Since its inception in 1969, the Center for African Studies has evolved from a small faculty group known as the Committee on African Studies into a robust, interdisciplinary body that has earned Harvard recognition as a National Resource Center from the U.S. Department of Education. Along with this national distinction, the most notable milestone on Harvard’s path to African Studies leadership was the generous and anonymous donation made in the fall of 2014, a donation that both secured African Studies as a Center at Harvard University and provided the initial seed money to launch the administrative operations of an office in Cape Town, South Africa.
By any metric, Harvard is now one of the world’s foremost centers of learning on Africa. Some 500 faculty members conduct research and teach on topics related to Africa; more than 400 courses are taught on Africa-related themes and topics; and more than 80 fellows from Africa play an integral role through their research and teaching across the University. Harvard now boasts the world’s foremost African Language Program, with 39 African languages offered. The University also has over 300 partnerships with nearly as many different institutions and organizations in Africa. And, more than 200 Harvard students travel to Africa each summer to conduct research and engage in internships spanning the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Under the leadership of former Faculty Director, Professor Caroline Elkins, African Studies at Harvard was transformed from its committee-status into one of the leading centers for teaching, learning and research on Africa. As the University-wide nucleus for Africanists at Harvard and generator of numerous, high-impact initiatives on campus and on the continent, the Center for African Studies works with students and faculty from across the University to sponsor an array of high-impact and high-profile programs. These include study abroad and internship opportunities, inter-faculty research and publication initiatives, collaborative teaching and learning initiatives, institutional partnerships on the continent, transformative technology-based outreach efforts, and a wide range of on-campus seminars, workshops, and conferences.
The Center for African Studies also works closely with Harvard’s two other key Africanist institutions: FAS’s Department of African and African American Studies (AAAS) and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research (HC). Indeed, CAS, AAAS, and HC work together as a unit to provide a wide-ranging and innovative Africanist program. AAAS can appoint faculty, confer undergraduate and graduate degrees, and offer inter-disciplinary Africa-related courses, as well as African language classes; while HC offers prestigious fellowships to Africanist scholars and practitioners, disseminates knowledge through publications and endowed lecture series, and hosts multiple Africa-related events.