Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is one of the leading voices in African-American studies and is a pioneer in Afrocentrism, which examines Africa’s vast array of influences. The Valdosta, Ga. native was born August 14, 1942.
Born Arthur Smith Jr., Asante attended undergrad at Oklahoma Christian College ahead of earning his master’s from Pepperdine University; He then obtained his Ph.D. in communications from UCLA in 1968. Since attending high school in Nashville, Tenn., Asante exhibited an interest in civil rights and the fight for equality enacted by Black Americans.
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At 30, Asante became a professor at the University of Buffalo as part of its Department of Communications. While at UCLA, Asante began dabbling into African studies and in 1969, he published his first book, Rhetoric of Black Revolution which looked at the language and messaging of the civil rights movement.
Asante changed his name after a visit to the University of Ghana in 1973. When he asked a librarian if they carried his book, the staff member thought a white man was the author. Molefi, a Sotho name, means “One who gives and keeps the traditions” and took Asante from the Twi language, spoken by many in Ghana. Overall, Asante has written over 70 books and written over 400 papers centered on Afrocentric themes, communication, and language.
In 1984, Asante joined the faculty of Temple University and became its chair of the Department of African-American Studies ahead of establishing the first doctoral program in the field in 1987. He is also the founding editor of the Journal of Black studies, and is currently a professor of Africology at Temple.