Georgia State University to start African studies center

Students cross Ellis Street at Piedmont Avenue at Georgia State University.

Students cross Ellis Street at Piedmont Avenue at Georgia State University.

Georgia State University, which has the largest enrollment of any school in the state, announced Thursday it is creating a center for students to learn about the African diaspora and its people.

The announcement of the Center for Studies on Africa and its Diaspora comes about two weeks after more than 200 Georgia State faculty members signed a petition asking for such a center, more Black faculty in leadership positions and other demands. A center was among the June 2019 recommendations by a faculty commission.

“The center will support research and academic initiatives, artistic efforts and public programming, including exhibitions, lectures and conferences, and advance policy proposals that target issues of concern to the African diaspora across the university and the broader community,” the university’s College of Arts & Sciences said in a statement.

About 40% of Georgia State’s 54,000 students last school year were Black, state data shows. By some estimates, Georgia State graduates more Black students than any university in the nation.

The center will be led by co-directors Jennie Ward-Robinson, special adviser to the college’s dean who is also an expert in global health issues and multilateral government affairs, and Elizabeth West, an English professor who organized the petition.

“The need for a center of this focus and aim at Georgia State has been recognized by faculty and students for some time,” Ward-Robinson and West said in a joint statement. “We are honored to be part of the collective body that worked to bring this moment to fruition. We look forward to the work ahead and the impact that the center will make in and beyond our institution’s borders.”

Many government agencies, companies and universities have been pressured to address complaints of systemic racism in their organizations in the wake of recent nationwide protests against police misconduct and racism against Blacks. A petition has urged the University System of Georgia, which includes Georgia State, to mandate that all undergraduate students take a Black Studies course as a requirement for graduation.

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