About the Department

Group of people seated in semicircleThe Department of African and African American Studies (AFR) provides students with a scholarly understanding of the cultures, thought, politics, social life, and material structures that define Black experience. AFR’s interdisciplinary approach allows students to engage a spectrum of fields, including history, psychology, environmental science, gender studies, sociology, political science, economics, health, media, technology, and many forms of expressive culture.

Through the advanced, dedicated study of the major and the supplementary enrichment of the minor, the African and African American Studies Department deepens students’ total experience. We offer new ways to read, critique, and take action in the world using the perspectives of people throughout the African Diaspora.

The Classroom and Beyond

Professor seated atop desk gesturesOur curriculum teaches students to clarify and critically utilize Black theoretical, material, and cultural interventions. AFR not only shows students how to analyze the conditions that have impacted Black experience, we also give students the opportunity to innovate practical, active responses to the structures and ideologies of racial subjugation.

In addition to our catalog courses, we offer a number of experimental “special topics” classes that deepen students’ intellectual journey. Courses include:

  • Black Power Beyond Borders
  • The Archaeology of Slavery and Emancipation
  • Black Queer Theory
  • African Traditional Religion
  • The “B-Side” of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Food and Agriculture of Africa and African People
  • Black Women and 21st Century Visual Culture
  • Carceral States: Race and the Struggle Against the Prison Nation
  • Traveling to Ghana: West African Music and Literature (BIST)
  • Environmental Justice, and more!

Opportunities and Internships

Underneath canopy of trees


AFR majors have the opportunity to assist in faculty-led research projects as well as conduct their own research using a variety of student grants. Independent research and outstanding capstone projects are honored at the end of each year.


AFR students are also granted internships that match a wide range of intellectual and career interests – from history to political science to the arts.  Students have interned at the Lexington Neighborhood Youth Council, the home of Carter G. Woodson (operated by the National Parks Service), and the Heir Property Information Project supporting African American family land retention.

Enrichment and Professional Development

AFR students also gain educational enrichment, professional development, and networking opportunities through conferences, learning excursions, study abroad, and other interactive experiences. Beyond exclusive encounters with speakers in AFR’s Hieroglyph series, students also get one-on-one career guidance from African & African American Studies graduates across multiple institutions. Other professional development and enrichment experiences have included trips to the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration Symposium, the Carter G. Woodson Center’s Civil Rights Tour, and participation in the Southwestern Black Leadership Conference.