Authors: Molefi K. Asante

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American scholar

Identity: African American

Author Works


Rhetoric of Black Revolution, 1969

Transracial Communication, 1973

Epic in Search of African Kings, 1978

Mass Communication: Principles and Practices, 1979 (with Mary Cassata)

Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, 1980, revised 1988

The Afrocentric Idea, 1987, revised and expanded 1998

Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge, 1990

The Book of African Names, 1991

Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans, 1991, revised 1998 (as The African American Atlas: Black History and Culture; with Mark T. Mattson)

Thunder and Silence: The Mass Media in Africa, 1992 (with Dhyana Ziegler)

Malcolm X as Cultural Hero and Other Afrocentric Essays, 1993

Classical Africa, 1994

African American History: A Journey of Liberation, 1995

The African American Book of Names and Their Meanings, 1999 (with Renée Muntaquim)

The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism, 1999

The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten, 2000

Culture and Customs of Egypt, 2002

One Hundred Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia, 2002

Erasing Racism: The Survival of the American Nation, 2003


The Break of Dawn, 1964

Edited Texts:

The Voice of Black Rhetoric, 1971 (with Stephen Robb)

Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America, 1972

The Social Uses of Mass Communication, 1977 (with Mary Cassata)

Handbook of Intercultural Communication, 1979

Contemporary Black Thought, 1980 (with Abdulai Vandi)

African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity, 1985 (with Kariamu Welsh Asante)

Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication, 1989 (with William Gudykunst)

African Intellectual Heritage: A Book of Sources, 1996 (with Abu Abarry)

Socio-cultural Conflict Between African American and Korean American, 2000 (with Eungjin Min)

Transcultural Realities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Relations, 2001 (with Virginia H. Milhouse and Peter O. Nwosu)

Egypt vs. Greece and the American Academy, 2002 (with Ama Mazama)


Born Arthur Lee Smith, Jr., to Arthur L. Smith and Lillie B. Wilkson Smith, Molefi Kete Asante (ah-SAHN-tay) was reared in Valdosta, Georgia, where he experienced racial prejudice but also the sustaining influence of the black church. He attended Southwestern Christian College, receiving his associate of arts degree in 1962. He earned a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) from Oklahoma Christian College in 1964, the year he published a collection of poems, The Break of Dawn. In 1965, he received a master’s degree from Pepperdine University and, in 1968, a doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).{$I[AN]9810001997}{$I[A]Asante, Molefi K.}{$S[A]Smith, Arthur Lee, Jr.;Asante, Molefi K.}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Asante, Molefi K.}{$I[geo]AFRICAN AMERICAN/AFRICAN DESCENT;Asante, Molefi K.}{$I[tim]1942;Asante, Molefi K.}

In 1966, Asante began his teaching career at State Polytechnic College in California. Two years later, he secured a position in communication at Purdue University and chaired the Indiana State Civil Rights Commission on Higher Education and the Afro-American. In 1969, the year he became the founding editor of the Journal of Black Studies, he began teaching speech at UCLA.

Under the name Arthur L. Smith, Jr., Asante published Rhetoric of Black Revolution in 1969, during the height of the Black Power movement. The book traces black rhetoric from the nineteenth century to the 1960’s. In 1970, Asante was appointed director of the UCLA Center for Afro-American Studies, where he remained until 1973, after which he taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He chaired the school’s Department of Communication and was curator of the Center for Positive Thought. Published during this period, Transracial Communication addresses black-white interaction and emphasizes cultural perspectives.

One of the major turning points in Asante’s identification with Africa occurred in 1975, when he changed his name. (The southern African name Molefi means “he keeps traditions.”) During this period, he was appointed external examiner for the universities of Ibadan (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya). In 1979, after a year-long visiting professorship at Howard University, he traveled to Africa as a Fulbright professor at the Zimbabwe Institute of Mass Communication.

In 1980, the year he received the Outstanding Communication Scholar Award from Jackson State University, Asante published his first major work defining Afrocentric theory, Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, which includes a foreword by his wife, Kariamu Welsh. “Afrocentricity” can be defined as an attempt to place Africa at the center of black reality. Afrocentricity, which discusses the contributions of such figures as Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, and Maulana Karenga, examines the spiritual concept of Nija, “collective” presentation of an Afrocentric worldview. Afrology, a methodological approach to the study of black people, is also addressed, along with “breakthrough strategies” to counter negative attitudes resulting from the “breakdown” of the West.

In 1984, Asante was appointed chair of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University, where he created the first Ph.D. program in African American studies. In 1985, in collaboration with his wife, he edited African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity, an impressive collection of articles by such writers as Wole Soyinka and John Henrik Clarke.

The Afrocentric Idea continued the critique of Eurocentrism, arguing against the universality of Western conceptions and proposing explanations of such African American characteristics as Ebonics, or black language expression. Following publication of the revised edition of Afrocentricity in 1988, Asante published another collaborative work, Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. In the 1990’s, he explored Afrocentricity with an emphasis on Egyptian civilization in Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge, which poses alternate conceptions for understanding Afrocentricity. He also published a collaborative reference work providing maps, statistical data, and cultural information, the Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans. Another reference work, The Book of African Names, organizes African names by region. Thunder and Silence, a joint project with Dhyana Ziegler, explores from a historical perspective both print and electronic media in Africa.

In 1993, Asante’s Malcolm X as Cultural Hero and Other Afrocentric Essays was published, containing one essay on Malcolm X and, among others, “Afrocentricity, Women, and Gender,” in which Afrocentricity is viewed as a humanizing force that challenges gender oppression. Furthermore, Asante addressed the need for Afrocentric perspectives in the schools by publishing such textbooks as Classical Africa and African American History. African Intellectual Heritage, edited with Abu Abarry, brings together a wide range of writings covering Africa and the African diaspora from ancient times to the late twentieth century. He also published books about Egypt, The Egyptian Philosophers and Culture and Customs of Egypt, and edited Egypt vs. Greece and the American Academy. He took up the question of cultural relations by coediting the texts Socio-cultural Conflict Between African American and Korean American and Transcultural Realities.

In the mid-1990’s, Asante was made a traditional king in Ghana–Nana Okru Kete Asante Krobea I, Kyidomhene of Tafo. He continues to be a prolific activist scholar, consultant, and spokesperson for Afrocentricity.

BibliographyAsante, Molefi K. “Afrocentric Curriculum.” Educational Leadership 219 (December, 1991-January, 1992): 28-31. A discussion of how an Afrocentric curriculum empowers students. Also discusses how Asante began to conceptualize Afrocentricity, why African American youths are not motivated to learn and achieve in American schools, and the importance of respect in gaining empowerment.Asante, Molefi K. “The Afrocentric Idea in Education.” The Journal of Negro Education 62 (Spring, 1991): 170-180. A discussion of the principles that govern the development of the Afrocentric ideas in education first mentioned by Carter G. Woodson in his book The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). Asante examines the approach and rationale for Afrocentric education in the United States. He describes public schools as failing to accommodate the needs of all African American children.Baker, Houston. The American Journal of Sociology 94 (September, 1988). Reviews The Afrocentric Idea and gives a positive assessment focusing on the power of the “word” and the critique of Eurocentrism.Chowdhury, Kanishka. “Afrocentric Voices: Constructing Identities, [Dis]placing Difference.” College Literature 24, no. 2 (June, 1997): 35. Discusses scholars who promote African American studies. Claims that Asante “believes that the Afrocentric doctrine is the only way for African Americans to attain their real identity.”Esonwanne, Uzo. Review of Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge, by Molefi K. Asante. Research in African Literatures 23 (Spring, 1992). Argues against the Afrocentric perspective but supports Pan-African political interests.Ziegler, Dhyana, ed. Molefi Kete Asante and Afrocentricity: In Praise and in Criticism. Nashville: James C. Winston, 1995. Brings together eighteen essays that primarily support and extend Asante’s theory. The articles address such issues as spiritual aspects of Afrocentricity, parallels to the work of Woodson, the evolution of Asante’s educational philosophy, and multiculturalism.
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