Maulana Karenga is professor and chair of the department of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He holds two Ph.D.’s; his first doctorate in leadership and human behavior/political science with focus on the theory and practice of African American nationalism (United States International University) and his second doctorate in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt (University of Southern California). Professor Karenga, an ethical philosopher, is the leading exponent of Maatian ethical thought, having developed over the last three decades, a creative and scholarly Kawaida interpretation of ancient Egyptian ethical thought as a living tradition and a useful philosophical option for critical reflection on the urgent issues of our time. His second dissertation, a major work of 803-pages titled Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics, and submitted in 1996, was the most requested work from UMI out of 45,000 dissertations and theses worldwide of that year. Published as a book in 2002, it has received praise from the Africana Studies and Egyptological communities as a seminal and defining work which has opened up a valuable new dialog with ancient Egyptian thought and culture.
Dr. Karenga is the author of 17 books and monographs and 4 co-edited books; 57 journal articles; 42 book chapters; over 650 columns and commentaries on critical issues; and numerous encyclopedia entries. Included in this list of books are: Introduction to Black Studies, the most widely used introductory text in Black/Africana Studies; Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt; The Book of Coming Forth By Day: The Ethics of the Declarations of Innocence; Kawaida: A Communitarian African Philosophy; and a translation and ethical commentary on the classical Yoruba text, Odu Ifa, titled Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings. His most recent publications, in addition to Introduction to Black Studies, 4th edition are Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics; Handbook of Black Studies (co-authored with Molefi Kete Asante); Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle; Essays on Struggle: Position and Analysis; The Message and Meaning of Kwanzaa: Bringing Good in the World; and The Liberation of Ethics of Malcolm X: Critical Consciousness, Moral Grounding and Transformative Struggle (to be published 2020).
An activist-scholar of national and international recognition, Dr. Karenga has had a far-reaching effect on Black intellectual and political culture since the 1960s. Through his intellectual and organizational work, his organization, Us, and his philosophy, Kawaida, he has played a vanguard role in shaping the Black Arts Movement, Black Studies, the Black Power Movement, the Black Student Union Movement, Afrocentricity, ancient Egyptian studies and the study of ancient Egyptian culture as an essential part of Black Studies, Ifa ethical studies, rites of passage programs, the Independent Black School Movement, African life-cycle ceremonies, the Simba Wachanga Youth Movement, Black theological and ethical discourse, and the Reparations Movement.
Moreover, he is the executive director of the African American Cultural Center and the Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies, Los Angeles, and national chairman of The Organization Us, a cultural and social change organization, so named to stress the communitarian focus of the organization, and the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO). Dr. Karenga has also played a key role in national united front efforts, serving on the founding and executive committee of the Black Power Conferences of the 60’s, the National Black United Front, the National African American Leadership Summit, the Black Leadership Retreat, the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO), and on the executive council of the national organizing committee of the Million Man March/Day of Absence, as well as authored the Mission Statement for this joint project.
Dr. Karenga is also internationally known as the creator of Kwanzaa, an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated throughout the world African community on every continent in the world. He is the author of the authoritative book on the subject: Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture and lectures regularly and extensively on the vision and values of Kwanzaa, especially the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles), in various national and international venues. In addition, he has lectured on the life and struggle of African peoples on numerous campuses of the U.S.A. and in Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Trinidad, Britain and Canada.
He also served as chairman of the African American delegation to the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, Lagos, Nigeria; spokesman for a delegation of African American Educators of Independent Schools to the People’s Republic of China; member of the Planning Committee for the Pan-African Festival of Arts and Culture, Dakar, Senegal; chairman of the delegation of educators/activists of the Organization Us to Cuba; co-planner and co-convener of the Annual Ancient Egyptian Studies Conference of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations, Cairo, Egypt; Inaugural Lecturer for the initiation of Black History Month, London, England; Honorary Doctorate Recipient and Commencement Speaker, University of Durban-Westville, South Africa; Official Guest and Keynote Lecturer, 160th Anniversary of Emancipation, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; presenter of the Annual Stephen Glanville Memorial Lecture for Egyptology 2010 at the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, and Inaugural Lecture, The Masizi Kunene Lectures, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.
A highly respected senior scholar in Black/Africana Studies and a board member of the National Council for Black Studies, the preeminent professional organization of the discipline, Professor Karenga has played a major role in the founding and development of the discipline and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for scholarship, leadership and community service from the preeminent professional organizations, departments and programs in the field and from various other organizations and institutions,
His fields of teaching and research within Black Studies are: Black Studies theory, history and pedagogy, Africana (continental and diasporan) philosophy; ancient Egyptian (Maatian) ethics; ancient Yoruba (Ifa) ethics; African American intellectual history; ethnic studies; multiculturalism; and the socio-ethical thought of Malcolm X. He is currently writing a book on deep thinking in Africana Studies titled: Djaer, Deep Thinking in Africana Studies: Cultivating Critical, Creative and Ethical Reflection. Dr. Karenga is the subject of the book Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait by Dr. Molefi Kete Asante which is the definitive text on his intellectual and organizational work.