Mar 19, 2018  
Course Catalog 2010-2011 
Course Catalog 2010-2011 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

African American Studies

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Meredith M. Gadsby, Associate Professor of African American Studies,Chair
Pamela Brooks, Associate Professor of African American Studies
Johnny Coleman, Associate Professor of Art and African American Studies
Gordon Gill, Assistant Professor of African American Studies
Caroline Jackson Smith, Associate Professor of Theater and African American Studies

Ralph Jones, Faculty-in-Residence, Afrikan Heritage House
James Millette, Professor of African American Studies
Darko Opoku, Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies
Booker C. Peek, Associate Professor of African American Studies
Adenike M. Sharpley, Lecturer and Artist-in-Residence, Theater and Dance and African American Studies
Brian Yates, Visiting Assistant Professsor of African American Studies and History

The African American Studies Department is a multidisciplinary program of study that seeks, through the humanities and social sciences, to explore key aspects of the Black experience in a systematic and structurally integrated fashion. Its broad educational purposes are to engender among all students an intellectual appreciation of life, culture and history in Africa, the Americas and the Diaspora; to enrich the Oberlin College curriculum; and to increase the relevance of an Oberlin education to a culturally diverse world. Thus, the Department strives to provide the general student body with substantive knowledge of the Africana experience and to provide majors with a range of critical, intellectual, artistic and evaluative skills useful in any of their future pursuits. The department is aided in its efforts by the Afrikan Heritage House, which serves as the College’s African Diasporan communal and cultural center.


The African American Studies curriculum offers extensive study of the Black experience in a diasporic setting, including but not limited to, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. These offerings are arranged in three categories: introductory, intermediate, and advanced. All introductory courses are open without prerequisite, except as indicated in the course description. African American Studies 101 and other beginning courses may serve as prerequisites to all intermediate and advanced courses.


The requirements for the major in African American Studies are consistent with our view of the field as a multidisciplinary and area studies program. Major prerequisites are designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the African Diasporan experience, as well as a firm grounding in a single field of study. Both breadth and depth in the field are to be obtained by majors.

The major consists of a minimum of 30 hours. In consultation with their major advisor, students are expected to develop a balanced program of study and to supplement their work with courses in fields related to their special needs and interests:

  1. As the introduction to the discipline, African American Studies 101 is required of all majors and should be taken in the freshman or sophomore year.
  2. All majors are required to take at least one course in each of the three following areas: African, African American, and Caribbean Studies.
  3. All majors are required to take courses within the department that total not less than nine hours in the humanities and nine hours in the social science divisions of the major, as multidisciplinary training. Students must also ensure that these courses are drawn from at least four of the five core fields (education, history, literature, politics, and fine arts), with a minimum of three credit hours in each chosen field.
  4. An additional nine hours, including the Senior Seminar, are to be taken in a single field of specialization in one of the following areas: education, history, literature, politics, and the fine arts (art, music, theater or dance). Students are required to show a balance between introductory and advanced courses in their specialization.
  5. All majors are required to take the Senior Seminar in their junior or senior year.
  6. Up to six hours of credit may be gained from cross-listed or cross-referenced courses (such as ENG 261, MHST 290, 291, POLT 221, 224, RELG 284, 384, FYSP 144 and SOCI 277, 403), or from approved cognate courses.

Courses in which a student has earned a letter grade lower than a C-,CR or P cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of the major.  Students and advisors track accomplishments in the major in a portfolio.


The Department’s curriculum is designed for students to achieve the following goals:

  1. To acquire research skills related to all of our core disciplinary areas, with particular attention to use of primary and secondary sources, electronic research methodologies, field work, bibliographic skills and citation practices.
  2. To acquire the skills to think and write critically, in addition to developing oral and performative skills in relation to areas of specialization.
  3. To engage in study-away, travel, mentorship, and internships in the African Diaspora that foster civic engagement and purposeful volunteerism.
  4. To appreciate and/or practice art forms as they relate to the history and cultures of Africa and African-descended peoples.  To develop an appreciation for an African-centered perspective in the practice of intellectual and artistic work.




A minor in the field consists of a minimum of 15 hours in African American Studies. In addition to the introductory survey course, student minors are expected to take at least one course from four of the five fields of: education, politics, history, literature or fine arts. All minors are required to take at least one three credit course in each of the three following subject areas: African, African American, and Caribbean Studies.


The Honors Program offers an opportunity for majors of proven ability and independence to extend their competence in the field of African American Studies. Participation in the Honors Program shall be by invitation only.

Students have the option of writing a research paper, completing a special arts project, or demonstrating advanced pedagogical skills. All Honors work is supervised by a faculty advisor who assists the student in defining the nature of his/her Honors project.

Study Away Opportunities

Study opportunities are available in the English-speaking countries of Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania where students are placed at universities or accommodated in international programs like those offered by the School for International Training (SIT) or the Bard program in South Africa. Similar opportunities exist for students proficient in French at the Universities of Dakar, and Sheikh Anta Diop, in Senegal.  A number of study-abroad opportunities also exist in the Caribbean and South America.  Domestic programs like the Philadelphia Center or GLCS Arts/NY can also be relevant to the African American Studies major.   Students on financial aid should consult the Director of Financial Aid before planning to participate in the program.

Transfer of Credit

Students transferring credits in African American Studies from courses taken at other institutions may apply a maximum of nine credit hours toward the major with the approval of the department. Individual cases for students who transfer into the College after their sophomore year will be reviewed by the department.

Winter Term

The African American Studies faculty will sponsor individual projects, on- or off-campus, in African and African American art, dance, education, history, literature, politics, and theater, as well as occasional on- or off-campus group projects.

Private Reading

Students may schedule a private reading course during their junior or senior years. No more than one reading course may be taken in any one semester, nor more than two during the undergraduate program. Normally the private readings may not duplicate regularly scheduled course.

African American Studies Department Online (afamstud)

For more information on courses, instructors or Afrikan Heritage House (the cultural center), please visit our home page at:


Cross-Referenced Courses

The following cross-referenced courses count toward the African American Studies major and minor


Intermediate Courses

Majors are given priority for enrolment in all intermediate and advanced courses.

Advanced Courses

Majors are given priority for enrolment in all intermediate and advanced courses.

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