Department of African American Studies

  • Chair

    Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

  • Acting Chair

    Imani Perry (fall/spring)

  • Departmental Representative

    Naomi Murakawa

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Joshua B. Guild

  • Professor

    Wallace D. Best, also Religion

    Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also Religion

    Tera W. Hunter, also History

    Imani Perry

    Stacey Sinclair, also Psychology

  • Associate Professor

    Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

    Ruha Benjamin

    Joshua B. Guild, also History

    Naomi Murakawa

    Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

  • Assistant Professor

    Anna Arabindan-Kesson, also Art and Archaeology

    Reena N. Goldthree

    Kinohi Nishikawa, also English

    Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

    Autumn M. Womack, also English

  • Lecturer

    Nijah N. Cunningham, also Council of the Humanities, English

  • Associated Faculty

    Bruno M. Carvalho, Spanish and Portuguese

    Jacob S. Dlamini, History

    Paul Frymer, Politics

    Simon E. Gikandi, English

    William A. Gleason, English

    J. Nicole Shelton, Psychology

    Dara Z. Strolovitch, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies

    Keith A. Wailoo, History

    Leonard Wantchekon, Politics, Woodrow Wilson School

    Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

The Department of African American Studies offers the African American studies concentration for undergraduates with a strong interest in studying the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces shaping the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in the United States and their relationship to others around the world.

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

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: 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.

2) 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.

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.

The program's 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.  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.

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. See the departmental website for the lists of courses by subfield. 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 adviser.

Senior Year. During the senior year each student, with the guidance of a faculty adviser, 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.

AAS Program Certificate

The Department for African American Studies offers students concentrating in another department the opportunity to earn a certificate in African American studies. 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 will be required to take two courses in the African American Culture and Life subfield. These two survey courses must be selected from the history (AAS 366, AAS 367) and literature (AAS 353, AAS 359) series, one of which must be a pre-20th-century course. Students will take two additional courses in AAS or approved cognates for a total of five courses required. They are strongly urged to choose additional courses either in the Race and Public Policy subfield, or in the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. Students are encouraged to make race central to their senior theses. Please consult the listing for the Program in African American Studies for additional information.