College of Letters & Science


The Department of Afro-American Studies was born of student activism. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His murder sparked a wave of riots and protests on college campuses across the country. Black students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reacted to the murder of Dr. King by orchestrating a series of strikes intended to force the university’s administration to institute a program of study about African Americans. A year later, in April 1969, then Chancellor Edwin Young appointed a steering committee for what would become the Department of Afro-American Studies. The committee spend the next few months working on a proposal for the department. It was approved in November, 1969. The Department of Afro-American Studies offered its first classes during the fall of 1970. Since then, the Department had educated thousands of students about the history, culture and literature of black people in America, many of whom are now teaching in high schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States and in Europe and Africa.

Photo credits from the home page, from left to right:

  1. Henry Ossawa Tanner, June 21, 1859–May 25, 1937, Public domain
  2. Ida B. Wells, July 16, 1862–March 25, 1931, Public Domain
  3. W.E.B. Du Bois, February 23, 1868–August 27, 1963, Public Domain
  4. Zora Neale Hurston January 7, 1891–January 28, 1960, U.S. Library of Congerss [1], Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-62394 (b&w film copy neg.) Card #2004672085, Author unknown. No known restrictions on publication.
  5. Fannie Lou Hamer, October 6, 1917–March 14, 1977, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
  6. Marvin Gaye, April 2, 1939–April 1, 1984, E Azala Hackley Collection, Detroit Public Library.
  7. Spike Lee, born March 20, 1957, David Shankbone (the photo license allowing commercial and non-commercial use is public.)