In the fall of 1969 a group led by two African American professors by the name of Levell Holmes and Willie Garrett founded a division of Ethnic Studies. The degree programs offered were Afro-American, Mexican-American, and Native American Studies. Professor Holmes told the Press Democrat, in an article dated Nov. 21, 1969 that, “Our approach is inclusive, not the exclusive hierarchical approach which has dominated the educational scene thus far.” He added, “The Negro is ignorant about his past, but so is every American. It has been too difficult to separate ourselves from Europe. The European culture has inundated us.” And so, a division of American Ethnic Studies was born. Joining Holmes and Garrett were: Ernest Martinez, Isaias De La Rosa, David Peri, and Valesta Jenkins. Professor Holmes noted that the new division and programs were designed, not by one group or faculty alone, but by “administrators, students, and the community” working with the faculty to “determine the vision.” The division has seen some changes, notably from American Ethnic Studies to American Multicultural Studies under the direction of Larry Shinagawa and James (Jim) Gray in the 1980s and 1990s. It became an academic department as opposed to a division and Mexican American Studies became its own stand-alone department, also renamed as Chicano/Latino Studies.
American Multicultural Studies has remained a robust department under the direction of several chairs, Lena Strobel, Michael Ezra, and Christina Baker. It has housed Native American Studies under the direction of Ed Castillo.
American Multicultural Studies has also included Asian American Studies and, in the past, has had the benefit of the faculty membership of such notable Asian-AM studies scholars as Leny Strobel and LeiLani Nishime.
Currently, the American Multicultural Studies department, or AMCS, has a BA degree with pathways in several fields: comparative Ethnic Studies, Critical Race, Gender, and Sexuality, Literature and the Arts, Multicultural Education and Film Studies. AMCS also has a popular concentration in Africana Studies.
AMCS has a dedicated and vibrant faculty with three full-time faculty including its newest tenure line member Patrick Johnson, who fields of expertise include television studies, Black fan studies, media and education.
AMCS has returned to its roots, uplifting Black/Africana Studies and is well positioned to continue into the future.