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The Center for Black Studies was founded at UCSB in Fall 1969 as a response to student struggle for Black studies in Fall 1968.  The Department of Black Studies, Educational Opportunity Program, and Black Studies Library Collection were established at the same time to create a multi-pronged program for Black studies.  In its early history, the CBSR had multiple directors, until Cedric Robinson was hired to head the CBSR (1978–87).  Other longer-term directors include Charles Long (1991–96), Claudine Michel (1996–2001, 2005–2009), Anna Everett (2002–2005), Clyde Woods (2009–2011),  Diane Fujino (2013–2018), and Sharon Tettegah (2018–present). 

founders gathered for a group image

From its inception, the Center had a joint focus on scholarship and community engagement. Its work has long centered on racial analyses and social justice work within the Black Radical Tradition delineated in Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism, Clyde Woods’s Development Arrested, and the writings of many others. The Center’s Academic Mission is to support interdisciplinary research that examines US Black history, politics, and culture as well as Afro-diasporic communities through grants, publications, and programming. The current research agenda integrates science, technology, engineering and math to the historical interdisciplinary goals of the Center for Black Studies Research.

Research centers have been defined as “associative enterprises for solving scholarly and societal problems that cannot be adequately addressed by individuals.” In today’s society where technological advancements change at a much faster pace than 20 years ago, more institutions are beginning to realize the importance and relevance of computational/data sciences through the use of high performance computing (HPC) for solving societal problems using an interdisciplinary approach. Considering the future directions of research and data intensive applications, it is important that the Center for Black Studies Research (CBSR) and its researchers be prepared to work across disciplines, thereby integrating social sciences, humanities, and STEM to address diverse issues within and across Black communities in the diaspora.

The CBSR's Haitian Studies initiative, established by Claudine Michel in 1996, has resulted in the CBSR being recognized as one of the most prominent research centers on Haitian Studies in the United States and beyond. Anna Everett brought a focus on race and technology that resulted in a CBSR publication, Afro Geeks. Clyde Woods’s focus on race and urban studies resulted in the CBSR’s publication Black California Dreamin. The Engaged Scholarship Initiative, established by Diane Fujino in 2013, focused the Center’s longstanding focus on community-based scholarship to develop methodologies and epistemologies that recognize the knowledge produced in Black and other aggrieved communities. The current STEM initiative established by Sharon Tettegah in 2018 focuses on  scholarship that address opportunities and challenges in Black diasporic communities. Research combined with the use of technology, particularly data science, in life, environmental and physical sciences  assesses the impact of environment on health and well-being across the diaspora and creates opportunities for community members, undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty to focus on Black communities and related fields of study.

The CBSR has a publishing arm that has produced the Journal of Haitian Studies, issued twice per year since 1995, and Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, published twice per year since Spring 2014.