Institute of African American Research

Mission Statement

The Institute of African American Research supports and facilitates excellence in research concerning African Americans and the African Diaspora. The IAAR mission is to expand understanding and cultivate engagement with critical questions, approaches, and innovative and timely studies as they pertain to research about people of African descent.


The IAAR was conceived in the early 1990s by UNC faculty who believed that it was important to have a free-standing building and center devoted to researching “black life and history.” Out of their efforts the Institute of African American Research was established in 1995 as a research unit to “foster scholarly inquiry about the experiences of black people” in North Carolina particularly but anywhere else in the US and the world. In 1995, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson became IAAR’s first director. Subsequent permanent directors have been Drs. Gerald Horne, William A. Darity, Jr. and Fatimah Jackson. In 2002, the Moore Undergraduate Program became a program housed in the IAAR. During its time in the IAAR, past directors of MURAP have been Drs. Karolyn Tyson and Karla Slocum.

Over the years, the IAAR has generated, supported and profiled research on black Americans and people of African descent especially in humanities, arts, social sciences and medical sciences. More than 200 faculty have participated in IAAR events and activities, and the IAAR has collaborated or co-sponsored events with more than 10 centers and departments at UNC and other local institutions. In its effort to support and profile research, the IAAR has provided faculty with small research grants, housing and supporting visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows, sponsoring working groups, organized a consortium of scholars of African American studies in the North Carolina “Triangle” area and holding conferences and symposia on such themes as youth and race, race and genetics, African American history of struggle in the south, black experiences across the African diaspora, and race, history and literary approaches to the U.S. south. The IAAR and its affiliate programs have received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, NC Humanities Council, Z. Smith Reynolds, and the African American Success Foundation.