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Why AHSA Matters
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A review of AHSA's goals and former conference programs illustrate the importance of AHSA's role as the major challenger of the Eurocentric view of Africa and African Studies The 1968 protest against the marginalization of African descendant scholars and their scholarship during the African Studies Association's (ASA) Annual Conference in Los Angeles was the first salvo in the struggle. ASA's unwillingness to acknowledge and address the just grievances of African descendant scholars led to their take-over of a major plenary session during ASA's 1969 Annual Conference in Montreal. This bold action and ASA's continued failure to appropriately address the scholars' grievances led to the incorporation of a separate organization in New York in 1969.
The name of the organization, African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA), proudly heralded an African-centered, African controlled professional organization committed to researching, analyzing and promoting the heritage and legacy of African peoples. By 1973, AHSA was able to successfully challenge the seating of ASA as the sole USA representative to the meeting of the International Association of Africanists (IAA) in Addis Ababa. Due to this challenge, AHSA and ASA met and negotiated an arrangement wherein AHSA's President (John H. Clarke) was selected to head a joint USA delegation to IAA over ASA's President (Philip Curtin). Both organizations made significant contributions to the meeting, but from that moment forward, AHSA's role in African Studies was recognized and respected by scholars around globe.
AHSA Annual Conferences, beginning at Howard University in 1970 and Southern University in 1971, and, subsequently, at over 40 cities and universities across the US continued the organization's commitment to situating African history in its rightful place in the development of world civilization and to promoting African-centered scholarly research, teaching, publications and discussions about the ancient and contemporary heritage and legacy of African peoples. AHSA's activist role in critiquing and pressuring elected officials on US policy towards Africa and its effective promotion and support of Black Studies and African Studies in US colleges, universities and pre-collegiate schools is a significant part of the organization's legacy. Countless newspaper, magazine and refereed journal articles, monograms, books and book chapters have been published by AHSA members over the past four decades. Additionally, the best and brightest African-centered scholars and activists have participated in annual AHSA conferences and have informed and inspired a generation of scholars who now take for granted African-centered scholarship and the place of Africa's heritage and legacy in world history. This is why AHSA matters and why it must continue to develop and expand.