About Our Department

Our faculty pursue interests across the spectrum of African and African-American studies. In addition to our expertise in core subjects areas like English, history, sociology, and anthropology, AFAS faculty are actively engaged in interdisciplinary, practice-oriented fields across Washington University, including social work and public health, architecture and design, computer science, business, law, and education. 

The department regularly sponsors lectures and events, such as plays, film festivals, exhibits, field trips, and panels and speakers, which focus on contemporary or perennial topics of interest in all areas of the Black experience. In many cases, guest lecturers and artists visit classes and interact directly with our students and others across the campus community. Through our scholarship, teaching, and broader engagement activities we seek to foster a vibrant and impactful social and intellectual community of African and African-American Studies. 

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AFAS Remembers

Dr. Robert L. Williams (February 20, 1930 - August 12, 2020)

Robert L. Williams was the founding director of the Black Studies program (now the Department of African and African American Studies) at Washington University.  The program was launched in 1969.  Before this, he was a well-respected and widely known clinical psychologist.  He taught the program's most popular course, "Black Psychology," and created the structural models for the program that are still in place today.  He was a founding member of the Association of Black Psychologists and an early critic of racial and cultural biases in IQ testing, developing the famous and controversial BITCH test (Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity). He also coined the term “Ebonics." He was the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters. His latest book length work was Racism Learned at an Early Age Through Racial Scripting: Racism at an Early Age (Author House, 2007). Dr. Willams passed away on the morning of August 12, 2020 at 90 years old. He will surely be missed by family, friends, and colleagues.

History of Black Studies

Gerald Early talks about how black studies programs came to college campuses across America. In spring 2017, Early oversaw a milestone for African and African-American Studies, when the former program in Arts & Sciences became a full department.

Robert L. Williams 2019 interview

Gerald Early Interviews Professor Emeritus Robert L. Williams II

In early 2019 Dr. Gerald Early, the current chair of African and African American Studies, sat down to interview the unit's founding director, Dr. Robert L. Williams, to mark the 50th anniversary of Black Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Statement on Anti-Black Violence and a Global Pandemic

Statement on Anti-Black Violence and a Global Pandemic

campus organizations

  • African Students Association

    ASA's mission is to advance political, social, cultural, and economic awareness about the African continent by engaging individuals in dialogue that will establish a deeper understanding and appreciation of the dynamic cultures within the continent.

  • Association of Black Students

    The Association of Black Students is an organization with a rich, powerful history of fellowship, service, and advocacy at Washington University..

  • Black Alumni Council

    The mission of the BAC is to support the professional and personal development of WashU black alumni, to assist in the recruitment and retention of African-American students, and to enhance the continued growth and development of the university.

  • Black Anthology

    Black Anthology was founded in 1989. It is an annual performance that is written, choreographed, directed, and produced entirely by Washington University students.