Program in African American Studies

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Department of African American Studies offers an undergraduate certificate that expands and deepens a students understanding of race in the United States and in the world. The certificate is equivalent to an academic ‘minor’ in African American Studies. Earning a certificate is straightforward and allows students an enriching course of study which complements any Princeton concentration. Students who opt to pursue a certificate gain access to an extraordinary bibliography that prepares them to think about race and difference in sophisticated ways. 

The Program in African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture, and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States, is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, the program promotes teaching and research of race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

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. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

African American Culture and Life (AACL):

In the AACL 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 GRE 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 RPP 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.

Admission to the Program

The Program in 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.

Program Requirements

In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate are required to take two courses in the AACL subfield. These two survey courses must be selected from the history and literature series, one of which must be a pre-20th-century course (marked with an *below). Qualifying courses include:

  1. AAS 353/ENG 352 African American Literature: Origins to 1910*
  2. AAS 359/ENG 366 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present
  3. AAS 366/HIS 386 African American History to 1863*
  4. AAS 367/HIS 387 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

Students will take two additional courses in AAS or approved cognates for a total of five courses required. They are strongly urged to choose the additional courses from either the Race and Public Policy subfield or the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. Students are also encouraged (not required) to make race central to their senior thesis.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American Studies upon graduation.

Interested students are advised to contact the program office. For the most current information see the program's website.