African-American Studies Department

The African-American Studies Department is an interdisciplinary program of courses organized to provide an introduction to, overview of, and multiple disciplinary perspectives on the experiences of peoples of African descent in the United States and to connect those experiences to the literatures, histories, and cultures of Africa and of Latin America and the Caribbean. The department offers students the opportunity to explore the human experience of persons and peoples through the multiple perspectives offered by diverse social science and humanistic disciplines. Courses in the department expose students to classical and contemporary literature, to issues of public policy, to critical debates in history and social science, and to main currents of historical analysis and contemporary cultural expression. Students may elect a major or a minor in African-American studies built on courses in other department and programs such as American studies, anthropology, art, history, literature, economics, government, music, philosophy, religious studies, sociology, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. The department not only exposes students to the history, literature, and cultures of African Americans and people of African descent throughout the Americas, but it also requires exploration of African history, cultures, and artistic expressions. While the African-American Studies Department’s use of the phrase African American includes persons and peoples of African descent throughout the Americas, the department’s primary focus is on the literature, history, and culture of people of African descent in the United States and the Caribbean.


Chair, Associate Professor Chandra Bhimull
Department Faculty: Associate Professor Chandra Bhimull (African-American Studies and Anthropology); 
Assistant Professor Sonya Donaldson (African-American Studies)

Affiliated Faculty and Advisory CommitteeProfessors Catherine Besteman (Anthropology), Cedric Gael Bryant (English), Jill Gordon (Philosophy), Bénédicte Mauguière (French), Tanya Sheehan (Art), and Robert Weisbrot (History); Associate Professors Alicia Ellis (German), Mouhamédoul Niang (French) and Sonja Thomas (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies); Assistant Professors Sarah E. Duff (History), Carrie A. LeVan (Government), and Laura Seay (Government) 

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in African-American Studies

Eleven courses selected from courses specifically focused on African Americans and on peoples and cultures of Africa and the Caribbean. Six required courses: American Studies 276, English 343 or an equivalent, History 247; at least one course focused specifically on Africa; at least one course focused specifically on the Caribbean or African-derived cultures in Latin America or the African diaspora (e.g., Anthropology 231); and at least one course focused on art, music, theater, dance, or other aspects of expressive culture. Four or more electives from among the relevant courses in the social sciences, humanities, and relevant interdisciplinary studies programs and departments (e.g., American Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; English/Creative Writing; Latin American Studies; Education); at least one of the courses should be taken at the 300 or 400 level. Courses not specifically listed may be counted toward the major with permission of the advisor if substantial relevance can be established during a particular semester or in an off-campus program. At least one seminar at the 300 or 400 level with a member of the African-American Studies Department faculty or with affiliated faculty where a substantial final paper or equivalent project explores in depth and engages significant debates about an aspect or aspects of African-American life and culture in the United States or in the African diaspora. Such courses could include, when the subject material is appropriate and with the permission of the advisor, American Studies 493, English 413 and 493, and Music 493. Course substitutions and exchanges may be made in consultation with the African-American Studies Department advisor.

Requirements for the Minor in African-American Studies

Seven courses including American Studies 276; History 247; American Studies 493; at least one course focused on Africa or the Caribbean; and two courses selected from American Studies 493, Anthropology 231, English 343, 346, 413 (when appropriate), Government 255, 336, 455, Philosophy 213, Religious Studies 256, or Sociology 252, 355, 357, 358. Course substitutions and exchanges may be made in consultation with the African-American Studies Department advisor.

Interested students also may consider an independent major in Africana studies (a selection of courses combining study of the Caribbean, the Americas, and Africa) or an independent major that combines African-American studies with another relevant discipline or program, especially American studies, anthropology, art, government, Latin American studies, music, religious studies, or sociology.

Majors and minors are instructed to inform faculty in various programs and departments that they are African-American studies majors or minors when seeking the permission of an instructor to register for courses restricted to majors in other disciplines or when asking that prerequisites be waived.

Other Applicable Courses +

Courses That Apply to the African-American Studies Major and Minor


African-American Studies

  • 276 African-American Culture in the United States


  • 231 Caribbean Cultures
  • 258 Anthropology, History, Memory
  • 2xx Black Joy
  • 333 Contemporary Theory
  • 341 Culture, Mobility, Identity: Encounters in the African Diaspora
  • 344 Black Radical Imaginations
  • 421 Anthropology of Creativity


  • 256 African-American Art


  • 343 African-American Literature: Speaking in Tongues
  • 346 Culture and Literature of the American South
  • 354 Slavery and the American Literary Imagination
  • 413A Author Course: Toni Morrison
  • 457 American Gothic Literature


  • 236 Introduction to the Francophone World: The Americas
  • 237 Francophone African Cinema
  • 351 Minority Issues and Social Change in the Americas
  • 361 Creolization, Culture, and Society in the Indian Ocean Islands

Global Studies

  • 316 Religion and Social Change in Contemporary Africa


  • 228 Introduction to Race, Ethnicity, and Politics
  • 255 Introduction to African Politics
  • Minority Representation
  • 336 Politics of Development in Africa
  • 338 Field Study in African Development
  • 455 Seminar: Conflict and Crisis in Africa


  • 138 America Between the World Wars, 1919-1939
  • 247 African-American History, from Slavery to Freedom
  • 297J Freedom Now and Then: The Black Freedom Struggle and Its Legacies
  • 3XX Global Histories of Food
  • 3XX Race, Labor, and Gender in 19th-Century United States
  • 3XX Africa in New England, New England in Africa
  • 334 The Great Depression: America in the 1930s
  • 342 Crisis and Reform: American Society and Politics in the 1960s


  • 114 Jazz Improvisation
  • 118 African Music

Performance, Theater, and Dance

  • 118 Dance Technique Lab: Dance Forms of the African Diaspora


  • 213 Philosophical Inquiries into Race

Religious Studies

  • 256 The African-American Religious Experience


  • 214 African-American Elites and Middle Classes
  • 252 Race, Ethnicity, and Society
  • 355 African-American Women and Social Change
  • 357 Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change
  • 358 The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois
  • 359 Sociologies of Slavery and Slave Communities in the United States

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

  • 223 Critical Race Feminisms and Tap Dance

Note: Additional courses, often taught by visiting faculty, may be available from time to time as temporary offerings, and such courses may be counted toward the major or the minor with permission of the African-American Studies Department advisor.