The Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors recently elevated the African and African American Studies program to department status. Previously, students could only minor in African and African American or make it a concentration of a liberal arts degree. Now, as a department, African and African American Studies will see its budget substantially increase, with more resources devoted to teaching, researching, and recruiting students and faculty.
A decades-long movement at the university to create an independent Black studies department regained steam over the summer amid the resurgence of civil rights protests across the country. The cause was championed as early as the 1970s, but it was not until 1994 that a Black studies program was established at the university.
Thomas Durant was the first leader of the program and now is a professor emeritus. He asked this past July, “How can you get more majors and graduate more students with degrees when you don’t have any faculty, not an established budget and all the faculty are part-time faculty whose major allegiance is to other departments?”
Dr. Durant holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin. He is the co-author of Plantation Society and Race Relations: The Origins of Inequality (Praeger, 1999).