McMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

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Africana Studies Welcomes an Institutional Builder

Charles Jones brings a lifetime experience of building Africana studies departments to the University of Cincinnati’s own Department of Africana Studies.

Date: 10/10/2011 11:00:00 AM
By: Ryan Varney
Phone: (513) 556-0419
Photos By: Ryan Varney
Charles Jones is working on a manuscript which examines the entire history of the Black Panther Party.
Charles Jones is working on a manuscript which examines the entire history of the Black Panther Party.

New McMicken College of Arts and Sciences professor, Charles Jones, is an architect in the field of African-American studies—an “institutional builder” in his terms. When the opportunity arose to help develop a doctorate program in the Department of Africana Studies, Jones was ready for the challenge.

When asked what brought him to the University of Cincinnati, Jones answered, “An opportunity to work with [Department Head] Terry Kershaw, who is certainly a trailblazer in the field of Africana studies, and in helping him develop a PhD program.”

His credentials certainly shine. At Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., Jones’s first job, he built a minor program in black studies and headed the Institute for the Study of Minority Issues. Then he went on to Georgia State where he built an undergraduate program and then a master’s program. The department, which offered less than five total classes when he arrived in 1994, blossomed under Jones. As of 2011 it boasts a combined 84-class curriculum. Also during that time, he helped rebuild the National Council of Black Studies (NCBS), the leading professional organization for those in the field of African-American studies.

Jones has high expectations at UC, but he believes strongly in his new colleagues. To do this type of institutional building, Jones says, “People have to be visionary, as Dean [Valerie] Hardcastle was when she brought Kershaw from Virginia Tech. She saw the opportunity and the need to build the Africana studies department at UC. It takes a person with that kind of foresight.”

He also believes in Kershaw, a long-time friend. “He’s already made a difference in terms of doubling the size of the faculty, and helping Kershaw build a PhD program and making UC one of the top Africana studies departments in the country is something I’m looking forward to doing.”

Another thing Jones is looking forward to is publishing a comprehensive history of the Black Panther Party. He’s already the editor of the anthology “The Black Panther Party Reconsidered (1998),” and now Jones is working on a manuscript which examines the entire history of the party, from its beginnings in 1966 to the end in 1982, inclusive of all its many chapters across the country.

“I have conducted extensive archival and interview work. I’ve interviewed over 80 former party members and another 10 to 15 movement people, plus I have another 40 interviews other people have done. I have 15 to 20 boxes of material I’ve collected. I finally have some time to go through all of this material and start the writing process. I’m looking forward to completing the manuscript as it’s been a labor of love for a long time.”

Though it’s a few years away, Jones is working to complete the book by 2016 so its publication will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party.

Because much of his previous work was focused on administrative duties, Jones is also ready to spend more time in the classroom at UC. He is currently teaching Black Politics, a class he will teach again during winter quarter, before teaching Intro to Africana Studies in the spring.

“In the Black Politics class we’re focusing on four major themes. We’re looking at aspects like participation, leadership, empowerment and acquiring high-profile elective offices—something many scholars would argue is the next frontier in black politics,” he says. “The pinnacle of that would be the election of President Obama, a model we’ll examine closely.”

The class also focuses on original research and Jones hopes that the research will culminate with his students submitting their research papers to the student essay contest that the NCBS offers. Students would then present their work at the NCBS conference in March.

“One of the major features of the NCBS conference is that we do encourage student participation as a way to groom the future of the field in Africana studies."

Jones has spent a career grooming the future of Africana studies—from building programs to doing original research to encouraging students in the classroom. Now he is looking forward to completing his “marathon,” as he refers to his career, at UC.

“It would be nice when I conclude my career that UC is mentioned as one of the top departments in the nation when you say 'Africana studies.'”


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