White Money, Black Power: The Surprising History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education

Noliwe M. Rooks, Author
Noliwe M. Rooks, Author . Beacon $25.95 (213p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3270-1
Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-0-8070-3271-8
Paperback - 978-0-618-80239-5
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The first university-level black studies program, now 36 years old, grew out of student unrest, activism and a strike organized by both blacks and whites at San Francisco State. Similar programs spread quickly across the country, largely through the financing of the Ford Foundation, which shaped the programs' future through selective grant giving. Never entirely at ease with its sources of power and institutional identity, African-American studies today faces declining student enrollment and a demographic shift away from black Americans toward students with African or Caribbean backgrounds. In this concise, compelling volume, Rooks, the associate director of Princeton's African American studies program, recreates the social and political contexts of the discipline's history, paying particular attention to its past reliance on white philanthropy and involvement. The field must confront this legacy, she argues, if it is to escape the paradox where "Blackness... means too much and, at the same time, remarkably little"—a vagueness that allows university administrators to use programs as "an Affirmative Action strategy... despite the fact that the students it serves and the faculty it houses are often not African American." Perhaps too specialized for general readers, this volume is a must for anyone working in the field. (Feb.)

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