Program Overview

The study of the global black experience has a long and distinguished history. Grounded in an array of disciplinary methods the field offers new insights on the human condition. Through the use of empirical evidence, diverse methodologies and intellectual approaches this field boasts a rigorous engagement with communities of African descent in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe, among others. Necessarily, this involves a deepening understanding of local, national, transnational, diasporic, and global dynamics, their histories and intersections.

The field has developed exciting insights as well as firm intellectual and empirical foundations for the systematic study of the experience of communities of African descent in the United States and elsewhere and, through such study, for a greater understanding of local, national, transnational, diasporic, and global dynamics, their histories and intersections. From its beginnings, the field has been strongly interdisciplinary, bringing the perspectives of different disciplines to bear on understanding black life especially in the United States. The Department of African American Studies exemplifies these traditions and strengths and, through its courses, provides opportunities to explore the richness and diversity of the black experience in a meaningful and coherent way.

The Department offers courses comparing the black experience in various parts of the world, allowing students to learn to analyze identity, race, and racism as formations that change over time and space. This broad study of the black experience is one of the key features of the Department, distinguishing it from similar departments at other institutions.

Major themes in the curriculum include:

  • the nature of colonization and its impact on the colonizer and the colonized
  • the advent, implications, and legacies of trans-Atlantic slavery
  • racism and its effects on society as well as on scholarship
  • the makings and conceptualizations of the black diaspora
  • the importance of oral language, history, and tradition in the black experience
  • the roots and development of black music, literature, and religious styles
  • black politics and social movements, and black radicalism
  • the analysis of key institutions and topics such as the family, gender and class relations, and sexuality.

African American Studies provides good preparation for graduate work in the social sciences, the humanities, and the professions, as well as for jobs and careers in a variety of fields. Education, law, journalism, urban planning, health-care delivery and administration, business, social work, and politics are only a few of the fields for which African American Studies provides an excellent background.