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Molefi Kete Asante

Professor, founder, and author Molefi Kete Asante was born on August 14, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia to Arthur Lee and Lillie B. Wilkson-Smith. He is the fourth of sixteen children. At the age of eleven, Asante attended Nashville Christian Institute, a religious boarding school for black students. At the age of eighteen, Asante embarked upon his journey to study African history and culture. He attended Southwestern Christian College where he obtained his A.A. degree in l962, and later graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with his B.A. degree, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. While at Oklahoma Christian, Asante published his first book, a poetry collection titled Break of Dawn, during his senior year in college He earned his M.A. degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, California in l965. Three years later, Asante earned his Ph.D. degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Following graduation, Asante worked as assistant professor in the department of communications at Purdue University. While working as an assistant professor, he published his second book, The Rhetoric of Black Revolution and was founding editor of the Journal of Black Studies. Asante left Purdue University to work as assistant professor at UCLA were he also served as the first permanent director of the Center for Afro American Studies, and created the Center’s M.A. degree program. In 1980, Asante authored, Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, the first of a quartet of books mandating that Africans be viewed as subjects rather than objects. From l973 to l981 Asante was professor and head of the Department of Communication at State University of New York at Buffalo. He went to Zimnbabwe in l981 to assist the government in training journalists and was in charge of the first diplomas in journalism in free Zimbabwe. In 1984, Asante was hired at Temple University as professor and department chair of the African American Studies department. Two years later, he founded the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies in the nation. In l996 he was enstooled as the Kyidomhene of Tafo in Ghana, and in 2011, he was made a Wanadu of the Court of Amiru Hassimi Maiga of the Songhay Kingdom in Mali. Asante has directed more than one hundred and forty Ph.D. dissertations making him one of the leading producers of African American doctorates.

Throughout his career Asante has published over seventy-five books, five hundred articles and has won over 100 awards, honorary doctorates and distinguished professorships. He is the leading authority on African culture and philosophy. Asante is frequently sought after by television and news media for insight into the growing field of African American studies. In 2010, along with his wife, he founded the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies in Philadelphia as a high-level African American Think-Tank. Asante has continued to explore African tradition and culture through his writings, consultations, interactions with African leaders, and his professorship. Asante resides in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania with his wife, Ana Yenenga. Together they have three adult children , Eka, Mario, and MK, and three grandchildren, Ramses, Ayaana, and Aion.

Molefi Kete Asante was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 20, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.104

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/23/2012

Last Name

Asante

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Kete

Schools

Nashville Christian Institute

Oklahoma Christian University

Pepperdine University

University of California, Los Angeles

Southwestern Christian College

Magnolia Street Elementary School

Dasher High School

First Name

Molefi

Birth City, State, Country

Valdosta

HM ID

ASA01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Ghana

Favorite Quote

It Is Not Enough To Know, One Must Act To Humanize The World.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/14/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Sweet Potatoes

Short Description

African american studies professor Molefi Kete Asante (1942 - ) developed the theory of Afrocentricity. He also founded the first Ph.D. degree program in African American studies at Temple University.

Employment

Purdue University

University of California, Los Angeles Department of Communication

State University of New York at Buffalo

Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communication

Temple University

Howard University

Florida State University

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637136">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Molefi Kete Asante's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637137">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637138">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637139">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the oral traditions of the black community in Valdosta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637140">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his mother's education and aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637141">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637142">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his paternal grandfather's occupation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637143">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his father's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637144">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his father's occupation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637145">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his paternal great-great-grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637146">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante describes how his parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637147">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his likeness to his parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637148">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637149">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the circumstances of his birth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637150">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637151">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante lists his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637152">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637153">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his father's musicianship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637154">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his home in Valdosta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637155">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his early educational influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637156">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers Magnolia Elementary School in Valdosta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637157">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the entertainment of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637158">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his semester at Dasher High School in Valdosta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637159">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his experiences at the Nashville Christian Institute in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637160">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls traveling with Marshall Keeble</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637161">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the Nashville Christian Institute's affiliation with David Lipscomb College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637162">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the racial demographics of the Church of Christ</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637163">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the history of the Church of Christ</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637164">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his influential teachers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637165">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls protesting with Diane Nash</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637166">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the civil rights leaders in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637167">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers Billie Sol Estes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637168">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers the murder of Emmett Till</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637169">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his doubts about Christianity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637170">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers beginning to question authority</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637171">Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his decision to leave Christianity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637172">Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls enrolling at the Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637173">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers the Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637174">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the Oklahoma Christian College in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637175">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls the publication of 'The Break of Dawn'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637176">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his experiences of racial discrimination at Oklahoma Christian College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637177">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his introduction to African culture</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637178">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers enrolling at George Pepperdine College in Malibu, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637179">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his professors at Pepperdine College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637180">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his decision to attend the University of California, Los Angeles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637181">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his introduction to the black student movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637182">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his experiences at University of California Los Angeles during social and political unrest, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637183">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637184">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls the founding of the Afro American Studies Center in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637185">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers writing 'Rhetoric of Black Revolution'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637186">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the audience of his early writings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637187">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the history of the Afro American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637188">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the relationship between Maulana Karenga and Bobby Seale</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637189">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the impact of COINTELPRO</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637190">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls founding the Journal of Black Studies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637191">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers the early black studies programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637192">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the limitations on black studies departments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637193">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his transition to the State University of New York at Buffalo</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637194">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante reflects upon his time in Buffalo, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637195">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls his visiting professorships</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637196">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the faculty at the State University of New York at Buffalo</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637197">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers training journalists in Zimbabwe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637198">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls teaching in the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637199">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante recalls joining the faculty of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637200">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the history of black studies at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637201">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about creating the first Ph.D. program in black studies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637202">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the requirements of the black studies Ph.D. program at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637203">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the concept of Afrocentricity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637204">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his philosophical influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637205">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about Chinweizu</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637206">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his hopes for the Department of African American Studies at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637207">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the attacks on Afrocentricity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637208">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his concerns for the black studies department at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637209">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his chairmanship of the black studies department at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637210">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the current state of the Department of Africology and African American Studies at Temple University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637211">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Molefi Kete Asante describes the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637212">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Molefi Kete Asante remembers his students</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637213">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637214">Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Molefi Kete Asante describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637215">Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Molefi Kete Asante reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637216">Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about the future of Afrocentricity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637217">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Molefi Kete Asante reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637218">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Molefi Kete Asante talks about his children and wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637219">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Molefi Kete Asante describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/637220">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Molefi Kete Asante narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Molefi Kete Asante remembers the Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas
Molefi Kete Asante talks about creating the first Ph.D. program in black studies
Transcript
You're about to enter Southwestern Christian College--$$Yes.$$--in Terrell, Texas?$$Terrell, Texas, that's right (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay. All right. So well, this is a, a Church of Christ college too, right?$$It's a church, it's a, it was Church of Christ, that was, that was the pattern. And it was, it had been started by one of the other preachers influenced by the gentleman by the name of G.P. Bowser, and Bowser, B-O-W-S-E-R [George Philip Bowser]. Bowser had created a higher educational institution so that once you left Keeble's school you went to Bowser's school, basically is what it was. And at this school, I also did pretty well until I was, I was suspended. I was actually put out of the school--$$Well, what happened?$$--the second year.$$Well, first, let's go to the first, first year. First (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, the first year was fine, the first year was fine. I, I did very well, I was a student leader. I was voted most likely to succeed. I was quite, quite active in, in the school. And, and, and also, and did pretty well academically even in the second year but the second year two weeks before the graduation the president of the, and let me just back up and give you one other bit of information which people should know for the record, is that at Nashville Christian Institute [Nashville, Tennessee] there was a, a black principal his name was Otis Boatwright most of the time I was there. And then there was Marshall Keeble the president but Marshall Keeble eventually retired but he was still the founder of the school so he had an office in that school but the president was a white man at Nashville Christian Institute for the last year or two when I was in high school. At Southwestern Christian College it was a black school [HBCU] but it also had a white president. And the president of Southwestern got up to give a speech in which he was talking to the student body and the faculty and one of the African American men decided that he had to go to the bathroom so he raised his hand while the man was speaking and as the president of the college was speaking he didn't notice the man and ignored the man in the audience but the man kept raising his hand. So, eventually the white president stops his speech and he says, "That's what's wrong with you people, you can't hold yourselves, you wanna go to the bathroom, you shouldn't go to the bathroom, you should wait and just listen to what I have to say. And I'm not gonna give you permission to go." Well, I jump up and I say, "You have no right to do this. He can go to the bathroom if he wants to." I mean, and if he has to go to the bathroom he should go. It was a bizarre situation, I mean, the man should have just gone out but he wanted to get permission to go. So, I said, "He can go to the bathroom if he wants to and he should go and you have no right to talk to our people like that." So, at that moment the president says, "Well, you, I'm gonna ask the dean of the college to dismiss you from school." So, I got up and he told the dean, a man named Sams, says, Dean Roosevelt Sams said, "You know, I want you to dismiss him from school." So, I go down to the dean's office and the dean says to me, "Mr. Smith [HistoryMaker Molefi Kete Asante], you should never question the president. You cannot do that. You, it's not your business to question the president." I said, "But he was disrespecting black people, he was disrespecting, you know, the young man in the audience," he was just, so put me out of school. Said I have to sign this letter. Well, one thing I knew about the Church of Christ was that the board of directors of the school were black preachers who, who, who had great faith in me. They thought that I was the, gonna be the new preacher for the Church of Christ so boy, "Let's, you know, we, we gonna protect, we have to protect Asante." So, I called them all up and I told them what had happened. I said, you know, I've, I've been put out of, out of Southwestern, and, you know, graduation is in two weeks. Well, they got on the phone and when they got through with the president I was back in school the next week. I was back in school and graduated from Southwestern Christian with my A.A. degree.$What did you, what were the components that you pulled together to create this historic department [Department of African American Studies; Department of Africology and African American Studies] where, where, which offered the first Ph.D. in African American studies?$$Well, the resource, that, that there, there was a convergence of things. I mean, I, I don't, I, I think that certainly I had the idea when I came in to Temple [Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] that I wanted to do something that was unique in the field but it would not have happened without a lot of different pieces falling into place. One was that we had, we had Pat Swygert who was an African American administrator, Pat, [HistoryMaker] H. Patrick Swygert who became president at Howard [Howard University, Washington, D.C.], president at SUNY Albany [State University of New York at Albany, Albany, New York], was the executive vice president at Temple when I came in. And he was a major player in making sure that the faculty would support this program. Now, there was trouble, of course, because the faculty in the colleges, and particularly in liberal arts, felt like they were basically being pressured by the administration to create this Ph.D. program. But at the same time we had on the board of trustees at Temple, Bill Cosby, and we also had a man who was a, a great supporter of, at, of Temple, Nichols [Henry Nichols], Reverend Nichols. And Reverend Nichols was the key player in the education committee on the board of trustees, he was a black man. So, so, with all those forces and with me, we were able to create. I, I wrote the program, drafted the program, put it together and submitted it to the university and was immediately told by a number of people in the university that it would never happen. In fact, the chair of the sociology department she said it would be over my dead body that we will have a Ph.D. in African American studies, what is that? And then, so there was, it was a struggle, of course. At that time, I'm only, I'm here only with two other faculty members and myself. And it does look kind of strange, how are you gonna create a Ph.D. program, you only got three, three people and potentially a fourth one? So how do you do this? And what I had done was to do my research. I had gone to catalogs, at that time you still had catalogs, looked in catalogs of universities and discovered that there were several departments in universities that only had two or three faculty but they give Ph.D.'s and most of these were like classics. You go to Yale University [New Haven, Connecticut] and get a degree in classics or a Ph.D. and they only have three faculty members. So, we were not really that small. We were a, a pretty good size but we needed resources and that's where I went to the university, to the board of trustees and made appeal for resources and they told the administrators to give us resources and this was after the bitter battle of getting it through my college because history was against us, sociology was against us, political science was against us, but fortunately we got enough votes to get it to the next level and then the administration supported it and it was supported by the board of trustees. I will one day write that story but I guess I'm writing it now. But that's, it was, 'cause, 'cause people think that it was easy, it was not easy, it's never easy, never easy when you're creating something new and you are African in this country and you're trying to create a new program in a environment where people have this whole notion of white dominance, no, it's not easy, so, it was a struggle. And it was one that I, as I said I've rarely talked about but it was, it took, it took two years to, for us to do this because after all I came here in '84 [1984], the program did not open, did not get approved until '87 [1987]. And we did not open our doors, I mean, until '88 [1988] to have the first students.