African American (or Afro-American, or Africana) studies is the academic study of the history, culture, and contributions of African American people. Those who choose to pursue graduate study in this field may go on to become professors, writers, consultants, community officials or activists. In this article, we cover some of the coursework common to master's programs in African American studies and conclude with what you can expect from the graduate admissions process.
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General African American Studies Graduate Program Information
In an African American studies program, you should expect to see coursework from a broad spectrum of the humanities: history, philosophy, literature, etc. Some of the common courses you may encounter in this program are outlined below.
African American Art and Literature
In courses such as this, you could examine and analyze the artistic output - music, visual art, literature, cinema - created by African Americans, or about African Americans, and the influence it has had in shaping racial identities. You may read specific authors or analyze specific forms of artistic media, such as jazz. This type of course can help students develop the critical skills and knowledge base necessary for rigorous graduate-level study in literature and the arts.
African American History
African American history focuses, as the name suggests, on the history and influence of African Americans. In these courses, you may read, discuss, and research topics related to the historical experiences of African Americans. These courses may focus on a specific historical period, or they may cover broad swaths of time in order to give you a big-picture perspective on the development of African American identity.
Women's studies is a field that analyzes the social status and societal contributions of women, as well as the concept of gender identity itself. In the context of an African American studies program, the courses examine the history, experiences, and influence of African and African American women in particular. In these courses, you may study diverse topics including literature, gender theory, the timelines of specific women's movements, and historical periods.
African studies refers to the study of the culture and society of the African continent. Most African American studies programs include coursework in this field in order to give students important context and perspective for understanding the development of African American identity. These courses may be basic surveys of the history and geography of Africa, or they may focus on specific countries, political philosophies, and/or artistic movements.
In political science courses, you'll analyze politics (national or international) through the lens of African American identity. You may read influential political thinkers, discuss African American political activism and participation (historically or in the modern day), or analyze the political systems and movements of specific African countries.
Program Admission Requirements
Master's programs require at least an undergraduate degree (completed or anticipated) from their applicants. Many African American studies graduate programs also require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. You should expect to provide transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework taken. Most graduate programs ask applicants to submit a personal statement or statement of purpose, a recent sample of academic writing, and as many as 3 letters of recommendation. Recent scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test may be required.
African American studies is an important field of academic study available at the master's degree level across many schools. Students need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA as a basic admissions requirement, and courses include topics in political science, women's studies, and history as they pertain to the unique experiences of African Americans.