The African American Studies Concentration
Students in this field are expected to understand the basic themes and ideas that structure interdisciplinary work in African American Studies. The concentration provides students an opportunity to focus their studies in one of three subfields: 1) African American Culture and Life; 2) Global Race and Ethnicity; and 3) Race and Public Policy. With a combination of courses and interdisciplinary research opportunities, students who complete the African American Studies concentration will be equipped with the critical and analytical skills that will prepare them for a range of professions. They will be highly qualified to pursue graduate work in the field or its cognate disciplines, and prepared to enter a society in which race continues to be salient.
The African American Studies Subfields
The curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the course of study is organized into three thematic subfields:
- Global Race and Ethnicity: Using race and ethnicity as a lens, students are introduced to a critical perspective and approach to the examination of American institutions (e.g., schools, families, prisons, etc.). They are also exposed to other related questions such as the formation of racial and ethnic identities and the nature of inequality in an increasingly global context.
- African American Culture and Life: Drawing on the insights of cultural studies, broadly understood, students encounter the rich history, literature, religion, and the arts of African Americans. Moreover, pushing the boundaries of historical accounts of African American life beyond U.S. national borders to include the diaspora in all of its diversity and plurality, this subfield also familiarizes students with many of the contributions of African-descended peoples around the world.
- Race and Public Policy: Exploring, among other things, the historical, cultural, political, and economic causes and consequences of problems facing African American communities, students examine the various initiatives that have defined American public policies in relation to race. In addition, they are challenged to assess the implications for creating and implementing effective public policies that directly relate to communities of color in the United States.
Early concentration is open to spring semester sophomores who have completed the prerequisite for entry into the department by the end of the fall semester of sophomore year. It allows students to make an early start on independent work and is especially useful for students planning to study abroad junior year.
Admission to the Program
Prerequisite for entry into the African American Studies concentration is the successful completion on a graded basis of the core course, AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.
Program of Study
Junior Year. During the fall term all juniors will participate in a colloquium with a member or members of the faculty. Students are expected to produce a research paper at the conclusion of the colloquium. The paper should be related to the topic of the junior seminar. In the spring term, juniors will complete independent work that includes independent reading and the writing of the junior paper working with a faculty advisor.
Senior Year. During the senior year each student, with the guidance of a faculty advisor, must complete independent work, which consists of writing a thesis. The senior thesis will then serve as the basis of the senior comprehensive exam.
Senior Departmental Examination
The comprehensive examination in the department consists of an oral examination based on the senior thesis and related topics.
Certificate of Proficiency
Undergraduate students may apply for formal admission to the certificate program at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in the core course, AAS 201, Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.
In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate are required to take two core courses in African American Studies, at least one of which must focus on the pre-20th century era (marked with an * below). Qualifying courses include:
AAS 353/ENG 352 African American Literature: Origins to 1910*
AAS 359/ENG 366 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
AAS 366/HIS 386 African American History to 1863*
AAS 367/HIS 387 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present
Students must also take two additional courses. We strongly urge that they select these additional courses from either the Race and Public Policy subfield, or the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. These can be regular AAS courses, cross-listed AAS courses, courses from our Approved Cognates List. To get approval for cognate courses not already on our list, a student must submit the course syllabus for review to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.