African American Studies

About the Major

Department/Program Description.

The African American studies major offers an interdisciplinary approach to studying the experiences of people of African descent in the black Atlantic world, especially in the United States and the Caribbean. The major allows undergraduates to apply the methodologies and insights of many disciplines to understanding the cultural, historical, political, and social development of people of African descent. Our courses explore the social structures and cultural traditions that Africans in the diaspora have created. They also provide students with the necessary tools for understanding Western conceptualizations of race and the relationship between issues of race and identity. African American studies offers all Wesleyan students, and especially its majors, a solid grounding in theories of race and a deep understanding of the Americas. Students who complete the requirements for the major will receive a degree in African American studies, with concentration in a specific discipline or topical study.

Admission to the Major.

Students must earn a grade of B- or better in one of the three AFAM core courses (AFAM202, 203, or 204) to be admitted to the major.

Major Requirements.

African American studies majors must complete 11 semester courses. At least seven of these courses must be cross-listed with African American studies (the three required core courses, the required junior colloquium, and the three elective courses). All courses must be letter-graded and must be completed at Wesleyan. One research tutorial can be counted toward the 11 required courses, as can two courses taken away from Wesleyan (toward the concentration). The major program must include the following:

Required core courses (3 courses). Students are required to take and successfully complete all three of the core courses. Students may not substitute or transfer any other course to meet these requirements.

  • AFAM202 Introduction to African American Literature
  • AFAM203 African American History, 1444-1877
  • AFAM204 Introduction to Modern African American History

AFAM elective courses (3 courses). Majors must complete one elective course in each of the following three areas:

  • Literature and literary theory
  • Social and behavioral sciences (any AFAM SBS course except history)
  • The arts (art, art history, dance, film, creative writing, music, theater)

The three elective courses must be 200-level or higher. These courses should be cross-listed with African American studies, although in special circumstances students can petition to use a course that is not formally cross-listed with AFAM as one of their electives.

Junior colloquium. Freedom Summer (AFAM301), is required of all majors and should be taken in the first semester of the junior year.

Field of concentration (4 courses). Each major must take four courses for his or her concentration. Concentrations may be conceived either disciplinarily,with the four courses coming from a single department, or thematically, with courses selected from different disciplines but designed around a specific topic. Concentration courses do not necessarily have to be cross-listed with AFAM. One 100-level course can count in the concentration. None of the four courses taken in the field of concentration can count toward the AFAM core courses or the AFAM elective courses. Students should design their concentrations in consultation with their advisor.

Capstone Experience.
Majors are required to undertake one substantial research or artistic project under faculty supervision. This may take the form of an honors thesis, a senior essay done through an individual tutorial, or a research paper at least 15 pages in length done in a 300-level AFAM seminar. Any work done to fulfill the research requirement must receive a grade of B- or better.