Introduction to the special edition: pedagogies that work for students of African descent.

Author:James, Jessica S.

In the wake of Black student protests against hostile conditions on predominantly white campuses (PWI's) such as the University of Missouri, Occidental College, Georgetown University, Purdue University, Princeton University, Yale University, and University of Alabama this past year, a special issue on teaching and institutional strategies that promote African American student success could not be timelier. African American student attendance at PWI's has steadily increased over the past six decades since the Brown v Topeka (1954) supreme court decision began to open the doors of institutions that had been heretofore reserved for White students. Prior to the 1960s, most African American students were educated at Historically Black Universities, but today over 87% of African American college students attend predominantly white institutions (Rodgers and Summers, 2008). In the early years of the integration of higher education institutions, students of African descent were met with violence and hostile campus climates. In response, Black students formed student organizations to advocate for inclusion in university communities, and they criticized PWI's for their lack of African American faculty and staff and for a dearth of courses focusing on Africans and African Americans. African American discontent with campus climates led to student protests in college and university communities across the country in the late 1960s and 1970s, and resulted in the creation of Black Studies programs and departments. Over the past half-century, we have seen the institutionalization of Black/Africana Studies and the development of more than 275 programs, certificate programs, centers or departments in the United States, including thirteen doctoral granting institutions. Since then, Black/Africana Studies has made numerous curricular advances by filling voids of institutionalized knowledge of both phenomenon and people (Okafor, 2013). The discipline of Black/Africana Studies has also made pedagogical and conceptual developments as evidenced by the growth of Classical African Studies, Black Women's Studies, Afrocentric/African centered studies. The discipline of Black/Africana Studies also has a number of peer- reviewed journals to advance the discipline and issues affecting people of African descent, such as the Journal of Black Studies, the Western Journal of Black Studies, Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies, and the International Journal of Africana Studies.

Despite the numerous disciplinary advances in Black/Africana Studies, African American students still face a multitude of obstacles when they aspire to obtain college degrees, especially at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). Although more students of color are enrolled in higher education-one out of three college students today versus 17% in 1976-persistence and degree completion rates for African Americans continue to be lower than for other groups (Swaner and Brownell, 2009). This is especially true for African American students at Predominantly White Institutions. Higher educational research...

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