Molefi Kete Asante

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Molefi Kete Asante
Molefi Asante in Paris.jpg
Born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr.
(1942-08-14) August 14, 1942 (age 73)
Valdosta, Georgia
Occupation Professor
Spouse(s) Ana Yenenga

Molefi Kete Asante (/əˈsænt/; born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr.; August 14, 1942) is an African-American professor. He is a leading figure in the fields of African-American Studies, African Studies and Communication Studies.[1] He is currently Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Temple University,[2][3] where he founded the PhD program in African-American Studies, and President of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies.[4][5][6]

Asante is known for his writings on Afrocentricity, a school of thought that has influenced the fields of sociology, intercultural communication, critical theory, political science, African history, and social work.[7][8] He is the author of more than 66 books and the founding editor of the Journal of Black Studies.[9][10] He is the father of author and filmmaker MK Asante.[4]


Early life[edit]

Asante was born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. in Valdosta, Georgia, the fourth of 16 children. His father, Arthur Lee Smith, worked in a peanut warehouse and then on the Georgia Southern Railroad; his mother worked as a domestic.[11] During the summers Asante would return to Georgia to work in the tobacco and cotton fields in order to earn tuition for school. An aunt, Georgia Smith, influenced him to pursue his education; she gave him his first book, a collection of short stories by Charles Dickens.[12]


As an adolescent, Smith attended Nashville Christian Institute, a Church of Christ-founded boarding school for black students, in Nashville, Tennessee, from which he earned his high school diploma in 1960.[12] While still in his high school years, he became involved with the civil-rights movement, joining the Fisk University student march in Nashville.[13] After graduation, he initially enrolled in Southwestern Christian College of Terrell, Texas, another historically black institution with Church of Christ roots,[12] where he met a Nigerian named Essien Essien, whose character and intelligence inspired Smith to learn more about Africa.

The first member of his family to graduate from college, Smith received his B.A. from Oklahoma Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University) in 1964, going on to earn his M.A. from Pepperdine University in 1965 with a thesis on black Church of Christ preacher Marshall Keeble. Smith earned his PhD from UCLA in 1968 in communication studies. SUNY Buffalo appointed him a full professor and head of the Department of Communication at the age of 30.

Shortly before assuming his new position in 1976, Asante chose to make a legal name change because he considered "Arthur Lee Smith" a slave name.

In 1972 I visited Ghana during the first of what were to be eighteen trips to Africa over the next twenty years. UCLA had graciously consented to allow me to visit Africa in my capacity as the Director of the Center for Afro-American Studies. When I finally reached the library at the University of Ghana, Legon, I asked the librarian whether my book The Rhetoric of Black Revolution had reached his campus. He replied, “Yes, but I thought the author Arthur Smith was an Englishman.” He could not understand how a person with an African phenotype could have an English name or so it seemed to me. Nevertheless, it was a profound encounter for an African American. I vowed then and there that I would change my name. The name Arthur L. Smith, Jr., inherited from my father, has been betrayed by the dungeon of my American experience. Soon thereafter I took the Sotho name Molefi, which means “One who gives and keeps the traditions” and the Asante last name Asante from the Twi language. My father was elated.[14]


At SUNY Buffalo, Asante advanced the ideas of international and intercultural communication publishing, with colleagues, the first book in the field, Handbook of Intercultural Communication. Asante was elected president of the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research in 1976. His work in intercultural communication made him a leading trainer of doctoral students in the field. Asante has directed more than one hundred PhD dissertations.

Asante wrote his first study of the black movement, Rhetoric of Black Revolution, in 1969. Subsequently, he wrote Transracial Communication, to explain how race complicates human interaction in American society. Soon Asante changed his focus to African-American and African culture in communication with attention to the nature of African-American oratorical style.

Asante wrote Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change (1980) to announce a break with the past where African Americans saw themselves on the margins of Europe without a concept of historical centrality. He then wrote on the conflict between white hegemonic culture and the oppressed African culture and on the lack of victorious consciousness among Africans, a theme found in his principal philosophical work, The Afrocentric Idea (1987). Additional works on Afrocentric theory included Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge (1990), and An Afrocentric Manifesto (2007).

The Utne Reader identified him as one of the 100 leading thinkers in America, writing:

“Asante is a genial, determined, and energetic cultural liberationist whose many books, including Afrocentricity and The Afrocentric Idea, articulate a powerful African-oriented pathway of thought, action, and cultural self-confidence for black Americans.”

Asante proposed the first doctoral program in African American Studies to the administration at Temple University in 1986. This program was approved, and the first class entered the doctorate in 1988. More than 500 applicants had sought admission to the graduate program. Temple became known as the leader among the African American Studies departments and held its leadership for ten years before a doctoral program was introduced at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1997. Students from the Temple program are found in every continent, many nations, and many direct African American Studies programs at major universities.


  • Given the regnal name of Nana Okru Asante Peasah and title of Kyidomhene of the House of Tafo, Akyem Abuakwa, Ghana (1995)
  • Given title of Wanadoo of Gao in the court of the Amiru (Chief) Hassimi Maiga of Songhai (2012)


In 1980 Asante published Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, which initiated a discourse around the issue of African agency and subject place in historical and cultural phenomena.[15] He maintained in the book that Africans had been moved off-center in terms on most questions of identity, culture, and history. Afrocentricity sought to place Africans at the center of their own narratives and to reclaim the teaching of African-American history from the margins of Europe.

The combination of the European centuries gives us about four to five hundred years of solid European domination of intellectual concepts and philosophical ideas. Africa and Asia were subsumed under various headings of the European hierarchy. If a war between the European powers occurred it was called a World War and the Asians and Africans found their way on the side of one European power or the other. There was this sense of assertiveness about European culture that advanced with Europe's trade, religious, and military forces.[16]

Asante’s book The Afrocentric Idea was a more intellectual book about Afrocentricity than the earlier popular book. After the second edition of The Afrocentric Idea was released in 1998, Asante appeared on a number of television programs, including The Today Show, 60 Minutes, and the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, to discuss the idea.

According to Asante's Afrocentric Manifesto, an Afrocentric project requires a minimum of five characteristics: (1) an interest in a psychological location, (2) a commitment to finding the African subject place, (3) the defense of African cultural elements, (4) a commitment to lexical refinement (5) a commitment to correct the dislocations in the history of Africa.[17][18]

I chose the term Afrocentricity to emphasize the fact that African people had been moved off of terms for the past five hundred years. In other words, Africans were not simply removed from Africa to the Americas, but Africans were separated from philosophies, languages, religions, myths, and cultures. Separations are violent and are often accompanied with numerous changes in individuals and groups. Finding a way to relocate or to reorient our thinking was essential to the presentation of African cultural reality. In fact, without such a reorientation, Africans have nothing to bring to the table of humanity but the experiences of Europeans, those who initially moved Africans off of social, cultural, and psychological terms.[19]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • African American History: A Journey of Liberation (Peoples Publishing Group, 2001, 1995)
  • African Pyramids of Knowledge: Kemet, Afrocentricity and Africology (Universal Write, 2015)
  • Afrocentricity: Imagination and Action (Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series No. 12, Multiversity and Citizens, 2013)
  • Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change (African American Images/Africa World Press, 2003, 1988)
  • An Afrocentric Manifesto: Toward an African Renaissance (Polity Press, 2007), ISBN 978-0-7456-4103-4
  • As I Run toward Africa: A Memoir (Paradigm Publishers, 2011), ISBN 978-1-61205-098-0
  • Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait (University of Sankore Press, 2007)
  • Classical Africa (National Press Books, 1994)
  • Contemporary Black Thought: Alternative Analyses in Social and Behavioral Science (Sage, 1980)
  • Contemporary Public Communication: Applications (Harper & Row, 1977)
  • Culture and Customs of Egypt (Greenwood Press, 2002)
  • Egypt vs. Greece and the American Academy (African American Images, 2002)
  • Encyclopedia of African Religion (Sage, 2009)
  • Encyclopedia of Black Studies (Sage, 2004), ISBN 978-0-7619-2762-4
  • Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation (Prometheus, 2009, 2003)
  • Facing South to Africa: Toward an Afrocentric Critical Orientation (Lexington Books, 2014)
  • Handbook of Black Studies (Sage, 2006), ISBN 978-0-7619-2840-9
  • Handbook of Intercultural Communication (Sage, 1979)
  • Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication (Sage, 1989)
  • Herodotus on Egypt (Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, 2012)
  • Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (Africa World Press, 1990)
  • Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America (Harper & Row, 1972)
  • Malcolm X as Cultural Hero and Other Afrocentric Essays (Africa World Press, 1993)
  • Mass Communication: Principles and Practices (Macmillan, 1979)
  • Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait (Polity Press, 2009)
  • 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Prometheus, 2002)
  • Race, Rhetoric, and Identity: The Architecton of Soul (Humanity Books, 2005)
  • Rhetoric of Black Revolution (Allyn & Bacon, 1969)
  • Rooming in the Master's House: Power and Privilege in the Rise of Black Conservatism (Paradigm Publishers, 2010)
  • Socio-Cultural Conflict between African American and Korean American (University Press of America, 2000)
  • Spear Masters: An Introduction to African Religion (University Press of America, 2007), ISBN 978-0-7618-3574-5
  • The African American Atlas: Black History and Culture (Macmillan, 1998)
  • The African American People: A Global History (Routledge, 2012)
  • The Afrocentric Idea (Temple University Press, 1998, 1987)
  • The Book of African Names (Africa World Press, 1991)
  • The Dramatic Genius of Charles Fuller: An African American Playwright (Universal Write, 2015)
  • The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten (African American Images, 2000)
  • The Global Intercultural Communication Reader (Routledge, 2014, 2008)
  • The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony (Routledge, 2015, 2007)
  • The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism: An Afrocentric Response to Critics (Africa World Press, 1999), ISBN 978-0-86543-743-2
  • The Scream of Blood: Desettlerism in Southern Africa (Sungai Books, 1998)
  • Thunder and Silence: The Mass Media in Africa (Africa World Press, 1992)
  • Transcultural Realities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Relations (Sage, 2001)
  • Transracial Communication (Prentice-Hall, 1973), ISBN 978-0-13-929505-8

Film list[edit]


  1. ^ Gerald G. Jackson (February 2005). We're Not Going to Take It Anymore. Beckham Publications Group, Inc. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-931761-84-3. Retrieved September 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Molefi Kete Asante, Professor, Department of African American Studies". Temple University faculty page. 
  3. ^ Jon Spayde (1995). "Utne Visionaries: People Who Could Change Your Life.". Utne Magazine. 
  4. ^ a b Official site Biography December 17, 2012
  5. ^ Maulana Karenga, "Molefi Kete Asante and the Afrocentric Initiative: Mapping His Intellectual Impact," Los Angeles Sentinel, September 20, 2007, p. A7.
  6. ^ Maulana Karenga, "Institutionalizing the Afrocentric Initiative: Securing a Centered Way Forward," Los Angeles Sentinel, March 22, 2012, p. A7.
  7. ^ Ronald L. Jackson and Sonja Brown Givens, Black Pioneers in Communication Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007.
  8. ^ Dhyana Ziegler, ed. Molefi Kete Asante: In Praise and Criticism. Nashville, TN: Winston Derek, 1995.
  9. ^ Molefi Kete Asante at Sage Publications.
  10. ^ Ama Mazama (ed.), Essays in Honor of an Intellectual Warrior, Molefi Kete Asante. Paris, France: Editions Menaibuc, 2008.
  11. ^ Diane D. Turner. "An Oral History Interview: Molefi Kete Asante". Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 6 (July 2002) pp. 711–734 (Abstract). 
  12. ^ a b c Patricia Reid-Merritt. "Molefi Kete Asante," Encyclopedia of African American History, Leslie M. Alexander and Walter C. Rucker (eds), ABC-CLIO, 2010, pp. 617–618.
  13. ^ Dr. John Henrik Clark Group Research Project. We're not going to take it anymore, Gerald G. Jackson (ed.), Beckham Publications Group, Inc., 2005, pp. 90–91.
  14. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, “Racism, Consciousness, and Afrocentricity,” in Gerald Early (ed.), Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation, New York, NY: Penguin, 1993, pp. 140-141.
  15. ^ Maulana Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies (4th edn), Los Angeles, CA: University of Sankore Press, 2010.
  16. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, "De-Westernizing Communication: Strategies for Neutralizing Cultural Myths", in Georgette Wang (ed.), De-Westernizing Communication Research: Altering Questions and Changing Frameworks, London, UK: Routledge, 2011, pp. 21–27.
  17. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, "Afrocentricity: Toward a New Understanding of African Thought in the World", in Molefi Kete Asante, Yoshitaka Miike, and Jing Yin (eds.), The Global Intercultural Communication Reader (2nd edn), New York, NY: Routledge, 2014, pp. 101–110.
  18. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, An Afrocentric Manifesto: Toward an African Renaissance, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2007, p. 41.
  19. ^ Molefi Kete Asante and Yoshitaka Miike, "Paradigmatic Issues in Intercultural Communication Studies: An Afrocentric-Asiacentric Dialogue," China Media Research, Vol. 9, No. 3, July 2013, p. 4.
  20. ^ Faces of Evil at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]