The Odyssey of Black Studies in Public Broadcasting


The Odyssey of Black Studies in Public Broadcasting explores the history of Black Studies programs at American colleges and universities as they were discussed and presented in a select number of public radio and television broadcasts archived in the AAPB collection. The exhibit was curated by Pheolyn Allen, a 2023 Library of Congress Junior Fellow and dual-title PhD student in English and African-American and Diaspora Studies at Pennsylvania State University, who specializes in Black LGBTQ+ literature and culture, as well as Black speculative fiction. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewer of the exhibit essay for valuable feedback.


The Odyssey of Black Studies in Public Broadcasting examines the acts of organizing and political dissent that led to the founding of Black Studies programs, the political and theoretical foundations of this field of study, and their influence on a national and global scale, through the lens of public broadcasting programs that featured discussions and addresses of key figures. Tracing this history from the student protests of 1969 at San Francisco State University that led to the founding of the nation’s first ethnic studies program to the 50th year anniversary of Black Studies’ founding itself, this exhibit examines how public media perceived the rise of Black cultural education and history and its growing influence on the American public and its youth.

Black Studies programs arose within the academic world during the late 1960s, their inception originating from strikes held by Black students and faculty who desired equity within the university system and sought to see their culture and history represented in coursework. In the programs showcased in this exhibit, public broadcasting noticed the acts of political resistance that led to the founding of Black Studies programs across the nation and sought to document them.

In addition to exploring the founding of Black Studies, public broadcasting also examined the institutional disadvantages that Black students and faculty faced within the university system. In investigative pieces, Black Studies professors and students discussed how their programs faced financial setbacks and discrimination issues from their respective colleges, and why they believed that supporting Black Studies has been imperative for the success of Black students in higher education.

Next: The Formative Years