Williams College, the highly selective liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has announced that it will begin to offer an Africana studies major this coming fall. Africana studies will be the 37th major available to students at the college. Blacks make up 5 percent of the 2,200-member student body at Williams College, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. In the fall of 2015, Blacks were 13.1 percent of the entering class at the college.
Students have argued for an Africana studies major for decades, advocacy that initially led to the creation of an Afro-American studies program. As the program — and interest in it — grew, the department thoroughly studied the implications of developing a new, nine-course major consisting of three required courses and six electives. The major builds on the current concentration’s two required courses and three electives. The concentration will no longer be offered starting in 2026, once the major is fully implemented.
“The Africana studies major offers students a unique journey through the Williams curriculum that illuminates Black resistance movements against colonialism and the spiritual, artistic, and political imaginaries that have remade landscapes across the world,” said James Manigault-Bryant, chair and professor of Africana studies.
Professor Manigault-Bryant added: “No less important is that the Africana studies major will prepare our students to critically interpret and contest ongoing political efforts to misname Black intellectual traditions, and silence the presence of Black people across the world. While the new major places Williams at the forefront of liberal arts education, there remains an urgency to continue to expand the scope of Africana studies for our learning environment.”
Dr. Manigault-Bryant is a graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans. He holds a Ph.D. from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.