The University of Pennsylvania has been offering public lectures on the African American experience since the 1890s, but it wasn’t until almost eight decades later that the first official African American history course was offered at Penn, in 1968. Fast forward to today, where a strong faculty, innovative class offerings, and important new hires in Africana Studies and the History Department in the School of Arts & Sciences are combining to make Penn one of the best places for the field of African American history.
Camille Z. Charles, chair of the Department of Africana Studies, says the faculty in her department “are well-equipped to assess and explain the vast diversity of the global Black experience, rivaling any institution in the United States,” and provide both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional training. “We are excited about the ways in which these new hires will inspire and challenge our students,” Charles says.
Africana Studies recently hired historian Marcia Chatelain, who joined the faculty this fall and whose book “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America” won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2021. Africana Studies has also brought in Vaughn Booker, a religious studies scholar and expert on African American religious history. And the History Department has hired William Sturkey, a public intellectual and a prominent historian of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Penn has a long tradition of being a major center for the study of African American history. What’s happening now is that a new generation of historians is taking up the mantle, delving into new topics with new methods and leading public conversations about the relationship between past and present,” says History department chair Sophia Rosenfeld.