Our mission is to:

  • Introduce histories, cultures, and experiences of African descended peoples to the widest range of students
  • Support serious academic research on Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Give African descended students and their peers opportunities to examine the depth and breadth of African legacies on this continent and in all parts of our world
  • Link local Black communities more closely with BC
  • Project the significance of realities of people of African descent to the intellectual life of BC and larger communities

The History of the AADS Program


Black Studies Program is started

Founded alongside BC’s “Black Talent Program,” two parts of an effort to recruit talented Black students from across the country to study at this university. This program was a direct response to Father General Pedro Arupe’s 1968 “Inter-Racial Apostolate” letter to Jesuit Colleges and universities and a consequence of discussions begun in 1967 between then BC President Michael Walsh, S.J. and Boston community leaders Mel King and Bryant Rollins.

The Black Studies Program was part of an academic initiative to bring more African American students to the university and to make its undergraduate curriculum more broadly reflect a range of intellectual and critical perspectives. With these efforts, BC became one of the first major universities in the United States to establish Black Studies as integral to its academic curriculum.


Amanda V. Houston named Director of Black Sudies

Mrs. Houston laid the groundwork for the Black Studies minor, established in 1985, and–in large part–for the structure, goals, and mission of today’s program. 


First "Blacks in Boston" Conference is held

In 1983 the Black Studies Program–in partnership with the Museum of Afro-American History and the Boston Public Schools–initiated the first in a successful series of “Blacks in Boston” conferences that examined the social, political, and cultural issues faced by the different ethnic groups and organizations that have made up Boston’s “Black” community. This and other outreach efforts helped develop closer connections between BC students and the wider Boston community.


Black Studies Minor is established


Professor Frank Taylor becomes first full-time Director of Black Studies.

His directorship was defined by an expanded focus on the Caribbean. The 1996 “Blacks in Boston” Conference featured Boston’s Afro-Caribbean connections and, with Prof. Taylor’s encouragement, students and community members made greater use of the John J. Burns Library’s Caribbeana and Nicholas M. Williams Ethnological Collections on Caribbean politics and culture.

July 2005

Cynthia Young hired as Director of Black Studies

Under Professor Young’s leadership the Program grew to include faculty jointly appointed with the departments of English, History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and Theology; its network of affiliate faculty grew exponentially and the minor’s curricular offerings were expanded to approximately 40 courses per year. 

January 2006

Black Studies Program renamed to the African and African Diaspora Studies Program

This change reflected the minor’s broadened focus on Africa and its world-wide diaspora. Central to AADS’s renewed focus are the “New Directions in African Diaspora Studies Lecture Series,” highlighting new AADS research by national and international scholars and creative writers, and the “Works in Progress Lecture Series” that features presentations by BC scholars.

July 2009

Rhonda Frederick becomes the Program's fourth director

Professor Frederick is committed to initiatives begun by Professor Cynthia Young, Professor Frank Taylor, as well as Mrs. Amanda V. Houston, while forging new connections with Boston’s African Diaspora communities, joining forces with the New England area and international Africana Studies programs, and increasing AADS’s profile within BC academic and intellectual communities.

April 2016

Prof. Freferick revives the "Blacks in Boston" conference series


Dr. Martin Summers is Director of African and African Diaspora Studies Program

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Successfully proposed a cluster hire initiative to search for four new assistant professors in AADS in 2023-2024.
  • Created the template for an AADS independent major that would go on to serve as the basis for a proposed regular major, which was approved by the Educational Policy Committee in 2023.
  • Secured permanent funding for the biannual Blacks in Boston Conference from the MCAS Dean's Office.

Dr. C. Shawn McGuffey is Director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Cultivated student engagement with social justice and the common good.
  • Worked in collaboration with the core faculty and submitted the AADS major proposal, which was approved by the Educational Policy Committee as a pilot in 2019.
  • Shepherded the program through the first year of the pandemic by holding virtual spaces to bring the AADS community together.

Dr. Martin Summers returns as Director of African and African Diaspora Studies Program


Dr. Lorelle Semley is Director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program

Lorelle Semley joined us from the College of Holy Cross where she was affiliated with the History Department and the Africana Studies Program. She became the Director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program at Boston College in July 2023.  She teaches over 4,000 years of African history from ancient Egypt to the latest news. By necessity, her courses are interdisciplinary, incorporating archaeology, anthropology, literature, film, and even You Tube videos. Her own research on modern West Africa, French imperialism, gender, and the Atlantic world also draws upon diverse source materials, far-flung archives, and multiple theoretical frameworks.