Asante, Molefi Kete 1942-

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ASANTE, Molefi Kete 1942-

(Molefi K. Asante, Arthur L. Smith)

PERSONAL: Born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr., August 14, 1942, in Valdosta, GA; name legally changed, 1973; son of Arthur L. and Lillie B. (Wilkson) Smith; married second wife, Kariamu Welsh; children: Kasina Eka, Daahoud Ali, Molefi Khumalo. Education: Southwestern Christian College, A.A., 1962; Oklahoma Christian College, B.A. (cum laude; communication), 1964; Pepperdine College (now Pepperdine University), M.A. (communication), 1965; University of California, Los Angeles, Ph.D. (communication), 1968; Université Catholique de l'Ouest, diploma in French, 2002. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Ancestralism. Hobbies and other interests: Poetry, painting, gardening, basketball, astronomy.

ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 30004, Elkins Park, PA 19027-0304. Office—Department of African-American Studies, Gladfelter Hall 025-26, Temple University, 1115 West Berks Mall, Philadelphia, PA 19122. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Educator, author, and activist. California State Polytechnic College (now California State Polytechnic University), Pomona, instructor, 1966-67; San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge), instructor, 1967; Purdue University, Lafayette, IN, assistant professor of communication, 1968-69; University of California, Los Angeles, assistant professor, 1969-70, associate professor of speech, 1971-73, director of Center for Afro-American Studies, 1969-73; State University of New York at Buffalo, professor of communications, 1973-82, chair of department of communications, 1973-82, chair of department of Black studies, 1977-79; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, professor of African-American studies, 1984—, chair of department, 1984-96. Visiting professor, Florida State University, 1972, and Howard University, 1979-80, 1995; Fulbright professor, Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communication, 1981-82. President, Trans-Cultural Education/Communication Foundation, 1971-81; vice president, National Council of Black Studies, 1988-90; founder and president, National Afrocentric Institute, 1989-91; president and chair, African Writers Endowment, 2000—; president, African Writers Endowment Foundation, 2000—; director, Institute for the Study of Intercultural Communication. Developer of Asante Imprint Books, Peoples Publishing Group, for Afrocentric Infusion, 1993-2000. Indiana State Civil Rights Commission on Higher Education and the Afro-American, chair, 1968-69; member of selection committee, Martin Luther King and Woodrow Wilson fellowships, 1970-72; board member, Project Daytime Television. Consultant to Zimbabwe Institute for Mass Communication, 1981-82, United Nations University, 1985-86, and publishers, including Chandler, Macmillan, Sage Publications, Allyn & Bacon, Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill, Peoples Publishing, Harper & Row, and Curriculum Press. Host of radio programs for WHAT, 1994-2000, and WURD, 2001—.

MEMBER: International Communication Association (vice president, 1978-80), National Communication Association, Association of Nubian Kemetic Heritage (president, 1995-2003), Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, African Heritage Studies Association, American Studies Association, African Studies Association, American Education Research Association, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Modern Language Association, Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (president, 1975-76).

AWARDS, HONORS: Christian Education Guild Writer's Award, 1965; D.H.L., University of New Haven, 1976; named Outstanding Community Scholar, Jackson State University, 1980; D.H.L., Sojourner-Douglass College, 1989; outstanding scholar, National Council of Black Studies, 1990; Pan-African Society Excellence Award, 1992; Outstanding Communication Scholar in America, Howard University, 1992; Education and Community Service Award, Howard University, 1994; College of Arts and Sciences Award for Distinguished Academic Service, Morgan State University, 1995; Nguzo Saba Award, NAKO, 2000, for scholarly initiative; Philadelphia '76ers and Philadelphia Tribune Community Service Award, 2002; Carter Woodson and Cheikh Anta Diop Award, West Virginia University, 2002, for lifetime achievement in African studies research and scholarship; Douglas Ehninger Award, National Communication Association, 2002, for distinguished rhetorical scholarship.



African and Afro-American Communication Continuities, State University of New York at Buffalo Center for International Affairs (Buffalo, NY), 1975.

(With Eileen Newmark) Intercultural Communication: Theory into Practice, Speech Communication Association (Alexandria, VA), 1976.

(With Jerry K. Frye) Contemporary Public Communication, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.

(Editor, with Mary B. Cassata) The Social Uses of Mass Communication, Communication Research Center, State University of New York at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY), 1977.

(With Jerry K. Frye) Contemporary Public Communication: Applications, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.

Epic in Search of African Kings, Amulefi Publishing (Buffalo, NY), 1978.

(With Mary B. Cassata) Mass Communication: Principles and Practices, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1979.

(With wife, Kariamu Welsh) A Guide to African and African-American Art and Antiquities, Museum of African and African-American Art, 1979.

(Editor, with Eileen Newmark and Cecil A. Blake, and contributor) Handbook of Intercultural Communication, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1979.

Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, Amulefi Publishing (Buffalo, NY), 1980, 4th expanded edition, African American Images (Chicago, IL), 2003.

(Editor, with Abdulai S. Vandi, and contributor) Contemporary Black Thought: Alternative Analyses in Social and Behavioral Science, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1980.

Research in Mass Communication: Guide to Practice, Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications (Harare, Zimbabwe), 1982.

African Myths: New Frames of Reference, Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communications (Harare, Zimbabwe), 1982.

(With others) Media Training Needs in Zimbabwe, Mass Media Trust and Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Harare, Zimbabwe), 1982.

(Editor, with Kariamu Welsh Asante, and contributor) African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1985.

The Afrocentric Idea, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1987, revised and expanded edition, 1998.

Umfundalai: Afrocentric Rite of Passage, National Afrocentric Institute (Philadelphia, PA), 1989.

(Editor, with William B. Gudykunst and Eileen New-mark) Handbook of Intercultural and International Communication, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1989.

Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge, Africa World Press (Trenton, NJ), 1990.

(With Mark Mattson) Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991, revised edition published as The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture, 1998.

The Book of African Names, Africa World Press (Trenton, NJ), 1991.

(With Dhyana Ziegler) Thunder and Silence: The Mass Media in Africa, Africa World Press (Trenton, NJ), 1991.

(Author of foreword) Duane Smith, The Nubian, Azimuth Press, 1992.

Classical Africa (high school textbook), Peoples Publishing (Saddle Brook, NJ), 1993.

Malcolm X As Cultural Hero, and Other Afrocentric Essays, Africa World Press (Trenton, NJ), 1993.

Mfecane (novel), 1984.

Fury in the Wilderness, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with Abu Abarry) The Sources of the African Tradition, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1994.

African American History: A Journey of Liberation, Peoples Publishing (Saddle Brook, NJ), 1995, 2nd edition, 2001.

(Editor, with Abu Abarry) African Intellectual Heritage: A Book of Sources, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1996.

(Under name Molefi Kete Asante) Love Dance, Sungai Press (Trenton, NJ), 1996.

(With Augusta Mann) Activity Book for African American History, Peoples Publishing Group (Maywood, NJ), 1997.

(Editor, with Charmaine Harris-Stewart and Augusta Mann) Teacher's Guide for African American History, Peoples Publishing Group (Maywood, NJ), 1997, 2nd edition, with Charmaine Harris-Stewart, Theresa Flynn-Nason, and David J. Glunt, 2001.

(With Renee Muntaqim) The African-American Book of Names and Their Meanings, Peoples Publishing Group (Maywood, NJ), 1999.

The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism: An Afrocentric Response to Critics, Africa World Press (Trenton, NJ), 1999.

(Under name Molefi Kete Asante) Scream of Blood: Desettlerism in Southern Africa, Sungai Books (Princeton, NJ), 1999.

The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten, African American Images (Chicago, IL), 2000.

(Editor, with Eungjun Min) Socio-Cultural Conflict between African American and Korean American, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 2000.

(Editor, with Charmaine Harris-Stewart, Theresa Flynn-Nason, and David J. Glunt) Worktext for African American History, 2nd edition, Peoples Publishing Group (Maywood, NJ), 2001.

(With Judylynn Mitchell) Discovery Essays for Teachers, Ankh Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 2001.

(Editor, with Virginia H. Milhouse and Peter O. Nwosu) Transcultural Realities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cross-cultural Relations, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 2001.

One Hundred Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2002.

Culture and Customs of Egypt, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 2002.

Scattered to the Wind (fiction), Sungai Books (Princeton, NJ), 2002.

(Editor, with Ama Mazama) Egypt, Greece, and the American Academy, African American Images (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2003.

(Editor, with Maulana Karenga) Handbook of Black Studies, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 2003.

(Editor, with Ama Mazama) Encyclopedia of Black Studies, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 2003.


The Break of Dawn (poetry), Dorrance (Philadelphia, PA), 1964.

The Rhetoric of Black Revolution, Allyn & Bacon (Boston, MA), 1969.

(With Andrea Rich) Rhetoric of Revolution: Samuel Adams, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X, Moore Publishing (Durham, NC), 1970.

Toward Transracial Communication, Afro-American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), 1970.

(Editor, with Stephen Robb) The Voice of Black Rhetoric, Allyn & Bacon (Boston, MA), 1971.

(With Anne Allen and Deluvina Hernandez) How to Talk with People of Other Races, Ethnic Groups, and Cultures, Transcultural Educational Foundation (Los Angeles, CA), 1971.

Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.

Transracial Communication, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1973.

Also editor of unpublished book In Their Faces: Situating Alternatives to Afrocentricity, 1994. Contributor to books, including Topics in Afro-American Studies, edited by Henry Richards, Black Academy Press, 1971; Return to Vision, Houghton Mifflin, 1971; Speech Communication Behavior, edited by L. Barker and R. Kibler, Prentice-Hall, 1971; America in Controversy, edited by DeWitte Holland, W. C. Brown, 1973; Black Communication, edited by Jack Daniel, Speech Communication Association, 1974; Education in the Eighties, edited by Gus Friedrich, NEA-SCA, 1981; International Communication Theory, edited by William B. Gudykunst, Sage Publications, 1982; Television and the Socialization of the Minority Child, edited by Gordon Berry and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, Academic Press, 1982; Black Male, edited by Lawrence Gary, Sage Publications, 1982; Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern, edited by Ivan Van Sertima, Transaction Books, 1983; Kemet and the African Worldview, edited by Maulana Karenga and Jacob Carruthers, University of Sankore Press, 1986; Colored, on White Campus: The Education of a Racial World, MARS Productions, 1992; The African-German Experience: Critical Essays, edited by Aisha Black-shire-Belay, Greenwood Press, 1997; Conversation in America: Changing Rules, Hidden Dimensions, edited by William F. Eadie and Paul E. Nelson, Sage Publications, 2000; Black Identity in the Twentieth Century: Expressions of the U.S. and U.K. African Diaspora, edited by Mark Christian, Hansib, 2002; The Anthology of African-American Social and Political Thought, Oxford University Press, 2003; UnderstandingAfrican-American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations, edited by Ronald Jackson and Elaine Richardson, Routledge, 2003; and Déraison, esclavage, et droit: Les fondements ideologiques et juridiques de la traite négrière et de l'esclavage, by Isabel Castro Henriques and Louis Sala-Molins, Editions UNESCO, 2003.

Contributor to journals, including African Centred Review, Black Scholar, Academe, Educational Leadership, World and I, American Scholar, Journal of Negro Education, Black Collegian, Southern Communication Journal, Critical Social Issues, African Concord, Dissent, Communication Quarterly, Journal of Black Studies, Journal of African Civilization, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Journal of Popular Culture, Review of Afro-American Issues and Cultures, Language Artist, Palestine Review, Western Journal of Black Studies, Colorado Journal of Educational Research, Speech Abstracts, Language Quarterly, Today's Speech, Quarterly Journal of Black Speech, and Urban Research; contributor to newspapers and magazines, including Utne Reader, Philadelphia New Observer, Philadelphia Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News, Buffalo Challenger, and the Los Angeles Times.

Editor, "African Dissertation Series," Routledge, Taylor & Francis, 2001—. Member of board of editors, "Black Men in America" reprint series, 1969-70; founding editor, Journal of Black Studies, 1969—; editorial associate, Speech Teacher, 1970-73; contributing editor, Encore, 1970-72; advisory editor, Imhotep; also associate editor of Nigerian Journal of Political Economy, Afrodiaspora, Afrique Histoire, Africa and the World, Urban African Quarterly, and Journal of African Civilization. Book reviewer, Journal of Communication, 1970-72; reviewer for scholarly books, UNESCO, 1985. Member of advisory board, Black Law Journal, 1971-73, and Race Relations Abstract, 1973-76.

SIDELIGHTS: Molefi Kete Asante is considered the founder of the Afrocentricity movement, which he defines in his book The Afrocentric Idea as "literally placing African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture and behavior." With an educational background in communications and both modern and ancient languages, Asante has worked as both an educator and a writer to help people understand the importance of African people as agents of history and culture. "Asante seeks pluralism without hierarchy," explained Alex Boyd and Catherine J. Lenix-Hooker in Library Journal. He believes that "Afrocentrism should take its place not above but alongside other cultural and historical perspectives." Many of Asante's books concentrate on communication and Afrocentricity, and provide reference sources on the historical contributions made by people of African descent.

Born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr. and raised in the American South during the 1940s and 1950s, Asante experienced the pain of racial prejudice firsthand. While attending Nashville Christian Institute, a black boarding school, he worked in the tobacco and cotton fields during school breaks. At the age of twelve, he got a job as a shoeshine boy, but quit after his first day when a white man spat on him. Fortunately, he gained emotional support from his father and mother, who, although they had only an elementary education, encouraged their son to improve himself intellectually. Asante also developed a strong work ethic, thanks to the influential president of his boarding school, Marshall Keeble, and was also inspired by his high school teacher Frank Tharp as well as by a fellow student, Fred Gray, who later became an attorney representing Martin Luther King, Jr. Another important influence was a Nigerian named Essien Essien, whom Asante met while attending Southwestern Christian College. Essien encouraged the young man to learn more about his African heritage. This he did energetically, while also studying European languages and cultures. And his studies of both European and African classic languages and cultures brought him to a fuller understanding of how the two have clashed and interrelated to each other in American society.

Asante's first published book to focus on the African-American experience was The Rhetoric of Black Revolution, and he first addressed cross-cultural communication in his Transracial Communication—both books were published under his given name. He was prompted to change his name legally to Molefi Kete Asante in 1973 by an incident that occurred while he was visiting the University of Ghana. A librarian there told him that he assumed The Rhetoric of Black Revolution had been written by a white man; Asante decided then and there to embrace an African name that better represented his heritage.

A few years later, in 1980, Asante released his landmark book concerning his concept of Afrocentricity:Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, which has been revised several times since. As he told a Newsweek writer, "Afrocentricity believes that in order to have a stable society, we must always have a society that respects difference." Slavery and racism, while practiced in the United States, have not respected such differences; thus they have denied a large percentage of American citizens their own sense of identity.

Asante's 1987 title The Afrocentric Idea explores his argument that cultural ethics originating in Africa have a direct effect on speech and behavior in black communities in the Western Hemisphere. Aware of the way in which speech has at times been used to perpetuate racial division, "Asante stresses the significance of rhetoric and rhythm in black life," according to Andrew Hacker in the New York Review of Books. Asante also emphasizes the prominence in black culture of oral dialogue over the written word. Moreover, the heritage of African Americans is manifest in the achievements of blacks in music and sports, according to Asante.

Some reviewers, such as Hacker, noted that Asante's listing of many blacks from the sports and entertainment fields "to show that their talents derive from African culture are certainly suggestive." However, Hacker added, "the problem is that this African emphasis supports a more insidious aspect of white racism" by not emphasizing intellectual achievements. However, Melvin Dixon added in the New York Times Book Review that Asante makes the Afrocentric perspective an ideal crucial not only to an enriched awareness but also to any noteworthy analysis of the lives of blacks. "Asante's discussion ends by promoting spiritual balance as the key to an Afrocentric ideal in America," Dixon concluded. "Such balance is crucial to our African-American identity; neither Africa nor Europe alone provides sufficient scope for our collective experience."

A revised and expanded edition of The Afrocentric Idea published in 1998 represents Asante's efforts to respond to some of the critics of the original book. "His method," as Maulana Karenga noted in Black Issues in Higher Education, "is to outline and identify critical weaknesses in cherished Eurocentric conceptions, dismiss them, and then introduce alternative pathways to pursue in the ongoing engagement with the products and processes of the Afrocentric project." Karenga concluded in his review that "Asante's works are clearly in the vanguard of this intellectual and cultural thrust toward African centering. Thus, . . . one cannot honestly deny that both his work and our dialogue with him has expanded the intellectual horizon and enriched the discourse of the discipline of Black studies."

As with his earlier Rhetoric of Black Revolution, Asante's 2003 book Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation deals directly with the tension between whites and African Americans. Among other things, the author argues in support of the payment of reparations to blacks for the centuries of slavery imposed on them in the United States. He feels that such payments would go a long way toward healing the rift between whites and blacks and would be in the spirit of "patriotism" in which all citizens of a nation work to help one another. "Anyone who has struggled to understand race relations in America. . . ," asserted a Publishers Weekly contributor, "will glean something valuable from this book."

Part of Asante's efforts to foster understanding among African Americans with regard to their cultural heritage has been to publish a number of educational resources that are especially suited for researchers in high school and undergraduate school. One of these, Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, which has since been revised as The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture, is a chronological history of black history extending from African origins forward in time to the present. In his book Asante provides several resources for the reader, including charts, lists of important dates to remember, statistical data, highlights of selected events, brief biographies of important people, and a practical atlas format. R. C. Dickey, writing in Choice, described the Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans as a "helpful overall view of black American history." Another reference work by Asante, One Hundred Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, offers brief biographies of important African Americans based on criteria established by Asante that include how much the person contributed to the advancement of racial equality in America, personal sacrifices made and risks taken, and achievements that can serve to inspire other African Americans. While Reference and User Services Quarterly reviewer M. Elaine Hughes felt that the author's selection of listees is, not surprisingly, somewhat subjective, she praised Asante's encyclopedia for being "very well researched and written."

Asante's concern for U.S. public-school education is evident not only in the books he has written but also in his service as a curricula consultant to various urban school districts. He has encouraged schools to design courses that incorporate Afrocentric principles which help students feel more connected to their coursework. In both his efforts to help educate school children and his academic work, Asante has dedicated much of his life to breaking down communications barriers between European and African Americans and helping connect blacks with their heritage in order that they might better understand where they stand in contemporary U.S. society.



Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 3, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.


Atlanta Journal, June 16, 1991.

Black Issues in Higher Education, June 11, 1998, Maulana Karenga, review of The Afrocentric Idea, p. 25.

Booklist, April 15, 1999, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture, p. 1548; February 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation, p. 1037.

Book Report, November-December, 1991, Marie A. Ramsey, review of Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, p. 59.

Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1989.

Choice, September, 1991, p. 51.

Chronicle of Higher Education, April 18, 1997, Denise K. Magner, "Deep Rifts Divide Faculty in Temple U.'s Afrocentric Ph.D. Program," p. A12.

Ebony, June, 1981, review of Contemporary Black Thought: Alternative Analyses in Social and Behavioral Science, p. 26.

Journal of Black Studies, November, 2000, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, review of Scream of Blood: Desettlerism in Southern Africa, p. 247; July, 2002, Diane D. Turner, "An Oral History Interview: Molefi Kete Asante," p. 711; May, 2003, Daryl Zizwe Poe, review of The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten, pp. 704-705.

Library Journal, July, 1991, Kenneth F. Kister, review of Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, p. 86; November 1, 1992, pp. 46-49; September 1, 1996, Anthony O. Edmonds, review of African Intellectual Heritage: A Book of Sources, p. 191.

Newsweek, September 23, 1991.

New York Review of Books, March 3, 1988, Andrew Hacker, review of The Afrocentric Idea, pp. 36-41.

New York Times Book Review, January 7, 1990, p. 35.

Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2003, review of Erasing Racism, p. 60.

Reference and User Services Quarterly, summer, 1999, Eva Lautemann, review of The African-American Atlas, p. 406; summer, 2003, M. Elaine Hughes, review of One Hundred Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, p. 356.

School Library Journal, May, 1999, Janet Woodward, review of The African-American Atlas, p. 148.

Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1991, James Rettig, review of Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, pp. 123-124.


Molefi Kete Asante Web site, (January 14, 2004).*