University of Wisconsin–Madison

Quick Facts

  • The African Studies Program was established in 1961 with Philip D. Curtin as director. At that time, the University of Wisconsin had four Africa-oriented faculty members: Philip Curtin (History), Frederick Simoons (Geography), Jan Vansina (History), and Aristide Zolberg (Political Science).
  • Wisconsin has awarded 750 Ph.D. degrees to Africa specialists since 1961, more than any other American university by a large margin.
  • A quarter of all presidents of the African Studies Association have been Wisconsin faculty members or alumni.
  • Every year Wisconsin offers more than 100 courses on Africa; 3,000 students take them.
  • More than 15,000 people, now in all walks of life, have taken the university’s basic Africa course, Africa: An Introductory Survey. It is offered every semester.
  • Professor Harold Scheub’s course, The African Storyteller, has enrolled more students than any other humanities course in the history of the university. It is still going strong.
  • Memorial Library has one of the greatest collections of Africa books and periodicals in the world; on central Africa in particular it is unrivalled anywhere.
  • Every Wednesday at noon – since 1973! – African Studies Program faculty members, students, and others have gathered for a one-hour seminar on Africa. The public is welcome.
  • No school of education in America rivals Wisconsin’s for attention to Africa; for 40 years the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Department of Educational Policy Studies have housed first-rank Africa specialists.
  • Wisconsin teaches five African languages every academic year at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels: Akan-Twi, Arabic, Swahili, Yoruba, and Zulu.
  • In addition to a wide variety of outreach programming for schools and community groups in Wisconsin and nearby states, the African Studies Program periodically takes groups of teachers to Africa for curriculum development, most recently to Benin (2001) and Rwanda (2009).
  • Africa Focus ( is the largest collection of Africa images and sound clips freely available on the web; all of the materials on the site were donated to the African Studies Program over the last 50 years, most by our faculty.