Professor Akinyele Umoja is a historian and organizer born from the Black Power movement and Black Studies tradition of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Umoja is committed to writing the history of the Black Freedom Struggle, but also participating in the fight to make a better world. He is a scholar-activist, institution-builder, author, educator, community father, husband, parent, and grandfather. He has been active over forty years in the Black Liberation Struggle.
Akinyele Umoja was born in Los Angeles, California in 1954 and spent most of his childhood and teen-aged years in Compton, California. The Civil Rights Movement, 1965-Watts Uprising, the Black Power and Black/ Africana Studies and Anti-War Movement, and the early years of the Crips and the Bloods shaped his life. His activism, scholarship, and teaching are closely linked.
Umoja has worked as educator and mentor in African-centered rites of passage programs, public schools, and colleges and universities. He taught African-American History in the Upward Bound program at Atlanta Metropolitan College from 1986 to 1994. Umoja taught Social Studies, including Black Studies, in Atlanta Public Schools. He was an instructor of World and African-American History courses at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. Currently, he is an Associate Professor and chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University (GSU). At GSU, he teaches courses on the history of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and other Black political and social movements. Student activism culminating in a 1992 occupation or “sit-in” on campus and negotiation by students and progressive faculty and administrators led to the creation of the GSU Department of African-American Studies (AAS).
Umoja’s elders and guides in the movement taught him the household is “a unit of struggle.” His marriage to activist and educator, Aminata Umoja, has worked to reflect that principle. Their family motto is “Upendo na Uhuru” (Ki-Swahili for Love and Freedom). The Umojas have been married for over three decades. They are the parents of two children, Tashiya and Chinua, who carry on their household’s legacy. Tashiya is the co-director of Kilombo Academic and Cultural Institute and Chinua is a PhD student in Computer Science. The Umojas have a son-in-law, Ayinde M’Kanga, three grandchildren, Bem, Ire and Sing, and dozens of “godchildren” in the Metro Atlanta community as part of their extended family.