Department of African American Studies

  • Chair

    Eddie S. Glaude

  • Departmental Representative

    Naomi Murakawa

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Joshua B. Guild

  • Professor

    Wallace D. Best, also Religion

    Eddie S. Glaude, also Religion

    Tera W. Hunter, also History

    Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

    Imani Perry

  • Associate Professor

    Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

    Ruha Benjamin

    Joshua B. Guild, also History

    Naomi Murakawa

  • Assistant Professor

    Reena N. Goldthree

    Anna A. Kesson, also Art and Archaeology

    Kinohi Nishikawa, also English

    Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

    Autumn M. Womack, also English

  • Lecturer

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

  • Associated Faculty

    Jacob S. Dlamini, History

    Paul Frymer, Politics

    Simon E. Gikandi, English

    William A. Gleason, English and American Studies

    J. N. Shelton, Psychology

    Stacey A. Sinclair, Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School

    Dara Z. Strolovitch, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program

    Keith A. Wailoo, History and Woodrow Wilson School

    Leonard Wantchekon, Politics and 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:

African American Culture and Life:

In the African American Culture and Life subfield, 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.

Global Race and Ethnicity:

In the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield, 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.

Race and Public Policy:

In the Race and Public Policy subfield, 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.

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 get an early start on independent work and is especially useful for students planning to study abroad in their 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 ten (10) courses: AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices, AAS 300 Junior Seminar: Research and Writing in African American Studies 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 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 or AAS 366 African American History to 1863), the other with emphasis on the 20th century to the present (AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to the Present and AAS 367 African American Studies Since Emancipation). 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 up to two approved cognate courses in other departments. Concentrators will complete junior and senior independent work, and a departmental comprehensive examination.

Independent Work

Junior Year. During the fall term all juniors must enroll in AAS 300 Junior Seminar: Research and Writing in African American Studies.  This course introduces students to theories and methods of research design in African American Studies in preparation for the junior paper. 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 concentrators are required to participate in a senior colloquium, which seeks to provide a space for seniors concentrating in African American Studies to reflect upon their experiences within the Department, and upon how the understanding and insight they have gained here can and should influence their lives beyond graduation.  With the guidance of a faculty adviser, they must then 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 exam 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 these additional courses from the Race and Public Policy or 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.