The Black Studies Department at Amherst was founded in the early 1970s in response to the demand from students and concerned faculty for a space within the academy in which issues of race and the cultural connections between Africa and the Black Diaspora could be explored. From the outset, the faculty members who implemented the Department's program saw their work as cross-cultural and interdisciplinary. This emphasis remains a central feature of the Department today.
Black Studies faculty and students come from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds. They bring to the classroom a diverse array of experiences, traditions and disciplinary strengths. Most Black Studies faculty members hold a joint appointment in Black Studies and another department. At present, these include English, History, Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, American Studies and Art & the History of Art. In addition, the Department’s offerings are augmented by courses taught in Music, Theater and Dance, Philosophy, Religion and Spanish.