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Prospective Students

What is African American Studies?

African American Studies is an intellectual field of inquiry that examines the history of people of African descent from the colonial period through the present. Other topics that are examined include:

  • how systems of racial inequality are produced through state policy;
  • traditional western scholarly disciplines and popular discourse; and
  • the social, political, and cultural movements that black people have developed to identify and resist the unequal material and political conditions that shape black social life in the African Diaspora.

The undergraduate major and minor provide a strong foundation in the key theoretical concepts in the discipline and the historical formation of African American Studies as an interdisciplinary field of study and prepares students to apply what they have learned in the classroom, in independent research, and in internships with social justice and service organizations.

Why Study African American Studies?

You might like this program if:

  • you are passionate about learning more about the history, cultures, and political struggles of people of African-descent in the West;
  • you are interested in understanding how racism operates structurally and shapes the social experiences and life chances of black communities;
  • you want to study social, cultural, and political movements throughout the African Diaspora; and/or
  • you are interested in pursuing independent research or internships with non-profit, research, and community-based organizations committed to racial equity and social justice.

Potential Careers

Graduates in African American Studies go on to pursue a wide-range of career paths.

  • public policy
  • law
  • medicine
  • public health
  • social work
  • criminal justice
  • social justice advocacy
  • transnational human rights
  • community-based organizing
  • higher education
  • environmental justice
  • arts/entertainment
  • scholarly research in the social sciences and the humanities

Opportunities for Graduate Studies

Many students opt to pursue graduate degrees in African American Studies because they want to teach in African American Studies programs at the college or university level or they want to teach from a critical race theory perspective in traditional disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, law, medicine, or other professional programs.

Department of African American Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
133 Willard Building, University Park, PA 16802
Ph: 814-863-4243 | Fax: 814-863-3578