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UF now offers major in African American studies

Degree finally being offered after 44-year-old program

Ashley Montgomery | 10/17/2013, 9 a.m.

Just as Sam Cooke belted out in his 1964 single, “A Change is Gonna Come,” — from the looks of things in Gainesville — indeed it has. Building on the 44 year-old program, the University of Florida [UF] now offers an African-American studies major.

“Personally, this means a lot to me because we’ll be able to serve a lot of students and prepare them for careers,” said Sharon Wright Austin, director of African-American studies at UF.

According to the UF official website, before 1958, a state law in Florida banned Black attendance at public universities, graduate and professional programs. Between 1948 and ’58, 85 Black students applied for admission to all levels of UF and were all rejected.

After the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, UF’s first Black student was finally allowed to register for classes in September 1958.

UF’s African-American studies major offers classes in Black politics, urban politics and key issues in Black Atlantic thought.

“We encourage many of the students in this major to go on to graduate and law school,” Austin said. “Students in this program go on to pursue teaching careers or even working in government service.”

The program started in 1969 and enrolled its first students during the fall 1970 semester. After many years of efforts, the university now has a Black student enrollment of just under 10 percent and a Black faculty presence of less than five percent.