here at the UO, we ourselves have some work to do. We will continue to add and expand our course offerings, and we will do so across the university. And as our family of faculty, staff, and students grows, we hope to bring Black Studies at the UO to a comparable place where other renowned institutions are already sitting: With a full and robust Black Studies Department.

The Values

Black Studies is a project of liberation. Black Studies is not a panacea for this university’s history of institutionalized racism. Black Studies will not fix problems. It is an opportunity to study. We value intellectual rigor, intense debate, and infinite freedom dreams. We honor our ancestors and this home. So much of what has been damaged in the modern world, in the movement to colonize and control, to enslave and oppress, has damaged our relationships to one another, to our ancestors, and to the land, Earth, water, and air that we depend on for life. No anti-racist project can exist without commitments to end food and home

insecurity, and to find healthy and nurturing ways to connect back to the cosmologies, spiritual practices, or, even more simply, the ways in which our ancestors saw the world with very different eyes. We recognize the power our young people have to literally change the world. Black Studies itself would not exist without students and their righteous anger and indignation to say we need to do things differently. We see Black Studies as an opportunity to give students the historical background, critical analytical tools, and awareness of the deeply complex power dynamics necessary to remake our world into a home rather than one expansive area of conflict.

The Minor

Born out of the Black freedom struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, the discipline of Black Studies is a political and an intellectual project where scholarly inquiry serves as a path to the empowerment and liberation of people of African descent socially, politically, and spiritually. The BLST Minor (28 credits) also recognizes the centuries-long history of Black thought existing prior to formal disciplinary formation; our program spans centuries, crosses oceans, and is shaped by multiple geographies and cultural practices. Students will have the chance to immerse themselves in histories of African and African-descended people rooted in and routed through the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, and imperialism across the Diaspora. From pre-colonial, thriving African civilizations through the anti-Slavery abolition movement to the prison abolition movement, from decades of Race Men to Black Feminism and Black Queer Studies, from the African continent to the Americas to the Caribbean and all throughout the Diaspora, our program offers globe-spanning breadth as well as opportunities to dig deeply into particular areas of Black thought, art, and activism, especially within the United States and African American communities. Furthermore, students will develop methodological approaches that center Blackness for analyzing power in the Modern world through intersectional and critical frameworks located in scholarly and non-traditional archives.

Students completing the minor will learn:

  • How Blackness exists historically as a theoretical site and as lived experience, producing both ruptures to White Supremacist Patriarchy structures, as well as a generative site and experience for imagining and enacting freedom dreams.
  • How knowledge production of Blackness circulates through multiple and overlapping intersections with ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, and other vectors of power and identity.
  • How historical and contemporary national and transnational migrations of Black communities influence Black cultures and identities as well as political and social institutions across the globe and especially in the United States.
  • How the traditions of African American cultural production and cultural forms from across the Diaspora (including literature, music, oral traditions, visual art, film, and all genres of printed text) are defined by distinct formal and thematic characteristics and how such cultural forms have both recorded histories of racist oppression and radically imagined Black liberation and a more just future.