African American Studies at Trinity University
Trinity’s director of AFAM Studies reflects on the program’s history and impact

As I sit in my office, hearing birds sing in the sunshine of an early February morning, I feel fortunate that I can sing of the ways in which the African American (AFAM) Studies minor program has contributed to life here at Trinity University. In this, I am guided by the words of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson.

“Lift every voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring!”  

Just a little under 20 years in existence, AFAM Studies has been a significant facet of the widening of the horizons of educational opportunities at the University. During a period of intensive self-reflection at the turn of the century, Trinity explored the ways in which its graduates navigated the environs outside its walls. It was a rapidly changing world, in which issues of class, race, status, and ethnicity, among others, were continually renegotiated in relation to politics, society, and culture.  

Recognizing that an approach that integrated the material of several disciplines would be necessary to thrive in this new environment, a number of interdisciplinary programs were developed, among them, African American Studies. One of the jewels of the Trinity curriculum, its interdisciplinarity allowed students to devise their own unique learning path through a wealth of offerings.

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.”  

These offerings ranged from examinations of the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, through the ways in which politics and policies around race and ethnicity have interacted to shape American society, to the intersections of race and gender in constructions of identity and self-image. There are courses treating the fertile legacy of musical traditions generated within the African-American community that has enriched the culture as a whole. Others investigate the significance and influence of cultural products like Black literature; African-American film, visual art, and media within and without the Black community; as well as key issues such as Afrocentrism; Blacks in media, popular culture, and sports;  incarceration; Black families and the Black middle class; and Black internationalism, among others.

“Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.”  

While at Trinity, students in the AFAM Studies program have the opportunity to apply what they are learning in a real-world environment. The young people going out into the San Antonio community as interns have served in such iconic San Antonio institutions as the Alamo, San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, Carver Community Cultural Center, as well as local African-American churches, the local NAACP branch, and City of San Antonio departments and offices.

“Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.” 

The AFAM Studies program has contributed to the vibrant Black presence in the life of the University in numerous ways.  It has supported Black History Month in past years, presenting African-American Sing-Ins, taking participants through the importance of music in the African-American community, from antebellum songs of solace to the power of civil rights songs during the ’50s and ’60s. It has also supported the Black Student Union, sending members to annual leadership conferences for many years.

“Ring with the harmonies of Liberty!”

The program has also established relationships with specialists in African-American disciplines at other San Antonio institutions, hosting luncheons with professors of African-American literature, history, social sciences, religion, and culture from the University of Texas at San Antonio, St. Phillips College, and the University of the Incarnate Word. Such meetings have been lively affairs, with classroom and research techniques and experiences shared and suggestions offered amidst conversations bridging educational boundaries, liberally laced with laughter.

“Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won.”

With the death of its co-director, Dr. Carey Latimore IV, last year, the program lost a brilliant scholar, educator, and leader. Yet, his influence continues through the African American Studies minors who have graduated and gone on to serve as educators and researchers and to lead in government and as pillars of their communities. They are the brightest and best legacy of the program, sharing their lives of meaning and purpose.

In joy and humble appreciation, Kimberlyn Montford, Ph.D.

Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)

(Informally:  The Negro National Anthem)

Lift every voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise high as the list'ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won.


Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast'ning rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.


God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast, by Thy might, Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand,

True to our God, True to our native land.


Kimberlyn Montford, Ph.D., is an associate professor of music at Trinity University and the director of the University's African American Studies program.

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