National Council for Black Studies relocates to UD
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson January 22, 2024
The premier organization for Black studies finds a new home in the Department of Africana Studies
The University of Delaware’s Department of Africana Studies is the new headquarters of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS), and Assistant Professor Alicia Fontnette has been named the organization’s new executive director.
For nearly 50 years, the NCBS has been the leading organization in the discipline, promoting academic excellence and programming. The annual conference draws 500 scholars from member institutions around the country.
The move to UD allows NCBS the “opportunity to continue its important disciplinary and pedagogical commitments, while working with a first-rate department whose commitment to the study of African descended peoples is invigorating and engaging. We are fortunate to be relocated to a space where tremendous support exists for the next phases of NCBS’s work in the academy and the community,” said Valerie Grim, NCBS president.
“Establishing UD as the host institution for NCBS is a complete win for both organizations,” said Kimberly Blockett, chair of the Department of Africana Studies. “Our department has distinguished itself for our expertise and the cutting-edge scholarship of our faculty, and this relationship allows us to have a larger national audience for the work we’re doing.”
“Having NCBS here further elevates UD and puts us at the center of Africana scholarship,” Fontnette said. “And it benefits NCBS to be in partnership with an R1 research university.”
The benefits are already evident. The department’s Black Table Talks is a series of virtual talks about current affairs and topics facing Black people in the African diaspora. After NCBS promoted the fall talks on its platforms, attendance more than tripled that of the 2022 events, giving greater exposure to UD’s scholarship.
Other plans for NCBS include expanding its online platform and increasing programming, as well as building interdisciplinary partnerships within UD. One of Fontnette’s first initiatives is to expand the NCBS Honor Society to organize chapters, with the first chartered chapter at UD. Ten UD students were recognized this year as qualifying charter members.
About Alicia Fontnette
Fontnette was a senior European history and British literature major at Dillard University before discovering the field of Africana studies when she took a class on Black revolution.
“The first paper I submitted, the comment I got back was, ‘You are so apathetic to the Black experience,’” she said. “I took it as a challenge to prove to the professor and myself that I could do the work. By the time the semester was finished, I decided to get my master’s in Africana studies because I had completely fallen in love with it. And that professor — at graduation he gifted me the entire Africana encyclopedia set.”
The professor, Alan Colón, was also on the NCBS board, and when Fontnette was in the second year of her doctoral program in 2012, he recommended her for the Keto Fellowship, a board position that provides leadership training to young scholars.
“When Dr. Colón retired from the board, I promised him I would continue this legacy,” Fontnette said. “Even to this day, I think about how one elective changed my life and learning about myself and who I am as a Black woman. I found myself in Africana studies. It literally saved my life. It gave me hope. It gave me a purpose.”
Before joining the faculty at UD, Fontnette taught at Spelman College and served as an assistant principal at a high school in Atlanta, an experience that shaped her student-success centered pedagogical approach. As a scholar-activist, she is dedicated to the freedom and liberation of Black and Brown people throughout the diaspora. She believes that her responsibility is to help students encounter breakthroughs in thinking and acting in the interest of social justice. Fontnette’s research interests include Black feminist theory, Black American literature and the African novel.
About the NCBS
Africana and Black studies departments began at universities as an intellectual extension of the 1960s era Civil Rights Movement, and NCBS was founded in 1975 to formalize the study of the African world experience, strengthen the academic discipline and promote social responsibility. Among the founders is Maulana Ron Karenga, chair of the Department of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, and best known for creating the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa.
The council publishes the International Journal of Africana Studies and supports curriculum development for K-12 schools and higher education programs. The council’s annual conference hosts Africana scholars from institutions throughout the country.