Graduate Programs for African-American Studies

The breadth of topics covered in Master of Arts in African American Studies programs embody the liberal arts approach. From politics to the arts, these programs take an exhaustive look at African and African American experiences while encouraging critical thinking, writing and research skills. Schools offering Gender Diversity Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

An Overview of African American Studies Programs

From enslavement to emancipation, from antiquity to grassroot activism, from African kingdoms and civilization to marginalized, freedom fighting African Americans, master's programs in African American studies take an exhaustive look at theories, philosophies and histories of the artwork, music, cultures, languages, politics and more of Africans and their African American descendants. Although GRE (Graduate Records Exam) scores are often required for admission, these one- to three-year programs may accept baccalaureate degrees in any field of study. Below are some common courses offered in Master of Arts in African American Studies programs.

Introduction to African American Studies

African American studies aren't only about the experience of African descendants in the Americas, but the long, diverse, troublesome, and triumphant history before and after the diaspora. This includes the subjects of art, music, anthropology, language, philosophy, metaphysics, geography and more on the African continent and abroad. The introductory courses in African American studies introduce the historical and contemporary parameters, and the time in between, of the diverse and complex studies of African Americans.

African Languages

From Yoruba to Ebonics to Francophonie, the study of language is commonplace in African American studies. Some programs offer courses in traditional African languages, while others may explore the links between traditional African language usage, loss and colonialism. Whichever approach a particular program takes, students should expect to explore the connection between the language and linguistics of African Americans and their relevance to socioeconomic and political domains.

African Cultures, Societies and Civilizations

Students should anticipate an exploration into the old civilizations of Ghana, Kemet, Axum, Monomotapa and/or others. But there may also be forays into contemporary societies of southern or western African cultures and beyond. A common feature of these courses is consideration for the historical, economic, political and cultural significance and impact of African societies past and/or present on the human and geographic landscape of Africans and African Americans.

African American Literature

Be it studies in pre- or post-Harlem Renaissance literary works, some of the reading and discussions on African American literature may cover the social context in which it was written. In consideration of the social context, the geopolitical and socioeconomic determinants may also be theorized when it comes to vernacular, subject matter and writing style. The coursework may not focus solely on literary novels but also on plays, poetry, autobiographies and essays.

African Literature

The stories of Africans in their native countries and the stories of the African Americans' experiences in the Americas are not one in the same, and thus colleges and universities offering master's programs in African American studies may offer literary coursework in the reading, analysis and discussion of both literary frameworks separately or as a comparative study. Literary works from Africa may be presented in their original languages or in translation. Whether from antiquity, contemporary times or the space in between, these works often cover not only the vastness of African history and folklore, but also the political, social and economic discord.

African American Women's Studies

Dealing with racism and sexism, studies about African American women can be broad in scope. Students may examine black feminism and the view and treatment of African American women within African American communities. There may also be theoretical treatments on the perceived role of African American women. Classism, sexism, colorism and discrimination that African American women face are some of the topics that may be covered.


Whether it's research, reading or discussions on music, art, politics, economics, religion, philosophy, etc. and its impact and/or enhancement by the African American experience and existence in the Americas, it might be challenging for theoreticians to avoid the topic of colonialism and the enslavement of Africans and, subsequently, African Americans. It may be in the discussion on the ideology of Afrocentricity and its relationship to African Americans' attempts at staying rooted in spite of the transatlantic divide. Or, it may be a direct exploration of the enslavement and emancipation of Africans and their descendants. Depending on the program, students may learn about the post-colonial experience and the adjustment to freedom, the sexual violence entangled in slavery and that followed into emancipation, as well as the continued struggle for freedom of movement and equality from the past to contemporary social movements.

African American studies programs are research, writing and critical thinking programs that aim to broaden the student's understanding and awareness of the extensive history of Africans and African Americans and their contributions and struggles within the African continent and abroad. These programs aim to move knowledge of culture, history and impact of Africans and their transcontinental descendants on past and present discourses on religion/metaphysics, politics, the economy and the arts from the sidelines to the forefront.

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