Skip to main content

About Us

From the Director

Cilas Kemedjio
Director for the Frederick Douglass Institute for African
and African-American Studies

The Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies (FDI) brings together scholars working in the humanities and social sciences in the area of Africa and the African diasporas. Its mission is to further undergraduate and graduate education, faculty research, and intellectual exchange within the University community. The Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies has a broad mandate in undergraduate and graduate education, advanced research, and intellectual exchange within and beyond the university community. The undergraduate major and minor in African and African-American studies benefits from the interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, a reflection of the diversity and vibrancy of our associates.

When I assumed the Directorship of the Institute, I stated that the Frederick Douglass Institute had been and would continue to be an important part of the University of Rochester’s response to the challenges of intellectual diversity. We support the training of the next generations of scholars in African and African-American studies through our fellowship program. The Frederick Douglass Institute sponsors two residential post-doctoral fellowships annually to help support that mission. The residential fellowship program is designed to support individual projects while at the same time advancing the broad goals of the Institute. It is our expectation that the fellows who join us will both benefit from and contribute to an intellectually engaged and expanding community of scholars. We have intensified our mentoring of our fellows, linking them to available local, national, and global networks that can contribute to their development as outstanding scholars in the field. After they leave the Institute, we keep in touch with them, inviting the most outstanding fellows to come back and share the results of their research and mentor our current fellows. We have established a graduate certificate along with a symposium on “New Directions on African and African-American Studies,” a yearly conference that brings together graduate students and junior scholars to explore groundbreaking research in the field. Our “Two Icons Annual Lecture,” organized with our sister program The Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies, has made it a point to target speakers in the early stages of their academic career. This lecture, now in its 10th year, has become an important event for students eager to explore and discuss the intersection of race and gender.

We envision a future articulated around a continued engagement with a more and more globally integrated world. To this end, we will work with the relevant offices to activate and sustain partnerships with institutions across the world, especially in Africa and within the African Diaspora. FDI, through its programming, will continue to advance scholarship in the field with an acute consciousness of the civic engagement that traces its roots back to the great abolitionist himself. Working with the Deans' office, FDI will strive to consolidate a more sustainable model for hiring, developing, and retaining the best scholars in the field of African and African-American studies. Beyond the School of Arts, Sciences & Engineering, one of our challenges will be to develop new institutional and creative mechanisms to actively collaborate with scholars and teachers from all academic units of the University, including the Medical Center, the Eastman School of Music, the School of Nursing, and the Warner School of Education. In short, The Frederick Douglass Institute will strive to be the vibrant intellectual home of all students of African and African-American studies, within and outside of the University of Rochester.