This timeline was created by Puget Sound students Daryl Auguste and Kaity Calhoun for an AFAM 201 class project, Fall 2017. Scroll down the page to read student reflections.
My research partner, Daryl, and I were charged with constructing a timeline surrounding the development of the African American Studies (AfAm) Program on the University of Puget Sound’s (UPS) campus. We constructed this timeline using information from the UPS course catalogue (known as the bulletin) and staff in the African American Studies and RPI offices. For this project, we went into the UPS archives and used old bulletins to do most of our research on the development of the AfAm program. Going into the archives and engaging with materials from UPS’s past was something new to me. Today, most of my research in the 21st century composes of online databases and resources I can find on the internet. Being able to actually touch and flip through a part of UPS’s past was not only informative, but also fun! Looking back in time made me realize that there is a lot of history in the development of an institution such as UPS that students and faculty do not know. It really struck me how much the programs changed at UPS due to the cultural context of the times. For example, the astronomy programs on campus were largely popular in the 60s due to the space race, showing that UPS was in tune with mainstream aspects of American culture, while AfAm did not gain enough traction to become a program at UPS until 1999. Even though the Space Race and the Civil Rights Movement were occurring at roughly the same time, UPS prioritized Astronomy rather than AfAm due to the popularity of NASA and the cultural consciousness that supported and surrounded the space program.
Understanding how the context of the U.S. influenced the programs offered at UPS was very important in looking at the bulletins. At first, my project partner and I struggled with finding one topic. We were split between finding individual classes that addressed important topics in AfAm or looking at the AfAm program’s development at large. We decided that it would be easier and perhaps more comprehensible to look at the steps it took to develop the AfAm program on campus, and with some guidance from our professor, Dr. Brackett, we reached beyond looking at just the course catalogues and incorporated information from professors in the AfAm department. Finding where to start on the project was probably the most difficult task and required a lot of research that we did not include on our timeline, but it was important in order to find the best place to start. Our timeline expanded past using the medium we were expecting and resulted in a much longer timeline than I was expecting, however I feel like the information in the timeline needs to be there to gain a fully comprehensive understanding of the AfAm program. I wish we could have incorporated more mediums in this project, such as videos or links to websites that would help inspire readers to connect with the material and become interested and excited about the AfAm program and its development.
It is essential for the audience of this timeline to understand that this timeline is still developing. New slides should be added on in the future because the growth of AfAm at UPS is going to be continuous and will not stop developing. We chose to expand our topic past the UPS Bulletins to place people as the movers and creators of AfAm, not an institution. By recognizing the amount of effort and work that professors and community members have put into developing and improving the AfAm program, we hope to shift the narrative away from the University’s role in approving programs and move it towards individuals who helped create, fight for, and developed the program.
When working in the archives and engaging with archive material, I felt a tangible connection to the history and past of UPS, and I know we only scratched the surface by looking at specific mediums. There is an overwhelming amount of information regarding the history of UPS, and the work of research on UPS’s past will take a lot of time. However, by understanding this past, we can work to create a better understanding of the context and history of the AfAm program on UPS’s campus.
Kaity is a double major in African American Studies and Psychology.
A Promising Beginning
For the final course project for 201, our class focused on creating a historical timeline surrounding the creation of the African-American studies program and the University of Puget Sound. With its emphasis on the accumulation of a diverse range of data (from magazines, to bulletins, to primary source documents) the timeline of African-American studies at UPS was an excellent exercise in research that represents an exciting historical contribution, while solidifying the necessity for a deeper, more dynamic account of the discipline’s history.
My role within the project was based around a close reading of the UPS bulletins for any useful information surrounding the development of curricula that explicitly intersected with topics of race / identity in respect to African-American life. I largely focused on classes prior to the arrival of the modern African-American studies discipline (starting with the Minor), with an aim at identifying any trends / patterns in respect to AFAM studies over that time.
In analyzing the development of AFAM courses as UPS, I was struck by the way in which the depth and breath of the African-American studies course offerings could be predicted by large scale cultural / societal trends taking place at the national and international level. For example: Urban Studies, the very first program that explicitly concerned itself with issues related to African American life / identity, was founded in 1971. This directly coincides with the rise of a black power movement that argued “that colleges and universities had to become more responsive to the needs of the Black community and more relevant to Black culture” (Stewart & Anderson, 30). On a practical level, this meant “the adoption of African American history courses, increasing the recruitment of black studies, employment of initial or additional Black faculty, and the provision of special buildings for Black American culture or habitation” (Stewart & Anderson, 30). While there is little evidence to suggest an increased attention to the recruitment of black students during this time, advocates for AFAM at UPS were successful in both the adoption of courses on African-American life and the increased employment of black academics (such as black studies professor Bob Ford).
The most difficult element of this project for me was the lack of dynamism in terms of the information I was able to gleam from bulletins. While descriptions of the classes can be interesting and revealing, descriptions are usually kept to a 2-3 sentence maximum. There isn’t any information about the specific professor who taught the class, and the fact that each bulletin typically comprises two academic years makes it difficult to locate classes within an assured timeline. It’s instructional in the value gained from critically interrogating the way in which UPS presented the courses, but it tells you next to nothing about what was actually taught, or how the classes were received.
If I were to alter any aspect of the project, I’d try to include a primary source interview component, i.e., I think it would be hugely valuable to talk to students and faculty who were involved in AFAM courses during the period being studied. These individuals would be able to give us a much more intimate and specific idea of how AFAM operated at UPS in its earliest years. What were the demographics of the classes like? What topics were emphasized in class? How did fellow peers (as well as professors, administrators, etc) discuss the African-American studies department at the time? All these questions are crucial to a dynamic understanding of how African-American studies developed at UPS and the subsequent reaction to it. Even a brief conversation with Hans Ostrom, Bill Haltom, etc, could prove valuable.
The aspect of the class project I enjoyed the most was the collaborative effort. This is something of an anomaly to me - as I generally prefer to work alone. That said, the Socratic nature of the research process was hugely helpful. Being in a room of like minded peers and getting to casually exchange ideas, timelines, realizations, etc, is intellectually exciting. Additionally, this affords an excellent time for the class to bond over a shared commitment to intellectual rigor and a shared interest in the history of our major at our school. As such, you feel as though you’re breaking ground on a previously undiscovered part of UPS’s past, rather than a retread of tired lore.
In many ways, this final class project perfectly encapsulates the intersectional or cross-disciplinary nature of AFAM in emphasis on a diverse range of data. The forays into the UPS bulletin and The Trail are in keeping with the critical analysis of rhetoric and language that is a constant mainstay of AFAM pedagogy. The images pulled from the yearbook, by contrast, are a study in visual rhetoric, also an integral component of African American pedagogy. All of which is in service in the creation of a critical, historical timeline that attempts to situate the development of African American studies at UPS within a format that is easily accessible to those outside of the university sphere.