Afrocentrism (also Afrocentricity) is an approach to the study of world history that focuses on the history of people of recent African descent. It is in some respects a response to global (Eurocentric) attitudes about African people and their historical contributions; it seeks to counter what it sees as mistakes and ideas perpetuated by the racist philosophical underpinnings of western academic disciplines as they developed during and since Europe's Early Renaissance as justifying rationales for the enslavement of other peoples, in order to enable more accurate accounts of not only African but all people's contributions to world history. Afrocentricity deals primarily with self-determination and African agency and is a Pan-African point of view for the study of culture, philosophy, and history.
Afrocentrism is a scholarly movement that seeks to conduct research and education on global history subjects, from the perspective of historical African peoples and polities. It takes a critical stance on Eurocentric assumptions and myths about world history, in order to pursue methodological studies of the latter. Some of the critics of the movement believe that it often denies or minimizes European, Near Eastern, and Asian cultural influences while exaggerating certain aspects of historical African civilizations that independently accomplished a significant level of cultural and technological development. In general, Afrocentrism is usually manifested in a focus on the history of Africa and its role in contemporary African-American culture among others.
What is today broadly called Afrocentrism evolved out of the work of African-American intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but flowered into its modern form due to the activism of African-American intellectuals in the U.S. civil rights movement and in the development of African-American Studies programs in universities. However, following the development of universities in African colonies in the 1950s, African scholars became major contributors to African historiography. A notable pioneer is the professor Kenneth Dike, who became chairman of the Committee on African Studies at Harvard in the 1970s. In strict terms Afrocentrism, as a distinct historiography, reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. Today it is primarily associated with Cheikh Anta Diop, John Henrik Clarke, Ivan van Sertima and Molefi Kete Asante. Asante, however, describes his theories as Afrocentricity.
Proponents of Afrocentrism support the claim that the contributions of various Black African people have been downplayed or discredited as part of the legacy of colonialism and slavery's pathology of "writing Africans out of history". Major critics of Afrocentrism include Mary Lefkowitz, who dismiss it as pseudohistory, reactive, and obstinately therapeutic. Others, such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, believe that Afrocentrism defeats its purpose of dismantling unipolar studies of world history by seeking to replace Eurocentricity with an equally ethnocentric and hierarchical curriculum, and negatively essentializes European culture and people of European descent. Clarence E. Walker claims it to be "Eurocentrism in blackface". Asante has however argued that scholars such as Lefkowits and Walker have made straw-man arguments by using the term Afrocentrism as an umbrella term that wrongly includes his varying school of thought, Afrocentricity.