Department of African American Studies

Faculty

  • Chair

    • Eddie S. Glaude
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Naomi Murakawa
    • Imani Perry (Acting, DUS in AY 2019-20)
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  • Professor

    • Wendy L. Belcher
    • Wallace D. Best
    • Eddie S. Glaude
    • Tera W. Hunter
    • Chika Okeke-Agulu
    • Imani Perry
  • Associate Professor

    • Ruha Benjamin
    • Joshua B. Guild
    • Naomi Murakawa
  • Assistant Professor

    • Reena N. Goldthree
    • Anna A. Kesson
    • Kinohi Nishikawa
    • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
    • Autumn M. Womack, also English
  • Lecturer

    • Dannelle Gutarra Cordero

Program Information

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 (AACL)

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 (GRE)

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 (RPP)

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 at least one core survey African American Studies (AAS) course.

Program of Study

Concentrators are required to complete nine (9) courses: two (2) core survey courses, AAS 300 Junior Seminar: Research and Writing in African American Studies, and six (6) additional African American Studies courses. In addition, all concentrators are required to participate in the senior colloquium.

Students complete two (2) core survey courses listed below.  At least one (1) of these must be a Pre-20th century course.  Students are strongly encouraged to complete both survey courses by the end of junior year.

Pre-20th Century

  • AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (Pre-20th century)
  • AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (Pre-20th century)

 20th Century and beyond

  • AAS 245 Introduction to 20th Century African American Art
  • AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
  • AAS 367 African American History Since Emancipation

At the end of their fall semester, juniors declare a subfield to pursue, selecting from the following courses:

  • African American Culture and Life (AACL)
  • Global Race and Ethnicity (GRE)
  • Race and Public Policy (RPP)

Four (4) courses must be taken in the chosen subfield, with two (2) additional courses as follows:

  • If the chosen subfield is AACL or RPP, then the two (2) additional courses must be selected from the GRE courses. 
  • If the chosen subfield is GRE, then one (1) must be an AACL course, and one (1) must be an RPP course. 

Students are permitted to take up to two (2) approved cognate courses in other departments. See the departmental website for the lists of courses and approved cognates by subfield. Concentrators will complete junior and senior independent work, participate in a senior colloquium and a departmental comprehensive oral examination based on feedback from the senior thesis.

Senior Colloquium 

Concentrators are required to participate in the 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. The Senior Colloquium meets a total of six times per term.  A member of the AAS core faculty leads each colloquium meeting, and senior thesis advisors are expected to attend at least one session at the invitation of their advisee.

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.

AAS Program Certificate

The Department of African American Studies offers students concentrating in another department the opportunity to earn a certificate in African American Studies (AAS). Students who opt to pursue a certificate in AAS, gain access to an extraordinary bibliography that prepares them to think about difference in sophisticated ways.  The Course of Study is directed in three distinct subfields; African American Culture and Life (AACL), Race and Public Policy (RPP), and Global Race and Ethnicity (GRE). 

Undergraduate students may apply for formal admission to the certificate program at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in any African American Studies course.

  1. Students must complete two AAS core survey courses from the list below:
    • AAS 245 Introduction to 20th Century African American Art
    • AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910
    • AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
    • AAS 366 African American History to 1863
    • AAS 367 African American History Since Emancipation
  2. Students must take three additional courses in AAS, Cross-Listed by AAS, or from our approved cognates list.  They are strongly urged to choose these additional courses from the RPP or GRE subfield, and at least one (1) of these must be in the GRE sub-field.

Please consult the listing for the Program in African American Studies for additional information.

Courses

AAS 201 African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race Fall EC

This course introduces students to the field of African American Studies through an examination of the complex experiences, both past and present, of Americans of African descent. Through a multidisciplinary perspective, it reveals the complicated ways we come to know and live race in the United States. Students engage classic texts in the field, all of which are framed by a concern with epistemologies of resistance and of ignorance that offer insight into African American thought and practice. Instructed by: E. Glaude Jr.

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also
SOC 202
) Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 211 The American Experience and Dance Practices of the African Diaspora (See DAN 211)

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (See SOC 221)

AAS 230 Topics in African American Studies (also
ENG 231
) Not offered this year LA

This course examines the selected non-fiction writings of one of America's most influential essayists and public intellectuals: James Baldwin. Attention will be given to his views on ethics, art, and politics - with particular consideration given to his critical reflections on race and democracy. Instructed by: E. Glaude Jr.

AAS 239 Introduction to African Literature and Film (See COM 239)

AAS 245 Introduction to 20th-Century African American Art (also
ART 245
) Fall LA

This surveys history of African American art during the long 20th-century, from the individual striving of late 19th century to the unprecedented efflorescence of art and culture in 1920s Harlem; from the retrenchment in black artistic production during the era of Great Depression, to the rise of racially conscious art inspired by the Civil Rights Movement; from the black feminist art in the 1970s, to the age of American multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s; and finally to the turn of the present century when ambitious "postblack" artists challenge received notions of black art and racial subjectivity. Instructed by: C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 262 Jazz History: Many Sounds, Many Voices (See MUS 262)

AAS 303 Topics in Global Race and Ethnicity (also
GSS 406
/
HUM 306
) Fall HA

This seminar uses 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/or (2) non-African-descended people of color within the United States. Instructed by: D. Gutarra Cordero

AAS 306 Topics in Race and Public Policy (also
AMS 305
) HA

This seminar uses and interrogates 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. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 312 Special Topics In Urban Dance (See DAN 322)

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (See WWS 331)

AAS 321 Black Rage and Black Power (also
REL 321
) Spring HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power era. We chart the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. We also explore the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. Our aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. Instructed by: E. Glaude Jr.

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also
ENG 393
/
REL 366
) Not offered this year LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 327 20th Century Masters (also
GSS 368
) Not offered this year LA

This special topics course will focus on artists and intellectuals whose corpus reflects and illuminates 20th century African American life. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (See REL 367)

AAS 351 Law, Social Policy, and African American Women (also
GSS 351
) Not offered this year SA

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will learn how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, we will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated. Instructed by: I. Perry

AAS 352 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (See SPA 352)

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also
ENG 352
) Not offered this year LA

This introductory course focuses on black literature and literary culture from the mid-18th century to the early 20th; it will cover the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar; the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker; slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; non-fiction prose by W. E. B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper; and Frances Harper's and James Weldon Johnson's novels. In readings, assignments, and discussions, students will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces that surround the production of an early African American literary tradition. Instructed by: A. Womack

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also
ENG 366
) Spring LA

A survey of twentieth- and twenty-first century African American literature, including the tradition's key aesthetic manifestos. Special attention to how modern African American literature fits into certain periods and why certain innovations in genre and style emerged when they did. Poetry, essays, novels, popular fiction, a stage production or two, and related visual texts. Instructed by: K. Nishikawa

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also
WWS 386
/
POL 338
) Spring SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. Instructed by: I. Perry

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (also
HIS 386
) Spring HA

This course explores African-American history from the Atlantic slave trade up to the Civil War. It is centrally concerned with the rise of and overthrow of human bondage and how they shaped the modern world. Africans were central to the largest and most profitable forced migration in world history. They shaped new identities and influenced the contours of American politics, law, economics, culture and society. The course considers the diversity of experiences in this formative period of nation-making. Race, class, gender, region, religion, labor, and resistance animate important themes in the course. Instructed by: T. Hunter, K. Taylor

AAS 367 African American History Since Emancipation (also
HIS 387
) Fall HA

This course offers an introduction to the major themes, critical questions, and pivotal moments in post emancipation African American history. Traces the social, political, cultural, intellectual, and legal contours of the black experience in the United States from Reconstruction to the rise of Jim Crow, through the World Wars, Depression, and the Great Migrations, to the long civil rights era and the contemporary period of racial politics. Using a wide variety of texts, images, and creative works, the course situates African American history within broader national and international contexts. Instructed by: J. Guild, K. Taylor

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also
REL 368
) Not offered this year LA

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Instructed by: W. Best

AAS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (also
ART 374
/
AMS 372
) Not offered this year LA

As articulated by Thelma Golden, postblack refers to the work of African American artists who emerged in the 1990s with ambitious, irreverent, and sassy work. Postblack suggests the emergence of a generation of artists removed from the long tradition of black affirmation of the Harlem Renaissance, black empowerment of the Black Arts movement, and identity politics of the 1980s and early 90s. This seminar involves critical and theoretical readings on multiculturalism, race, identity, and contemporary art, and will provide an opportunity for a deep engagement with the work of African American artists of the past decade. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 373 What is Black Art: Art History and the Black Diaspora (See ART 373)

AAS 376 Race and Religion in America (See REL 377)

AAS 388 Unrest and Renewal in Urban America (See HIS 388)

AAS 389 Women Writers of the African Diaspora (See ENG 389)

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also
ENG 392
) Not offered this year LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Instructed by: Staff

AAS 393 Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (See HIS 393)

AAS 397 New Diasporas (See ENG 397)

AAS 403 Race and Medicine (See ANT 403)

AAS 413 Major Author(s) (See ENG 411)

AAS 455 Major Author(s) (See ENG 414)

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also
HIS 477
) Not offered this year HA

This interdisciplinary course examines the evolution of African American social and political mobilization from World War II through the 1970s. Through an analysis of historical scholarship, oral history, sermons, works of literature, film and music, it explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship using the church, grassroots organizations, workers' rights, feminism, education, war, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The course also considers the ways these movements have been remembered, memorialized, and appropriated in more recent times. Instructed by: J. Guild, I. Perry