Black Studies and the Democratization of American Higher Education: An Interview with Charles P. Henry.

AuthorZulu, Itibari M.

Charles P. Henry ( is Professor Emeritus of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities for a six-year term, he is a past president of the National Council for Black Studies, and author/editor of eight books and more than 80 articles and reviews on Black politics, public policy, and human rights. Before joining the University of California at Berkeley in 1981, he taught at Denison University and Howard University. He was chair of the board of directors of Amnesty International U.S.A. from 1986 to 1988 and is a former NEH Post-doctoral Fellow and American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. In 1994-95 he served as an office director in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State. Professor Henry was Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American History and Politics at the University of Bologna, Italy for the Spring semester of 2003. In the fall of 2006, he was one of the first two Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chairs in France teaching at the University of Tours. He holds the Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence in April 2008, and a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Chicago. His recent publications include The Obama Phenomenon: Toward a Multiracial Democracy, co-editor (University of Illinois Press, 2011), Long Overdue: The Politics of Racial Reparations, (New York University Press, 2007), and Foreign Policy and the Black (Inter)national Interest, editor (State University of New York Press, 2000).

IMZ: Thank you for this interview, there are many discussions in Black Studies (African American Studies, African Diaspora Studies, Africana Studies, Africology, Afro-American Studies, Pan African Studies, etc.), and your voice in "Black Studies and the Democratization of American Higher Education" is indeed a significant contribution. When I read the title of your book, I asked myself, 'has Black Studies democratized American higher education' when the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has reported on college campus racial incidents on its website that for the last two decades, there were an average of about fifty incidents a year?

Is my hesitation warranted, considering that Black Studies has been in a constant battle since its formal birth, to the recent formation (2014-2017) of the California State University Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies, sparked by an initiative launched by the Department of Africana Studies at California State University at Long Beach, focused on the status, state, sustainability, development and future of ethnic studies in the California State University system (twenty-three campuses), and around the country?

CPH: You are right. Black Studies always seems to be in a crisis--especially if you read "The Chronicle for Higher Education." However, I would argue that we are now firmly entrenched in the academy but it takes continual vigilance. The first decade or so university officials would ask me how long they thought...

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