Course of Study

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:

  1. Global Race and Ethnicity: In this track, students use the prevailing analytical tools and critical perspectives of African American studies to consider comparative approaches to groups, broadly defined. Students will examine the intellectual traditions, socio-political contexts, expressive forms, and modes of belonging of people who are understood to share common boundaries/experiences as either: (1) Africans and the African Diaspora outside of the United States and (2) non-African-descended people of color within the United States.
  2. African American Culture and Life: In this track, students encounter the theoretical canon and keywords, which shape the contemporary discipline of African American studies. Accessing a range of interdisciplinary areas, situated primarily in the United States, students will learn to take a critical posture in examining the patterns and practices that order and transform black subjects and black life.
  3. Race and Public Policy: In this track, students use and interrogate social science methodologies in examining the condition of the American state and American institutions and practices. With an analysis of race and ethnicity at the center, students will examine the development of institutions and practices, with the growth and formation of racial and ethnic identities, including changing perceptions, measures, and reproduction of inequality.

Early Concentration

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

Concentrators are required to complete 10 courses: AAS 201; a junior seminar; and eight additional African American Studies courses. Of the eight African American Studies courses, students are required to take two survey courses, one with pre-20th century emphasis (AAS 353, AAS 366), the other with emphasis on the 20th century to the present (AAS 359, AAS 367). All students are required to complete four courses in their chosen subfield and one course in each of the two remaining subfields. Students are permitted to take two approved cognate courses in other departments. Concentrators will complete the junior and senior independent work and a departmental comprehensive examination.

Independent Work

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.