The organization grew out of a protest at the 1968 African Studies Association (ASA) meeting in Los Angeles. Led by Dr. John H. Clarke, African descendant scholars demanded changes in ASA's Eurocentric approaches to African Studies and its marginalization of African descendant scholars. Due to the failure of ASA to reform itself, the African descendant scholars occupied the 1969 ASA Annual Meeting in Montreal, with the support of scholars from around the globe.
Following the 1969 occupation, the concerned African descendants incorporated AHSA in New York in 1969 following a meeting at Federal City College. Dr. John H. Clark was the founding AHSA President and James Turner, Leonard Jeffries, Shelby Lewis (Smith), Nicholas Enyewu and Edward Scobie were among the founding Directors of the organization.
The 1st AHSA Annual Conference was held at Howard University in 1970. The 2nd was held at Southern University (1971), the 3rd was held at (1972).
It is important to note that AHSA successfully challenged the right of ASA to be seated as the official US delegation to the 1973 International Association of Africanists in Addis Ababa. The challenge resulted in Dr. John H. Clarke, AHSA's President, being selected to serve as leader of a joint AHSA-ASA delegation.