The Timbuktu Academy is named after the former University of Timbuktu, on the banks of the Niger River, in the city of Timbuktu, in Mali (West Africa). In the middle of the 2nd Millennium A.D., this University was a bastion of scholarship and intellectual accomplishments in fields ranging from medicine and religion to literature. The most celebrated scholars and professors of the University were a Mandingo (Black ethnic group of Kounta Kinte'), A. Bakayoko, and one of his many students, A. Baba. It is in the tradition of this august University that the Timbuktu Academy is established

The formal establishment of the Academy was in 1990-91 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF, Grant# HRD-9108590) and the Louisiana Stimulus for Excellence in Research (LaSER). Major funding from the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR, Grant# N00014-93-1-1368), in the Fall of 1993 was pivotal in the strengthening of the Academy and its expansion to Engineering and Chemistry, in addition to Physics. Sustained support from the Physics Laboratory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, Grant# 2T1014) and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) greatly enhanced the academic year and particularly the Summer research participation of several scholars. The Timbuktu Academy, as a result of the expansion made possible by ONR support, became a part of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (CEES) at Southern University and A&M College - Baton Rouge, LA. CEES, under the direction of Dr. Robert Ford, provides financial management and other support to the Academy.

The Timbuktu Academy recruits, advises, mentors, supports, involves in research, and guides toward graduate school and scientific and technical careers students who meet its standards and who accept responsibilities and challenges. The Academy's activities are based on a dynamic sum of current tenets in education and in research.

The Academy scholars are selected based on the soundness of judgment (knowing what and what not to do; as determined by recommendations and results), the goodness of character (self discipline, hardwork, and ethical behavior; as determined by recommendations and results), and academic accomplishments (English, Science, and Mathematics courses taken and related GPA, along with the ACT/SAT individual and composite scores; as determined by transcript and ACT/SAT reports).