College of Letters & Science

News & Events

Ntozake Shange
Poet, novelist, and trailblazing playwright Ntozake Shange died this weekend in Bowie, MD., at the age of 70. She was only the second African-American woman ever to have a play on Broadway. Shange is best known for her famous play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. For Colored Girls opened on Broadway in 1976, and was nominated for a Tony Award. It has inspired generations of black female playwrights and — more than 40 years later — it still resonates with new audiences.​ Thulani Davis is a playwright, novelist and professor of Afro-American Studies… Read More
Aretha and Religion: Reflections on the Queen of Soul flyer
Date & Time:
H.F. Deluca Forum, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
"Aretha and Religion: Reflections on the Queen of Soul, Religion, and Culture" is a faculty panel featuring Craig Werner, Alexander Shashko, Susan Ridgely, and Corrie Norman, and will take place in the H.F. DeLuca Forum. An introduction will be provided by John Baldacchino, Director of the Division of the Arts. Aretha Franklin died in August 2018, leaving a rich musical legacy. Our panelists are teaching courses this term that in some way relate to the musical and ritual traditions and the political, cultural and religious contexts that influenced and have been influenced by Ms. Franklin.… Read More
Arethra Franklin
Two members of the Afro-American Studies faculty contributed to national tributes to Arethra Franklin — Thulani Davis on All Things Considered Craig Werner on NBC News, both lending their expertise on Aretha Franklin.
Michael Thornton, UW-Madison Afro-American Studies professor  PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

Michael Thornton says he got his education in the school of hard knocks (before he got his Ph.D. at University of Michigan.) Growing up in a military family, he had to pull up stakes often, and knows what it’s like to live on the wrong side of the tracks.

For the past 28 years, Thornton has been teaching Afro-American studies at UW-Madison, where his chosen field of research — how communities of color interact with each other — is respected, he says. As someone of African-American and Japanese-American heritage, Thornton’s research focus is a natural outgrowth of his life…

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Doria Dee Johnson

It is with deep sadness that the Afro-American Studies Department announces the passing of former graduate student, Doria Dee Johnson.

Doria earned her Master’s Degree in the Afro-American Studies Department in 2009. Her master’s thesis, “Shh- Big Momma and Dem’ Left Last Night: Shifting Violent Memories and the African American Chain Migration, Abbeville South Carolina to Evanston, Illinois” reflected her interest in African American women’s history. As a Ph.D. student in the History Department, Doria continued to research Black women’s history for her dissertation, tentatively…

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Kennedie King
Congratulations to Kennedie King who awarded the Betty Nelson Humanities Scholarship from the College of Letters & Science Undergraduate Scholarships Program. Selecting a recipient is a competitive processes and so it is an honor to be selected and speaks to the student’s academic and civic accomplishments.
Christy Clark-Pujara

Congratulations to Christy Clark-Pujara, who has been awarded a Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award by the Office of the Provost at UW-Madison. These awards are meant to recognize research and teaching excellence in faculty who are relatively early in their careers. These awards provide between $25,000 and $100,000 in flexible funding over two years.

Professor Henry Drewal

Given annually since 1986-1987, the Hilldale Awards recognize distinguished contributions to teaching, research and service. One faculty member is honored in each division. Each recipient receives a $7,500 cash prize and is recognized at a spring meeting of the Faculty Senate. Congratulations Professer Drewal!

History tell us who belongs, who matters and why.

My teaching and research highlights and explains the complexities of racism against black Americans in the formative years of the nation and provides much-needed context for current debates about racial tension and inequity.

Overall, Wisconsinites held very few slaves. Yet, the existence and practice of race-based slavery in the territory and state shaped white attitudes about African Americans because they associated blackness with slavery – the antithesis of citizenship.

As a historian who examines the experiences…

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“It’s crazy being back here,” said Fana Tesfagiorgis, sitting in the dressing room of the Madison Ballet studio. “This is where I used change and get ready for class. Everything seems much smaller now,” she said, gesturing to the child-sized furniture.

Currently dancing in New York City for the prestigious African American modern dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Madison native returned to where it all began for her at the age of four on Tuesday to teach a master class for local dancers.

Tesfagiorgis had been meaning to make it back to the city and…

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