The Institute on Black Life (IBL) was established in the fall of 1986. IBL’s founding director was Dr. Juel Shannon Smith, a nationally recognized leader and mentor. Dr. Smith’s vision of a resilient university-community partnership continues to be an important value of the IBL and the University of South Florida. According to Dr. Smith, from its inception, the Institute’s mission was to “…serve as a bridge, conduct research and provide community service. So, that’s what we did!” Today, the IBL is a vibrant resource on the history and culture of people of African descent. Through a range of interdisciplinary research projects and programs, a speakers’ series and an annual research conference, the Institute on Black Life maintains its commitment to scholarship and service.

IBL also strives to build effective and collaborative partnerships with faculty, academic departments and students across the USF campus community as well as with cultural and educational institutions in the global community.

Reminiscing about the early days of the IBL and the opportunities she created on a shoe-string budget, Dr. Smith has quipped, “The Institute has come a long way since the days of working from the trunk of my car.”

Ten years after founding IBL, Dr. Smith initiated an “international arm”, the Center for Africa and the Diaspora, which led to study and travel abroad for USF students and faculty. The current director and staff of the IBL earnestly endeavor to maintain the integrity of IBL’s founding mission while also guiding the Institute in new and exciting directions.

Learn more about Dr. Juel Smith:

  • By listening to her interview, collected for the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project on February 20, 2004.