African American studies program approved for LSU

LSU would be the first public college or university in Louisiana to create such a department

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Decades after a program in African and African American studies began at LSU, a full-fledged department devoted to the subjects has been approved for the state’s flagship university.

The Advocate reports that the LSU Board of Supervisors’ approval of the department earlier this month comes about two decades after the idea was first recommended.

The plan is still subject to review by the state Board of Regents. It would make LSU the first public college or university in the state to create such a department.

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Students gather at a prayer vigil for Alton Sterling at the Memorial Tower on the Louisiana State University campus July 11, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Black students at LSU began pushing for courses on African-American history and culture in the 1970s. An African and African American Studies program began in 1994. A few years later, a consultant recommended that the program be upgraded to a department.

Stephen Finley, director of the program, said Tuesday he thinks a “confluence of events,” including the reaction of students to the death of George Floyd and others last year, helped pave the way for approval of department status.

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“I think that was certainly part of it,” said Finley, who is associate professor of religious studies and African and African American studies.

Floyd, a Black man, died at the hands of a White police officer in Minneapolis last year, setting off protests worldwide.

Other changes on the LSU campus in the wake of Floyd’s death include the removal of former university president Troy Middleton’s name from the main library last year because of questions about his racial views. The university is also reviewing street and building names with ties to the Confederacy.

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