A Great Lakes Colleges Association initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Creation of the African Diaspora Studies Program at Kenyon College

About the Project

The African Diaspora Studies at Kenyon College Oral History project serves as a record of the stories, recollections, and experiences of faculty, staff, and students in the creation of the Studies program. It combines oral interviews and archival research to create a cohesive narrative of the African diaspora discipline at Kenyon College over the last half of the 20th century into the present day. As a framework, the project was conducted to explore the challenges for and inherent values of the program. The project was also configured to build upon Kenyon College’s own institutional history while tracing the trajectory of academic disciplinary shifts on campus. The project starts with discussions of Black Studies courses during the foundation of the Black Student Union (BSU) in 1969. It continues through the introduction of various classes concerning African and African American experiences and the addition of professors focusing on these topics in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The interviews offer analytical remarks about the importance of the program in the present day, in addition to changes necessary for the program and the college that reflect the ethos of the discipline.

As these interviews build upon each other, they draw from related histories relevant to the creation of the African Diaspora Studies program. This includes, notably, the creation of the BSU, but also a faculty development group called Crossroads which hosts discussions focusing on African diaspora topics. The Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellowship, which brings faculty from underrepresented groups to experience teaching at Kenyon, is also featured in this project. Lastly, the interviews allow space for former students of the program and its classes to reflect on the impact of those courses.

The project will be absorbed by the Community Within digital archives at Kenyon but currently resides at, where all interviews, research, and a timeline of events can be easily navigated.

Written by

Meera White graduated from Kenyon College in spring 2018 as a History major and Latino Studies concentrator. During her time at Kenyon, she was an Associate for the Kenyon Review and conducted an oral history project on the origin of the African Diaspora Studies program at Kenyon. Meera is from Atlanta, Georgia and enjoys all things Southern.

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