African American Studies

University of California, Berkeley

The Department of African American Department Undergraduate Advising office provides students with support and assistance to help guide them through the academic bureaucracy and ensure that they have a successful undergraduate experience at Berkeley:

  • Counseling regarding their education and AAS courses
  • Declaring the major
  • Assessing their progress in the major
  • Administrative concerns (i.e., course enrollment, add/drops, L&S policy)
  • Major information, courses, independent studies, Honors Program

The department strives to and is committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for students. Students are welcome, feel supported, respected and valued and receive the ultimate advising experience to ensure academic advancement through the program.

The undergraduate adviser (UA), Althea Grannum Cummings, is located in 608 Barrows Hall and her email address is cummings@berkeley.edu. Her regular office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Do not hesitate to contact her if some assistance is needed.

Visit Department Website

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The undergraduate degree program in African American Studies exposes students to the social, political, and cultural history of African-descended people in the modern world. While its primary focus is on the United States, the program’s conceptual framework places African Americans within a broader global, diasporic dialogue about the evolving function of race in history as well as in the contemporary moment. With its interdisciplinary strengths in history, culture, and social and political institutions, the major provides students with skills in research, criticism, and writing that our graduates have taken to a variety of professional paths, including teaching, government and policy work, employment in mass media, professional schools (law, medicine, business), and graduate study in multiple fields.

Declaring the Major

Completion of, or enrollment in, the three following courses is required in order to declare the major: AFRICAM 4AAFRICAM 5A, and AFRICAM 5B. For details regarding how to declare the major, please see the department's website.

Honors Program

To be eligible for admission to the honors program, a student must have completed at least two semesters at UC Berkeley and have attained senior standing with a GPA of 3.3 or higher in all University work, as well as a 3.5 GPA or higher in the African American Studies major. Students in the program are required to take AFRICAM 195 senior capstone course to be completed in the fall semester of their senior year and must complete AFRICAM 100 and 101 prerequisite for AFRICAM 195 (to be taken prior to or concurrently with AFRICAM 195).  Students must receive a minimum of a B or above in AFRICAM 195 to enroll into AFRICAM H195 (Honors Thesis) the following semester culminating in the completion of a senior honors thesis.

Minor Program

The Department of African American American Studies offers an undergraduate minor in African American Studies. To apply for the minor, students must submit the departmental minor application once they have decided to minor in the program. The form may be obtained from 660 Barrows or online.  After completion of the minor requirements, students must submit a Completion of L&S Minor Program form, which may be obtained either at 664A Barrows or online. The Completion of the L&S Minor Program form should be submitted to the department undergraduate adviser the semester the student plans to graduate. Please see the undergraduate adviser for advising while pursuing the minor program. 

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residency requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Summary of Major Requirements

Lower Division Prerequisites12
Upper Division Core Courses16
Upper Division Electives: Four courses, forming a cluster

Lower Division Prerequisites

Students are strongly encouraged to complete the lower division requirements early in their academic program; they must complete the prerequisites to declare the major.

AFRICAM 4AAfrica: History and Culture4
AFRICAM 5AAfrican American Life and Culture in the United States4
AFRICAM 5BAfrican American Life and Culture in the United States4

Upper Division Core Courses

Upon declaring the major, students are required to complete the following upper division core requirements:

AFRICAM 100Black Intellectual Thought4
AFRICAM 101Research Methods for African American Studies4
AFRICAM 116Slavery and African American Life Before 18654
AFRICAM 195Senior Capstone3

Upper Division Electives

To complete the major, students must take a cluster of four upper division courses, focused on a specific area of concentration. For students doing an honors thesis, AFRICAM H195 will serve as an elective.

Three courses must be selected from the Department of African American Studies course offerings. The remaining course may be selected from other departments.

The cluster must be preapproved by the department's academic adviser. For more information regarding forming the cluster, or for a sample, please see the adviser.

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major, often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which you plan to graduate. If you cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, please see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Requirements

The Department of African American American Studies offers an undergraduate minor in African American Studies. To apply for the minor, students must submit the departmental minor application once they have decided to minor in the program. The form may be obtained from 660 Barrows or online.  After completion of the minor requirements, students must submit a Completion of L&S Minor Program form, which may be obtained either at 664A Barrows or online. The Completion of the L&S Minor Program form should be submitted to the department's undergraduate adviser the semester the student plans to graduate. Please see the undergraduate adviser for advising while pursuing the minor program. 

Lower Division
Select one of the following:4
Africa: History and Culture [4]
Africa: History and Culture [4]
African American Life and Culture in the United States [4]
African American Life and Culture in the United States [4]
Upper Division
Select five upper division courses in the Department of African American Studies15-20
Total Units19-24

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Mission

The African American Studies Department has a mission of developing the theoretical and analytical frameworks for the study of African Americans, Africans, and the African diaspora. We particularly bring together a wide range of scholars to anchor our interdisciplinary methods and projects. In addition to theoretical and analytical frameworks, we focus on problem-solving in relation to social and community organizations and institutions.

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Introduce students to the study of African American culture through the humanities by examining the production and social function of literature, music, visual arts, and performance. Explore the unique role that African American culture has had in defining and responding to larger constructs of American culture.
  2. Trace the history of Africa from the earliest times (or prehistory) to the early modern period. Examine various aspects of precolonial African life and emphasize cultural and demographic themes. Equip students with the intellectual tools for intelligently discussing African history in both academic and nonacademic settings.
  3. Gain a critical awareness about twentieth-century Africa and give due attention to postcolonial social, political, and economic processes in the general context of Africans' attempts to remake their world in the postcolonial era.
  4. Examine the history (employment, migration, family life, culture, social institutions, and protest traditions) of African Americans since 1865. Acquire particular attention to the interplay between race, class, and gender.
  5. Examine the political, social, and intellectual origins of the discipline and assess the disciplinary and institutional status of African American studies.
  6. Acquire a range of research methods as they are applied to the study of African American communities with the main focus on qualitative methods.
  7. Obtain familiarity with basic canon texts in African American studies.
  8. Gain advanced knowledge of a particular area of specialization (either interdisciplinary or disciplinary).
  9. For honors students, successful completion of an undergraduate thesis to demonstrate research, analytical, and theoretical skills related to an area of specialization.

Skills

  1. Demonstrate clear writing and formulate persuasive arguments in the form of research papers and essays.
  2. Development and improvement of critical thinking and analytical skills.
  3. Demonstrable competence in theoretical and research methodological issues either from an interdisciplinary or disciplinary approach.
  4. Demonstrable knowledge and understanding of course reading and lecture materials.
  5. Use and develop analytical approaches to critical issues associated with the African diaspora.
  6. Ability to analyze literature, visual culture, music, social, and political institutions critically.
  7. Ability to conduct primary or secondary research in the field.

Advising

The Department of African American Studies Undergraduate Advising office provides students with support and assistance to help guide them through the academic bureaucracy and ensure that they have a successful undergraduate experience at Berkeley:

  • Counseling regarding their education and AAS courses
  • Declaring the major
  • Assessing their progress in the major
  • Administrative concerns (i.e., course enrollment, add/drops, L&S policy)
  • Major information, courses, independent studies, Honors Program

The department strives to and is committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for students. Students are welcome, feel supported, respected and valued and receive the ultimate advising experience to ensure academic advancement through the program.

The undergraduate adviser (UA), Althea Grannum Cummings, is located in 608 Barrows Hall and her email address is cummings@berkeley.edu. Her regular office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Do not hesitate to contact her if some assistance is needed.

Academic Opportunities

VèVè Clark Institute for Engaged Scholars Program

The VèVè A. Clark Institute is a small cadre of scholars majoring (or intending to major) in the discipline of African American studies who will form an intellectual community that will prepare them to meet the rigor and intellectual demands of top graduate programs, professional schools, and postgraduate careers. The program is open to students who have declared (or intend to declare) the African American Studies major and who have at least two years remaining in their undergraduate career at UC Berkeley. A complete application consists of:

  • The informational form available on the department's website.
  • A one-page (single-spaced) personal statement.
  • A five-page (double-spaced) writing sample from your college-level coursework.
  • In a one-page (single-space) document, please discuss how your academic interests relate to the field of African American studies, and why you are interested in the VèVè A. Clark Institute.
  • An electronic copy of your unofficial transcript from Bear Facts (through summer 2016) and then starting in fall 2016 use CalCentral (transfer students, please provide scanned copies of transcripts from all of your previous college-level coursework or mail hard copies to 660 Barrows Hall, MC 2572, Berkeley, CA 94720-2572, Attn: VèVè Clark Institute).

Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an alternate way to fulfill graduation requirements. Opportunities to enrich your studies can be found through the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). Countries that have been affiliated with the Department of African American Studies are Barbados, Ghana, and Kenya. Financial Aid can be applied to UCEAP programs, and there are scholarships available; for more information, please click here. If you have an interest in studying abroad, it is important to begin research on the UCEAP website to make sure that all deadlines are made. Applications for passports and visas may be required.

Department Lecture Series

The department offers an annual lecture series, open to undergraduates, graduate students, the larger campus and wider community. With one or more events per month, the lecture series brings established and emerging scholars, artists, and other thinkers in the fields of African American studies and African diaspora studies to share their research with our intellectual community.

St. Clair Drake Forum

The St. Clair Drake Forum is an annual research symposium organized by graduate students in African American studies. As scholars, the primary aim is to (re)search for meaning, create scholarship, and build dialogue that sustains community. This is precisely the aim of the annual St. Clair Drake Research Symposium. As such, we invite graduate students, faculty members, and community scholars in the Bay Area and the UC system to present research-in-progress, academic papers, and creative projects that interrogate the conference themes in exciting ways.

Berkeley Connect

The Department of African American Studies participates in Berkeley Connect. For more information, please see the Berkeley Connect website.

Courses

African American Studies

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

Brandi N. Catanese, Associate Professor. Critical race theory, African American theater, non-traditional casting, racial performativity, gender studies, sexuality studies, American popular culture.
Research Profile

Chiyuma Elliott, Assistant Professor. Poetry and poetics, visual culture, creative writing, intellectual history.

Nikki Jones, Associate Professor. African American communities, policing, racial/gender disparities and the criminal justice system, violence and violence interventions.
Research Profile

Michel Laguerre, Professor. Globalization, information technology, urban studies.
Research Profile

Jovan Scott Lewis, Assistant Professor. Jamaica and the USA; constructions and infrastructures of poverty, inequality, race (blackness), economy, and the market.
Research Profile

Sam A. Mchombo, Associate Professor. African languages, linguistics, political development, sports and politics, national identity, globalization.

Na'ilah Nasir, Professor. Race, culture and schooling, African American achievement.

G. Ugo Nwokeji, Associate Professor. Atlantic slave trade, historical demography, African history and political economy, oil and gas policy.
Research Profile

Tianna Paschel, Assistant Professor. Racial ideology, politics and globalization in Latin America, Black political subjects, transnationalism.

John Powell, Professor. Civil rights and civil liberties, structural racialization, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society.
Research Profile

Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor. Social movements, visual culture, memory, photography, African American history and culture.
Research Profile

Darieck Scott, Associate Professor. 20th and 21st century African American literature; creative writing; queer theory, and LGBTQ studies; race, gender and sexuality in fantasy, science fiction, and comic books.

Janelle Scott, Associate Professor. Educational policy, charter schools, politics of education, race and education, school choice, desegregation, philanthropy and education, advocacy.
Research Profile

Stephen Small, Professor. Public history, collective memory, African diaspora in Europe.
Research Profile

+ Ula Taylor, Professor. African American studies, cultural African American history, colonial times, civil rights movement of the 60's, African American women's history, cultural, institutional and individual racism, United States.
Research Profile

Lecturers

Michael Cohen, Lecturer SOE.

Aya De Leon, Lecturer.

David Kyeu, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Robert Allen, Professor Emeritus.

William M. Banks, Professor Emeritus.

Charles Henry, Professor Emeritus. Human rights, Black politics, race and public policy.
Research Profile

Percy Hintzen, Professor Emeritus.

Margaret B. Wilkerson, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of African American Studies

660 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-7084

Fax: 510-642-0318

africam@berkeley.edu

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Ula Taylor

Phone: 510-642-7084

uyt@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Adviser

Althea Grannum-Cummings

608 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-8513

cummings@berkeley.edu

Graduate Adviser

Lindsey Herbert

662 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3419

lherbert@berkeley.edu

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