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About the Blogger

I am an associate professor of English and Mills College in Oakland, CA and the creator of Twilight and Reason: Higher Education and the African American Experience. For me, literature, history, and higher education are passions bordering, at times, on obsessions. I believe my real education in African American history began in 1991, in the spring, when my great aunt she showed me pictures of some of my 19th century ancestors and told me stories about my enslaved forbears. As I lay in my bed that night, thinking about how deep my roots ran in this nation, I felt more whole and more grounded and–most importantly, I think–more entitled to the life I desired than I had ever felt before. I suppose I could say that at that point I finally began to understand my relationship–my personal relationship–to the Black history of this country. This, for me, was history I could feel. More than facts, it was a sensation and spirit.

In some ways, my literary education had a similar beginning. Ironically, my deepest immersion in my chosen field of African American literature came outside of the classroom (or at least the classroom in which I was a student). During my first semester as a professor at the University of Oregon (which began just over a month after I defended my dissertation) I was forced conduct myself through a crash course in African American literature. I had to teach across periods and genres in a way that I’d never had to during graduate school. While my doctorate had encouraged me to specialize, the U of O needed me to become a generalist, quickly. During that first year as a professor, I studied U.S. Black literature in greater depth than I ever could have in any graduate program, simply because few Universities could possibly offer the range of courses that it would take to educate me in prose, poetry, and drama, from 1619 through the end of the 20th century. And as I read novels and stories and poems and plays, and the scholarship that analyzed and contextualized that work, I began seeing links between people and genres, places and periods that I had not fully understood before. I began to comprehend in an even more nuanced way that I did during my doctoral program the ways that Black writers commented on, entered into, challenged, critqued, and–eventually–transformed almost every societal construct (gender, race, class, place, power) that they encounter. It was a truly a beautiful thing, and it was literature, literary theory, and literary history that I could feel.

 So, that brings me to the question of who I am and why I am blogging Black folks on U.S. college campuses. As a people for whom the denial of educational opportunity has been experienced as a tool in our collective subjugation, and for whom the acquisition of education has in almost all ways proven emancipatory, we have been deeply influenced  by the fluctuating cycles of access and restriction that have characterized our relationship to a white-dominated educational structure.

At the same time, however, we have transformed the texture and meaning of the academic enterprise at every point that we have been allowed to or–just as often–demanded access to institutions of higher learning. Similarly we have challenged and reshaped the meaning and nature of teaching, learning, and knowledge itself; we have transformed the very nature of how education is conceived and practiced, as well as the substance of what it means to be educated.

I want a space to ponder this effect of Black people on higher education. I want a space in which to talk about the encounter between African Americans and the academy that is not solely defined by those hackneyed discussions of Black underachievement, white intellectual supremacy, and other similar frameworks that locate intellectual achievement and Blackness as polar opposites.

As an academic insider, whose counts among her forbears several generations of Black educators, my perspective is necessarily oppositional to those who would have us believe that the presence of African Americans in U.S. college classrooms (as either teachers or students) is an abberation.  I’m tired of being invisible as a Black academic. We are out there, and even those of us Black folks who haven’t made it into the “hallowed halls” of higher learning are critical thinkers, native intellectuals for whom rigorous interrogation of the ideas, theories, and social/political/cultural/economic frameworks that maintain the status quo is but another of the tools required for our existence in this Euro-dominant society. What I am saying is that we African Americans are, by nature and necessity, critical thinkers, for whom elite intellectual practice isn’t much of a stretch, once we get a chance to develop our skills and expand our knowledge.

Drop in once in a while. I’ll try to maintain this as a space for fresh and provocative perspectives on Black education. I hope you’ll weigh in with your own thoughts and opinions.

 Cheers,

 Ajuan Mance

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Comments»

1. Kathleen Crockett - December 14, 2006

This is a powerful striking message that expresses what all black folks need to know. The writing is a testimonial to the importance and brilliance of our heritage. These words have inspired and encouraged me to continue reading African American history.

2. wendell - February 20, 2007

My name is Wendell Linder, was a Buffalo soldier now retiree, still have the soldier in me, but I now work for the Department of Defense in Europe (Germany), as a Mail and File Clerk (S-1 Human Resource). You never now what you get when you surf the net.

But today you gave me a lesson on social, political, cultural and economic. I just wanted to thank you. When I was a boy, all they taught us were American history and very little on my ancestors. (Black history) Well I was told if you want to improve yourself, you need to change your attitude and met different leader.

Yes you’re a leader because you care about our people. I hope to hear from you. Have a nice day.

3. wendell - February 20, 2007

My name is Wendell Linder, was a Buffalo soldier now retiree, still have the soldier in me, but I now work for the Department of Defense in Europe (Germany), as a Mail and File Clerk (S-1 Human Resource). You never now what you get when you surf the net. But today you gave me a lesson on social, political, cultural and economic. I just wanted to thank you. When I was a boy, all they taught us were American history and very little on my ancestors. (Black history) Well I was told if you want to improve yourself, you need to change your attitude and met different leader. Yes you’re a leader because you care about our people. I hope to hear from you. Have a nice day.

4. Scott Poulson-Bryant - April 13, 2007

i didnt know you were blogging. why didnt you tell me? thanks for adding me to your blogroll…how are you doing???
xo
scott p-b

5. BlackWomb - July 8, 2007

I just found your blog. Powerful personal statement. Yes, we need to stand up and be counted in academia. I’ll be back.

6. popobawa - July 13, 2007

Most of my best academic experiences have been with African and African American professors. Later making the jump into inner city education I was disappointed to find a neo-colonial cadre of black kleptocrats setting up the kids for failure with storebought infomercial curricula. This so that they could get kickbacks from those white owned companies when new Amway style syllabis were bought. However they would also meet at gala fuctions where old boys and old girls would talk about the proud history of their frats and the accompishments of so many [truly] great Black heroes of the past in academia and leadership. I am into black and white pictures and like to revere the ancestors too.
But what about now? My kids were too sharp for that. They take one look at Garvey and say and say “Dag he all country!” What about the overwhelming majority who will never have to know what a glass ceiling is? Or am I being hackneyed to think of them?
You know W.E.B. Du Bois died in Africa, he didn’t have some big mortgage and a bunch of fraternity bumper stickers on his car. he wasn’t a member of some Water Buffallo Lodge he was living in one.
In short where are we going with all of this? And when we get there, will we not be a burden and/or to our hosts?

7. Tiffany in Houston - August 1, 2007

I applaud your diligence in maintaining your site and the research it takes to compile this data. It is all very noteworthy. However as a graduate of a HBCU, I can’t help but note that you skew heavily toward celebrating the accomplishments of scholars who attend predominately white institutions, which is fabulous. However, considering how HBCUs are STILL providing undergraduate for 3/4 of all federal judges, send more blacks to medical school than white institutions and have provided 3/4 of all black officers sent to the armed forces, it is some what disheartening to not see them more recognized on a blog devoted to celebrating black academic scholars. We all aren’t succeeding at white schools.

Kind regards…

8. Katrina D. Hall - December 21, 2007

Thank you for taking the time to pull together a resource for those of us who search for knowlegde about our people. I am a physician in military aviation and have been searaching for information, (specifically) art work to put in my office so that others can see some contributions we have made to the field. I was unable to find anything until a friend of mine found the piece on COL Clotide Bowen from OSU. I now have a starting point to find a potrait. Thanks.
I would also like to suggest that you add Henry Osian Flipper to the list. He was the first Black graduate from the United States Military Academy 1877. There is a nice summary at the following website: http://www.buffalosoldier.net/HenryO.Flipper2.htm
Thanks again for your help

9. Katrina D. Hall - December 21, 2007

As an addendum to the previous,
I read over my comment above and noticed several misspelled words (knowledge, searching, portrait and Clotilde). I really should have hit the spell check before the send button. Please accept my apology for haste and inattention to detail.

10. Desmond Burton - February 13, 2008

Here’s an invite to listen and/or call in for our internet show:

I readily confess that Biggie Small’s opening monologue for the above song, “Juicy” always bothered me. More specifically, this part of the soliloquy:

“to all the people that lived above the
buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of that called the police on me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughters”

Why exactly do the “people that called the police” have to suffer because the protagonist in this song desires to conduct an illegal and dangerous business in front of their children? Well we are going to do a part two of last week’s Afronerd Radio Week in Review broadcast discussing the ghetto name/Black crime pathology issue that has so many folks incensed stemming from my comments on last week’s NPR show. We will also discuss Senator Obama’s continued success in the primaries (and what that means for the Clinton and McCain campaigns) as well as a friendly fire case resulting in the death of a young Westchester (NY) police officer.
Check us out this Thursday, call in and share your thoughts (you can agree or disagree) at 646-915-9620 or IM/email us at-afronerdradio@yahoo. Remember the show starts at 9pm (eastern) sharp! And the debate continues below at the Post Bourgie blog:

more on The Post Bourgie blog and Afronerd (http://postbourgie.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/a-postbourgie-fact-check-tarika-wilson-and-afronerd/)

And then there’s always our links:

http://www.afronerdradio.com

http://www.afronerd.com

11. Credit Equity Home Line - February 21, 2011

Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

12. Barry Jacobs - December 1, 2013

Interesting site. A few corrections on a post about the University of Maryland: the first African American athlete in the ACC was Irwin Holmes, who played tennis at N.C. State in 1957. And Darryl Hill was the first black varsity athlete at Maryland; he played in 1963 and broke the color line in ACC football. (See my books, Across the Line and Golden Glory.)


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