Why Learn About African American Studies

"A Linen Market with a Linen Stall and Vegetable Seller in the West Indies," Agostino Brunias

Why Major/Minor in African American Studies?

While there are dozens of reasons why to major or minor in African American Studies, we want to emphasize the following four:

  1.  We are interdisciplinary. If you like to read novels, and to know something about history, and to understand politics, and to watch films, then you'd like the disciplinary diversity of AFAM. In the core of the major/minor, we require all students to take one literature, one history, and one social science class, and then, if you like, you can specialize after that.

  2. We are global and comparative. We study Black folks wherever they are, and that's a lot of places. And we study how the Black experience compares to that of other groups, as well as what we can learn about all groups by studying the creation of Blackness as a category. We require students to take a course called Black Diaspora where they follow the roots and routes of Black people and ideas about Black people across the world.

  3. We lead to many career paths. Many students ask: What would I do with an AFAM major/minor? The answer: You can do all the same things that you would do with a Psych major or a Philosophy major or a History major or any Liberal Arts major. That is the value of Liberal Arts degree. While in AFAM you might be focusing on the Black experience and related topics, you are also learning how to think, write, and speak critically. Those are the tools that get you exciting jobs. We have students who are lawyers and activists and bankers and work at public policy think tanks and who work for Obama and who work at Google and who are teachers and who are getting their PhDs and many many more. It's also a great compliment to majors in other schools, especially Medill, SESP, and Communications.

  4. We are small (but growing). Being small allows us to do at least one event a quarter in which undergraduates, faculty members and graduate students can interact. In advising sessions we try to get to know our majors and minors, focusing on what they are interested in doing while at Northwestern and beyond. Because we are small, our majors and minors get to know each other well over the course of their studies, which allows for even more open dialogue and debate inside and outside of the classroom.