Arthur Lee Smith Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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).{$S[A]Smith, Arthur Lee, Jr.;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...

(The entire section is 799 words.)