Africana Studies is an interdisciplinary program of study devoted to the critical and systematic examination of the cultural, political, social, economic, and historical experiences of Africans and members of the African Diaspora —peoples of African descent outside of Africa. There were separate programs in Africana Studies (African Diaspora) and Africa studies (based in the Africa Center) until 2015, at which point the two programs merged as the Department of Africana Studies. The Libraries' collection funds align with the distinction between the studies of the Diaspora and of Africa. This policy pertains exclusively to funds dedicated to supporting the study of the Diaspora.
The Department currently includes 14 standing faculty members, nearly 30 secondary faculty, and numerous African language instructors. The Africana Studies program was established in 1972 with John Edgar Wideman as its first director. At present there is an undergraduate major, an undergraduate minor, and a doctoral program. Students can select from more than 50 courses offered by schools and departments of the University, including Africana, Anthropology, Education, English, French, Folklore and Folklife, History, Law, Linguistics, Music, Nursing, Political Science, Religious Studies, Social Work, and Wharton. A certificate program is available to graduate students who wish to gain interdisciplinary training and exposure to the totality of the African Diasporic experience. The highly interdisciplinary program attracts graduate students who are frequently associated with programs such as History, English, Education, or Anthropology in addition to Africana.
In addition to the academic program, the University hosts the Center for Africana Studies, which is dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding of the peoples of Africa and their diasporas. Through its research, academic initiatives, and public programming, the Center’s work seeks to explore the profound ways in which African peoples have functioned on a global scale and how their experiences have resonated around the world throughout history. It sponsors public academic and cultural events as well as research projects, including the Africana Media Project, The Penn Program on Race, Science and Society, and the Marginalized Populations Project.