National interest over heritage interest

The period following the Second World War saw the beginnings of a second wave of US African Studies, this time within predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Post-war national defense interests meant that new funding sources from the US government were being made available to institutions of higher learning. IU’s African Studies Program was one of the beneficiaries of the postwar influx of defense-related funding directed to PWIs – thought to be more objective with regard to Africa than HBCUs – to create language area studies programs generally, and African Studies programs specifically.

1957 ASA Ad Hoc Committee

List of participants in the Ad Hoc Committee formed to create the African Studies Association in 1957. 

The growth of African Studies programs at PWIs and the creation of the African Studies Association (ASA) were mutually reinforcing phenomena. The list of participants for the Ad Hoc Committee to create the ASA included three future IU faculty – Gwendolen Carter, J. Gus Liebenow, and Alan Merriam. With the notable exception of E. Franklin Frazier from Howard University, academic participants at this meeting were from predominantly white institutions.

Before accepting his position at IU, Gus Liebenow was invited to participate in discussions about the need for such an organization, and he attended the 1957 Ad Hoc Committee meeting. This literal seat at the table allowed IU to have a significant impact on the future direction of African Studies in the United States. ASA remains the leading organization of African Studies in the United States despite ongoing controversies over its historic marginalization of first wave Africanists and centering of white scholarship on Africa.  

National interest over heritage interest