They were among the most influential academic departments in any one subject at any university. Harvard's African-American Studies dream team of Cornell West, Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates, and others essentially defined their field.
But earlier this year, both West and Appiah announced they were heading to Princeton next year, reportedly at least in part as a result of criticisms the department received from Harvard's new president, Lawrence Summers.
African-American studies as a field faces other obstacles as well, including critics who question the legitimacy of its scholarship.
In criticizing the African-American studies department within her university system, SUNY trustee Candace de Russy said, "What happened is they became therapeutic in nature, and the goal became consciousness raising as opposed to conveying solid scholarship."
De Russy also criticized African-American studies departments for having an anti-Western ideological bias. SUNY professors are now calling for her removal.
This hour, a look at the role and future of African-American studies.
K. Anthony Appiah, professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard
This program aired on April 23, 2002.