Molefi Asante

Molefi Asante created the country’s first African-American studies Ph.D. program at Temple University in 1987.


Born in 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia, Molefi Asante earned a bachelor's degree from Oklahoma Christian College in 1964. The following year, Asante received a master's degree from Pepperdine University. He continued his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. After earning a doctorate degree from UCLA, he became an associate professor there. In 1973, Asante joined the faculty of State University of New York at Buffalo as the chair of the communications department. He later attended Temple University, where he established the first doctorate program in African-American studies in 1987. Asante has written more than 70 books, including the 2012 autobiography As I Run Toward Africa.

Early Life

Born on Arthur Lee Smith Jr. on August 14, 1942, in Valdosta, Georgia, Molefi Kete Asante is one of the leading scholars in African-American studies and is known for creating the first Ph.D. program in this subject area at Temple University in 1987. He grew up in a family of 16 children.

Asante studied at Oklahoma Christian College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1964. A bright and gifted student, he only took a year to complete a master's degree at Pepperdine University. Asante then sought a doctorate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, where, at the age of 26, he earned his Ph.D.

Leading African American Scholar

Molefi Asante stayed on at UCLA, becoming an associate professor there in 1969 and serving as director of the school's Center for Afro-American Studies. Also while at UCLA, Asante established the Journal of Black Studies. He then moved east to become chair of the State University of New York at Buffalo's Department of Communication. From 1977 to 1979, Asante also served as chair of the university's African studies department.

In 1987, Asante made academic history when he established the first Ph.D. program in African-American studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also chaired the department until 1996, when he was asked to step down during an investigation into allegations of plagiarism. No actions was taken against Asante in this matter, and he remained with the university as a professor. In 2013, Asante returned to the position of chair of the university's Department of African-American Studies.

Over the years, Asante has been a driving force in the afrocentric movement. "Afrocentricity is about African Americans assuming their own agency in the world, their role and destiny as actors, not acted upon," the scholar told the Utne Reader. "With agency comes accountability, responsibility and the spirit of the Egyptian goddess Ma'at: harmony, justice, righteousness." Outside of his work at the university, he established the Molefi Kete Asante Institute. As Asante explained to the Philadelphia Tribune, the organization was formed to "have an impact on public policy that affects African people, domestically and internationally."

Asante has authored more than 70 books, including the popular high school textbook African American History: A Journey of Liberation (1995), Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation Paperback (2009) and The African American People: A Global History (2012). In 2012, Asante wrote about his own life in the memoir As I Run Toward Africa.

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