10 Things To Know About Dr. James Turner, Africana Studies Pioneer At Cornell University

By: Shirley Hawkins ,  The Moguldom Nation
August 6, 2019

In the late 1960s, Black communities began to demand academic programs and funding for African American studies at universities across the country.

Black students at Cornell University seized and occupied the university’s Willard Straight Hall in April 1969 to protest conditions on campus. They demanded the creation of a Black Studies program to make the curriculum more relevant to the interests of African Americans and the country.

The Cornell students had heard gifted young scholar and activist Prof. James Turner articulate his vision of education for liberation at a conference at Howard University. They selected Turner to direct and develop the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. 

The first generation of Africana studies

Dr. Turner and his wife, Janice Turner, came to Ithaca, New York in 1969 at a time when there no Black teachers in the Ithaca City School District, only a handful of Black tenured professors and no courses in African-American history, life, culture or literature.

“We had to begin the process of changing that environment….We were the first generation of Africana studies,” Dr. Turner said. It was particularly important to him, he added, because so few students at that time had ever had the experience of a Black professor.

Read the entire article in The Moguldom Nation.


Charles Turner and James Baldwin