First-Year Focus

Why Study African American Studies?

Grounded in an array of disciplinary methods and with an international focus, African American Studies offers new insights on the human condition. The study of the global black experience has a long and distinguished history as the point from which to understand the social life, politics, and cultures of whole societies. From its beginnings, the field has used the intellectual tools from History, Literature, Political Science, Theater, Sociology, and other disciplines to understand black life as situated in particular times and places. Through the use of empirical evidence, diverse methodologies and theoretical approaches this field boasts a rigorous engagement with communities of African descent in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe, among others.

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. Major themes in the curriculum include:

  • the nature of colonialism 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.

Exam Credit

AP Exam Credit: Not Applicable

Placement Exam Credit: Not Applicable

Contact with Questions

Tracy Vaughn-Manley, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Good Classes for First-Year Students

The best way to get acquainted with the field of African American Studies and to already begin fulfilling one of the requirements of both the Major and the Minor is to begin with one of our Core Courses. While students are welcome to begin with the general "Af Am St 236: Introduction to African American Studies," it is not necessary to start there. All of the 200-level courses offer a general overview and introduction to the three primary branches of our department – history, social sciences, and the expressive arts – and they prepare students to take advantage of our global and comparative focus. The following courses would be good ones to start with:

  • 210-0 Survey of African American Literature
  • 211-0 Literatures of the Black World
  • 212-1 Introduction to African American History 1
  • 212-2 Introduction to African American History 2
  • 213-0 History of the Black World
  • 214-0 Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies
  • 215-0 Introduction to Black Social and Political Life
  • 236-0 Introduction to African American Studies
  • 245-0 The Black Diaspora and Transnationality


You can take a look at Major and Minor requirements on our website, but if you have questions about our major and courses, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Tracy Vaughn-Manley, at

For general information about Weinberg College, go to: