Academic Program

African American studies is an interdisciplinary program designed to cultivate knowledge of the experience of African Americans from the past to the present, and of those of African descent beyond the United States. Courses in theis field employ "race" as a critical tool of analysis for explaining the allocation of economic resources, the formation of personal and group identity, and the changing nature of political and social behavior. Study of African American experiences provides insight into secular cultural practices (e.g.. literature, music, and art), intellectual traditions, religious symbol systems and traditions, and social institutions while remaining attentive to issues of class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality.

The faculty committee on African American Studies reviews and revises the list of courses annually. Students keep abreast of curricular changes and monitor their progress in the major by consulting the chair or a faculty advisor affiliated with the program. Ideally by the junior year, each student has designed an interdisciplinary course of study, which ensures that their exploration of the field has both breadth and depth.

A student chooses a thesis advisor in concert with the chair and the program committee. This mentor has some knowledge of and shares an interest in the subject of inquiry.

More information on the African American studies program is available on the website (

Major Requirements. Students must complete eleven courses and a thesis. Courses taken for the major must include:
a) at least one course that has an experiential component (e.g., ACS 220, Community Studies, or with the permission of the program committee, a course offered in another department that involves work in a community agency for at least four hours per week);
b) at least one course that emphasizes feminist histories and analyses (e,g., AA/WS 201, Race, Ethnicity, and Feminist Thought, or PLTC 235, Black Women in the Americas);
c) at least one course that focuses on black diasporic life outside the United States. (e.g., AA/EN 223, Survey of the Literatures of the Caribbean; AA/AN 251, Imagining the Caribbean; AA/EN 267, Narrating Slavery; AA/EN 268, Survey of Literatures of Africa; AA/RE 233. Literary Representations of Africana Religion; INDS 100, African Perspectives on Justice, Human Rights and Renewal; and INDS 277, Chanting Down Babylon: Caribbean Popular Culture Insurgency).

Within the major, students may develop a concentration in literature or the arts (music, theater, dance, fine art), film studies, environmental studies, gender studies, politics, public policy, anthropology, economics, education, queer studies, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, race and science, or may focus on a particular world region (e.g., the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America).

Courses for the major include:

1) Required Courses:
AAS 100. Introduction to African American Studies.
INDS 250. Interdisciplinary Studies: Methods and Modes of Inquiry.

2) One junior-senior seminar, including:
INDS 321. Afroambiente:Writing a Black Environment.
INDS 325. Black Feminist Literary Theory and Practice.
INDS 342. Performance, Narrative, and the Body.
AA/SP 350. Representing Blacks in Cuban Culture: From the Colony to the Revolution.
AA/AC 375. Curatorial Studies and Contemporary Culture.
AA/HI 301E. African Slavery in the Americas.
HIST 301P. Prelude to the Civil Rights Movement.
HIST 301W. The Civil Rights Movement.
AA/EN 395T. African American Literary Issues and Criticism.

3) Eight other courses offered by the African American studies program or from the following list of electives offered by other departments and programs:
AC/AV 288. Visualizing Race.
ANTH s10. Encountering Community: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Service-Learning.
ED/SO 242. Race, Cultural Pluralism, and Equality in American Education.
HIST 301P. Prelude to the Civil Rights Movement.
HIST 301W. The Civil Rights Movement.
INDS 267. Blood, Genes, and American Culture.
MUS 247. History of Jazz.
PLTC 229. Race and Civil Rights in Constitutional Interpretation.
PLTC 235. Black Women in the Americas.
REL 247. City upon the Hill.
REL 255. African American Religious Traditions.
SOC 205. Research Methods for Sociology.

4) AAS 457 or 458. Senior Thesis.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.

Minor. A minor in African American studies allows students to develop a basic foundation in the field and to complement the perspective and modes of analysis offered in their major area of study. The program has established the following requirements for a minor in African American studies:

1) AAS 100. Introduction to African American Studies.
2) AA/WS 201. Race, Ethnicity, and Feminist Thought.
3) AA/HI 243. African American History.
4) Three additional courses, of which one should focus on black diasporic life outside the United States, and another should be at the 300 level.

Pass/Fail Grading Option. Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the minor.