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Updated 10:00 AM April 17, 2006
 

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  Center for Afroamerican and African Studies
Conference celebrates 35 years of Black studies

There is a frightening apathy today toward anything resembling the cultural and critical debate and discourse that occurred prior to the establishment of Black studies at academic institutions, according to a visiting professor on campus April 13 to kick off a conference in celebration of U-M's Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS).

Adolph Reed, Jr., a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, referenced a recent 144-page report on the impact of global warming on Black Americans produced by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

"I am not sure I need the Congressional Black Caucus to tell me that I, as an African-American, need be concerned about global warming," said Reed, who delivered the plenary lecture for "CAAS at 35: The Future of Black Studies," a conference in honor of Harold Cruse and the 35th anniversary of CAAS. "If the only way that Black Americans can connect with anything going on in the world around us is to have it packaged like this, it is evidence of the political moment we are in."

Reed discussed, "Harold Cruse, Black Studies and the Legacy of Black Power Politics," during which he addressed the Black Power movement and talked about the legacy of Cruse, CAAS director from 1972-73 who died March 25, 2005, at 89. An influential author, Cruse was best known for his 1967 book, "The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual."

"He set out to open up dialogues," said Reed, who read "Crisis" when he was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It is hard to believe how much history was condensed into a two-year period. It quickly became the most significant book of the era."

Cruse was instrumental in getting CAAS started in 1970, in response to African American students who wanted a richer representation of the Black experience in the University's course offerings. He also inspired generations of academics, according to current CAAS director Kevin Gaines.

"For my generation of scholars in African American Studies, and for the generations coming ... the passion of his writing and his concern for the welfare and interests of Black people that inform all of his work made him a crucial thinker for many of us," said Gaines, also a professor of history in LSA. "The urgency and commitment Cruse brought to his work was not just a professional task, but a calling."

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, gave welcoming remarks for the two-day conference, which was scheduled to conclude with a keynote lecture by American law historian Mary Frances Berry, a former U.S. assistant secretary of education and a founder of the Free South Africa Movement.

Berry, who earned her doctorate in history and law degree from U-M, was slated to discuss "Reparations [or Restitution]: Old and New Studies in Black Political Activism."

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