The discipline of African-American Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that is primarily devoted to the study of the history, culture and politics of people of African descent across the globe. Including those with advanced degrees in the discipline, African-American studies encompasses literature, history, politics and religion as well as sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, art, psychology and education. Scholars are embracing new and innovative ways to critically consider Black life each day.
African-American Studies is a dynamic discipline characterized by intellectual dexterity, methodological rigor and an enduring connection to the community, both inside and outside of the academy. While the discipline is relatively young, the truth is that scholars, intellectuals, activists, artists and many others have pursued a critical consideration of Black life across the African Diaspora well before 1968, with the creation of the first department of Black Studies at San Francisco State College (now University). This consideration of Black life provides us with an opportunity to apply our interdisciplinary knowledge as well as the specific approaches and scholarship provided by the discipline itself. As a result, majoring or minoring in African-American studies provides you with critical thinking, reading, writing and analysis that centers Black life, instead of pushing it to the boundaries.
African-American Studies embraces that which has happened, is happening and might happen in the future. We are not tied exclusively to history although historical considerations are certainly important to us. We consider the intersections between race, class, gender, sexuality and nationality among other dimensions of the human experience. Our students leave our department as well-rounded people prepared to engage the world from a variety of perspectives. While these perspectives center on Black life, we understand that learning about the experiences of Black people enhances our understanding of humanity as Black people are equal members of the human family to which we all belong.
While we are an academic discipline, our work extends far beyond the campus and the academy. The origins of African-American Studies are tied directly to service to the community. Here at Georgia State, we continue this tradition as community-based learning in service to the community is central to the experiences of our students. Indeed, our motto is “academic excellence and social responsibility.”
When asked “What can one do with a degree in African-American Studies?” the answer is clear: anything. Our graduates are educators, lawyers, artists, entrepreneurs, university professors, nonprofit professionals and social workers among a diverse array of professions.
Some notable AAS majors and minors include:
- Angela Bassett, award-winning actress. (BA in African-American Studies from Yale University.)
- Mae Jemison, Physician and NASA astronaut on the Endeavor in 1992. (BA in Afro-American Studies from Stanford University.)
- Aaron McGruder, Cartoonist, writer and creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip "The Boondocks." (BA in African-American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park.)
- Michelle Obama, attorney and First Lady of the United States. (BA in Sociology with a minor in African-American Studies from Princeton University.)
If your chosen field is influenced by a desire to center the experiences of Black people in a greater understanding of the human experience, African-American Studies is the major (or minor) for you.
For more information about the undergraduate major and minor in African-American Studies, contact the undergraduate director, Dr. Lisa Shannon at email@example.com. For information regarding the master's program or graduate certificate, contact the graduate director, Dr. Sarita Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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