Molefi Kete Asante

A Critical Afrocentric Reader

by James L. Conyers, Jr. (Volume editor)
©2017 Textbook XXII, 238 Pages


Conceptually, Molefi Kete Asante: A Critical Afrocentric Reader is a reflexive analysis of the editor’s space in higher education over the past three decades. As a historical assessment, this reader is a narrative that offers a constructive perspective of Afrocentricity, as the sheer mention of the word draws reaction and fear from either uniformed or conventional personnel. The book organizes Asante’s writings into four categories: history, mythology, ethos, and motif. Arranged theoretically, these are the four concepts that describe and evaluate culture from an Afrocentric perspective. This study offers an assessment of Asante’s body of literature that continues to position the philosophy and ideals of the Afrocentric movement internationally. In the context of being a public intellectual, the core of Asante’s analysis draws inferences in locating Africana occurrences in place, space, and time. Advancing this idea further, the purpose of these presages is to motivate scholars in the field of Africana studies to contribute to the intellectual history of W. E. B. Du Bois, Maria Stewart, Carter G. Woodson, John Henrik Clarke, and the countless others who have advanced Africana research and writing. For many cynics and associates, the scholarship of Asante has not been thoroughly vetted. Directly or indirectly, Asante offers a foundation of optimism in forming the outliers of breakdown and breakthroughs for victorious thought of an Afrocentric perspective.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance praise for Molefi Kete Asante
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: History
  • Editor’s Notes
  • Ideological Significance of Afrocentricity in Intercultural Communication (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • “Litany of Horror: A Survey of Newspaper-Reported Lynchings” (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Are You Scared of Your Shadow?: A Critique of Sidney Lemelle’s “The Politics of Cultural Existence” (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • African Renaissance Conferences of the 21st Century: Dakar and Salvador in Perspective (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • “Systematic Nationalism: A Legitimate Strategy for National Selfhood” (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • The Afrocentric Idea in Education (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Africology: Naming an Intellectual Enterprise in our Field (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Chapter Two: Mythology
  • Editor’s Notes
  • Harold Cruse and Afrocentric Theory (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • A Discourse on Black Studies: Liberating the Study of African People in the Western Academy (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Barack Obama and the Dilemma of Power: An Africological Observation (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Chapter Three: Motif
  • Editor’s Notes
  • Africology and the Puzzle of Nomenclature (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Controversy Multiculturalism: An Exchange (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Communication, Urban Culture, and The Twentieth Century (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Chapter Four: Ethos
  • Editor’s Notes
  • Intellectual Dislocation: Applying Analytic Afrocentricity to Narratives of Identity (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • The Rhetoric of Globalization: The Europeanization of Human Ideas (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • The Rhetorical Condition as Symbolic Structure in Discourse (Molefi Kete Asante / Deborah F. Atwater)
  • Communicating Africa: Enabling Centricity for Intercultural Engagement (Asante, Molefi Kete)
  • Chapter Five: Reflection Essays
  • On Molefi Kete Asante and Africana World History (Dr. Troy Allen)
  • The Voice of Invocation: On Molefi Asante and Afrocentricity (Dr. Reiland Rabaka)
  • On Molefi Kete Asante and Africana Literacy History (Dr. Christel N. Temple)
  • Conclusion
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →



Communication is a simple, yet obscured term of explanation. Expressed in a cultural context, ones' appreciation of others exhibits their respect for: continuity, peace, and reflection. Plainly put, to say thank you extends common sense, good manners, and human decency. As academicians, we often times lose ability to see our base foundations of being social beings. Committed to the study of Africana phenomena, this reader contributes to the body of literature in Black Studies by organizing and locating the writings of Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, in four categorical areas of culture—history, mythology, ethos, and motif. Situated in either discourse or congruence, the subject has made impact on the study of Africana people from a global Pan Africanist perspective.

To present disclosures, I am a member of the Temple University Circle of African American Studies. Many prolific scholars and gifted graduate students have walked the corridors of Gladfelter Hall. Memories are reflexive of graduate students having debates and ciphers, regarding the state of Africana America. Nonetheless, this facility provided and offered sanctuary for the sacred study of Africana phenomena from an Afrocentric perspective. Leading onward, these colloquial circles arranged a: base, context, and ecology for me to locate consciousness in place, space, and time. Directly, my family is always the base to begin creative, critical, and common-sense thought of analysis. As one matures, the context of stillness and silence is appreciated. Referencing myself as an adult-orphan, refers to meditating and reflecting on the life lessons and wisdom shared by my parents. ← ix | x →

As in the case of any individual merit, there exists a shadow cabinet of family, friends, and detractors who provide an impetus for us to grind and unpack the merit of tenacity to extend ourselves. Jacqueline (Jack) I. Pierce-Conyers, is a spiritual core for our family concerning reclamation. Furthermore, my sons, Chad A. Hawkins, Sekou Conyers, and Kamau Conyers, are muse’ which stretch my common sense and spiritual uplift. Likewise Kimberly Gay, is my companion, girlfriend, Bestee, and prolific reference librarian.

Other family members and colleagues, who have provided support continuously are: James Qawi Jamison, Anthony Robinson, Zane Corbin, Joe Taylor, and James Bullock. Faculty mentors to whom I am forever grateful is: Drs. James B. Stewart, Molefi Kete Asante, James Turner, Delores Aldridge, Maulana Karenga, and Linda James Myers. Colleagues who have supportive and we continue to be sounding boards for each other are: Drs. Christel Temple, Shawn Donaldson, Reiland Rabaka, Scott Brown, Malachi Crawford, Marcia Walker McWilliams, Vincent Willis, Drew Brown, Brittany Slatton, Gerald Horne, Lawrence Hogue, Shayne Lee, Bruce Jones, Janis Hutchinson, Abul Pitre, Kenyatta Cavil, Billy Hawkins, Demetrius Pearson, Angela Branch-Vital, Akilah Carter-Francique, and Antonio Tillis. Equally important, the African American Studies Program staff at the University of Houston consisting of Tanja Simmons, Dormese Senegal, and Angela Williams Phillips are great team members and provide support to coordinate the navigation of unit forward.

In closing, there are several other personnel, who I have not named, but are imperative to my continued learning and continue to support my ideas and collective spiritual vocation.

← x | xi →



Conceptually, the formation of this Asante Reader is a reflexive analysis of my space in the academy of higher education over the past three decades. As an historical assessment this Asante Reader is an epic which offers a constructive perspective of the subject. Truly, the sheer mentioning of the word, Afrocentricity, draws reaction, fear, and response from either uninformed or conventional personnel. Hitherto on the cutting edge of this philosophical movement, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is recognized as the Jelle and leading academician in higher education to import this interchange. Since publishing the first edition of Afrocentricity: the Theory of Social Change in 1983, he remains stable in publishing, lecturing, and teaching on Africana agency.

The outliers of this Asante Reader are to coordinate selected writings of Asante, in drawing the intersection of this body of knowledge to advancement of Africana Studies, and the positioning of Africana phenomena in world history. Awkwardly phrased, this movement of the Afrocentric perspective has made an impact on the continual Eurocentric hegemonic perspective. Consequently, this phenomena of colonization plagues our social perception and enables domination of social dysfunctionalism as normative. On the other hand, Africana agency has requisitioned a base of humanism which is expressive in the Afrocentric perspective. In the revised and enlarged version of Afrocentricity published in 2003, Asante poised a reflective moment by writing: ← xi | xii →

More than twenty years have passed since I wrote the theory of Afrocentricity. What has transpired in the intervening years has been a major response to the concept of Afrocentricity. Indeed, the book Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, reflected the best ideas of African agency of that period. What I contended at that time was that the book offered a philosophical inquiry into the future of the Afrocentric perspective. I also proposed the idea of Njia, the Way, the ideology of victorious thought, from ideas taken from the ordinary lives of African people. (Asante 2003, 1)

In an historical perspective, Asante who was a student activist during the 1960s in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee used an unfamiliar modus of protest and consciousness. As a graduate student at UCLA and the founding Director of the Afro-American Studies Center, he used his scholarship as an instrument to track the historical precedent of Africana struggle and advancement. Captured in a period of protest, the consciousness of oppressed and segregated communities in the United States began to query the conventional wisdom of authoritarian personalities. Indeed, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and SNCC were alliances which organized and provided impact by addressing the issues of disparate treatment of African Americans and working class communities. This takes us to what Nathan Hare refers to as the communiversity—bringing the campus to the community and in reverse, bringing the community to the campus. Diane Turner in an oral history narrative writes about Asante, saying:

Asante is not only a major contemporary scholar but also a prolific writer of 52 Books and 250 journal articles (see the appendix for a selected bibliography). In 1980, Asante wrote his landmark book Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. Other pivotal works by Asante are The Afrocentric Idea as well as Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge and, more recently, The Egyptian Philosophers: From Imhotep to Akhenaten and Scream of Blood: Desettlerism in South Africa. His debut novel, Scattered to the Wind, is published by Sungai Books of Princeton, New Jersey. As the founder, principal theorist, and authority of Afrocentrism, Asante is 1 of the 10 most widely quoted African American scholars, whose work on African culture and philosophy is cited in the Journal of Communication, the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and many other journals. Asante is also a prominent figure in the movement to rewrite curricula in public schools. His book African American History is the only high school textbook that provides students a view of history from an African-centered perspective by an African American scholar. His consultancies for education have included more than a dozen urban districts. (Turner 2002, 712–13)

Additionally, using the academy as the empire for the first line of protest, Asante positioned himself in the disciplines of Communications and Africana Studies, where he offered an alternative interpretive analysis of the African worldview. Etymologically, he coined the term Afrocentricity, which gave direct and indirect reference to people of African descent having agency and sovereignty to explain, enumerate, and expound on their experiences from their own human point of view. He narrates his theoretical ideas by noting: ← xii | xiii →

I wrote Afrocentricity because I was convinced, and I remain convinced, that the best road to all health, economic, political, cultural, and psychological in the African community is through a centered positioning of ourselves within our own story. We can never again be shoved to the side in our own history or relegated to being back up players to Europeans in the grand drama of humanity. Ours is remarkable journey of liberation over the past five hundred years. (Asante 2003, vii)

Whether or not Africana historical thinkers such as John Henrik Clarke, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther, King, Jr. used the terminology as predecessors is highly debated. Nonetheless, it is Asante who establishes an empire of intellectual thought and movement to advance the idea of Afrocentricity from theory to praxis. For many, we are still in a transitional phrase of praxis, yet the idea and engagement of global and continental Africana phenomena as humans is subjected to oversight by the criminal justice system and termination of Black Lives Matter.

Unquestionably, I must disclose to readers of the interconnection and limitations of this Reader, whereas, Asante is my mentor and dissertation advisor, playing an integral role in the formation and development of my continued learning. Going further with this narrative, as a former student and now colleague, I have learned from Asante and many others the ethic of the academic grind to publish and to provide community service. Nathan Hare refers to this concept as communiversity, in which we bring the campus to the community and the community to the campus (Karenga 2012, 18).

Nonetheless, this Asante Reader endeavors to organize Asante’s writings into four categories: (1) history; (2) mythology; (3) ethos; and (4) motif. Arranged theoretically, these four stations describe and evaluate culture from an Afrocentric perspective. History, the study of human events, is shaped in the image and interests of the personnel or narrators, who dispense this intelligence. Mythology is a version of historical information which takes shape and form, and which reflects the season of life in which it is currently engaged. Third, ethos is the achievement of memory which threads to accountability for past actions and occurrences. Finally, motif refers to as signs and symbols in which a people’s past is reaffirmed in their imagery.

Included in this publication are ruminative essays from selected Temple University alumni of the doctoral program in African American Studies. Designated alumnae are comprised of personnel for whom Asante served as dissertation advisor or collaborated with on research conference proceedings. Additionally, these contributors have also reached the rank of senior faculty at institutions of higher education nationally. Respective of their views, this last chapter provides trajectory and exemplifies the lasting contributions of the Temple University circle and movement for advancing the research regarding Africana phenomena. ← xiii | xiv →

To some, this Reader offers an assessment of the body of literature Asante has produced and that continues to position the philosophy and ideals of the Afrocentric movement internationally. In the context of being a public intellectual, the core of Asante’s analysis, by inference, locates Africana occurrences in place, space, and time. Advancing this idea onward, this presage assigns scholars in the field of Africana Studies who contribute to the intellectual history of W. E.B. DuBois, Maria Stewart, Carter G. Woodson, Jon Henrik Clarke, and the countless others by their research and writing. Phrased another way, citing James Turner, the tasks of the Black Studies scholar are to: (1) defend; (2) disseminate; (3) legitimate; and (4) preserve alternative epistemologies for Africana people. Possibly, this Reader is just one of the many contributions examining the research and writing of seminal Africana Studies scholars. I feel confident additional studies are in progress and will avail to locate agency describing and evaluating the Africana experience. For many cynics and associates, we are not vetted in probing the scholarship of Asante. Still, as a full Professor for over five decades, he continues to write, teach, and publish.

While attending professional meetings, as we all know, Asante is frugal with social time and is always focused on the next project. While providing the paradigm of levels of transformation, he outlines the prerequisites for the outliers of Afrocentric relationships. Directly or indirectly, Asante as an optimist formats the outliers of breakdown and breakthroughs for victorious thought of an Afrocentric perspective. Chronicled in Table I.1, I have provided a social ecology of African American history and culture threaded with the biographical profile of Molefi Kete Asante. This table thus locates Asante in place and time and illustrates how societal factors played a role in shaping and formatting his creativity, scholarship and political views.

Table I.1 Africana Social Ecology and Biographical Profile of Molefi Kete Asante

1942Born in Valdosta, Georgia, the 4th of 16 children, with the government name of Arthur L. Smith, Jr.; father’s name was Arthur L. Smith, Sr., a laborer from Dooley County, Georgia; mother’s name was Lille Mae Wilkens, a domestic worker from Naylor, Georgia. (Turner Article)
1933–45Presidential administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. During this era, African Americans moved from group support of the Republican Party to the Democratic Party with the concept of the New Deal.
1957January 10th, Founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, first president is Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. (SCLC)
1960Earns Diploma from Nashville Christian Institute. ← xiv | xv →
1960John F. Kennedy is elected as the 35th President of the United States.
1960April, Founding the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, the first president is the late Marion Barry, who was a Fisk University student. (SNCC site)
1961SNCC Freedom Rides in interstate travel across the southern region states of America. (SNCC site)
1960–62Attends Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, completing the Associate of Arts degree; he begins study at OCC.
1963August 28th, the March on Washington is coordinated.
1963September 15th, the 16th Street Baptist Church is attacked by domestic terrorists in Birmingham, Alabama.
1963November, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and Lyndon B. Johnson ascends as the 36th President of the United States.
1964Completes the B.A. at Oklahoma Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University).
1964July 2nd, passage of the Civil Rights Acts under the presidential administration of Lyndon B. Johnson.
1964Freedom Summer, with SNCC having coordinating Freedom Rides across the south.
1964Lyndon B. Johnson is elected to a 4 year term of President of the United States and remains the 36th politician to hold this office.
1965February 21st, Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem, New York, at the Audubon Ballroom.
1965Completes the M.A. in Communication Studies at Pepperdine University.
1965September 7th, founding of the Organization Us by Maulana Karenga, in Los Angeles, California. He also introduces the Nzugo Saba, The Seven Principles.
1965August 6th, Passage of the Voting Rights Act, by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
1966October 15th, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California, is founded, by the party leaders of Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton. (BPP)
The Pan-African holiday Kwanzaa, a celebration of family, community and culture, is founded by Maulana Karenga in Los Angeles, California.
1968Completes the Ph.D. in Communications at the University of California at Los Angeles. ← xv | xvi →
1968Receives an appointment at Purdue University as an Assistant Professor of Communication; retains the appointment for one year from 1968 to 1969. (Turner Article)
1968April 4th, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee.
1969Student protest and shoot-out on the UCLA campus.
1969Earns tenure and is appointed Associate Professor of Communication and Founding Director of the Center for Afro-American Studies at UCLA; also writes the proposal for the M.A. program in Afro-American Studies at UCLA.
1969Becomes the Founding Editor of the Journal of Black Studies, SAGE Publications.
1969 Publishes the book, Rhetoric of the Black Revolution.
1972Takes first trip abroad to Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya. (Turner Article).
1973Legally changes his name from Arthur L. Smith, Jr., to Molefi Kete Asante. (Turner Article)
1973–82Appointed Chair and Professor of the Department of Communications, State University of New York at Buffalo (now the University of Buffalo).
1976Elected President of Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research.
1977–79Appointed Chair and Professor of African American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo (chairing two departments simultaneously).
1980Publishes the book, Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change with Amulefi Publishing Company.
1981–89Ronald Reagan is elected as the 40th President of the United States.
1984Appointed Chair and Professor of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
1986Proposes the first doctoral program in African American Studies nationally and internationally at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1987Publishes the book, The Afrocentric Idea.
1988Doctoral and Master’s degree programs are approved for admission at Temple University for the fall semester.
1989Founder and President of the National Afrocentric Institute.
1995October 16th, The Million Man March, called by Minister Louis Farrakhan, draws an estimated 1.5 million participants to Washington, D.C. ← xvi | xvii →
2001September 11th, World Trade Center, New York City, was attacked by terrorists
2008Dr. Asante son, Molefi Kete Asante, Jr., produces the documentary titled, The Black Candle, which is the 1st documentary on the history of Kwanzaa.
2008Barack H. Obama is elected the 44th President of the United States, defeating Senator John McCain and becomes the first African American to serve in the Oval Office.
2012President Barack Obama is elected for a second term, to serve as the 44th President of the United States, defeating former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.
2013During the summer months after the Trevon Martin trial, constituents organize to coordinate the alliance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
2015June 17th, Mother Emanuel Church, A.M.E. is attacked by domestic terrorists.
2017Dr. Asante continues to teach, research, and lecture on the Pan African Globalist perspective.

In summary, the aforementioned in the introduction of this edited Reader proposes an outline and basis for studying and locating the scholarship and political ethos of Asante.


XXII, 238
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXII, 238 pp.

Biographical notes

James L. Conyers, Jr. (Volume editor)

James L. Conyers, Jr., is Director of the African American Studies Program, Director of the Center for African American Culture, and University Professor of African American Studies at the University of Houston. He is the author or editor of thirty-five books and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Black Studies and the International Journal of Africana Studies. He is the founding editor of the serial Africana Studies: A Review of Social Science Research and editor of the book series Africana Studies. His most current publication is the edited volume Qualitative Methods in Africana Studies. His educational background includes a B.A. in communications from Ramapo College of New Jersey, a M.A. in Africana studies from the State University of New York at Albany, a Ph.D. in African American studies from Temple University, and graduate training in oral history at Columbia University.


Title: Molefi Kete Asante