Ten years ago Mississippi State University launched its first African American Studies program. Since then, African American Studies at MSU has offered students the opportunity to explore the history, culture and lived experience of African American people and people of African descent throughout the Diaspora. Students and faculty engage black southern history and culture firsthand through our diverse curriculum of courses, our interdisciplinary research, and our sponsored events, such as our Freedom Summer Conference and our Civil Rights Tour.
African American Studies is more relevant now than it has ever been as we continue to grapple with race as a powerful and persistent social construct. As we seek diversity, in both representation and thought, we are ever mindful of the common ground that binds us together as human beings. For in that diversity is the common ground of tradition and lived experience that makes African American culture both relevant and essential to what is distinctly American.
For every celebrated figure in American history, there are unheralded heroes and sheroes: For every Nathan Hale, there is a Crispus Attucks. For every celebrated tinkerer and entrepreneur who shaped the innovative spirit of a Nation there are lesser known individuals: For every Harriet Beecher Stowe, there is a Harriet Ann Jacobs; for every Benjamin Franklin, there is a Benjamin Banneker.
I am excited to facilitate the efforts of our faculty and students as they pursue knowledge and understanding. Like our minds, my door is always open.
Donald M. Shaffer
Director of African American Studies