Black Lives Matter demonstration event

In 2020, the confluence of a devastating global health pandemic and the grotesque killings of Black civilians catalyzed a national movement and resurgent demands to protect Black life.

Within the School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Africana Studies has, since 1969, been devoted to close interdisciplinary analysis of black experience to support the work of social justice both nationally and internationally. Our courses examine the precise issues underpinning these inter-connected manifestations of the ways that the treatment of Black life is an indicator of the ways that inequality and oppression is structured, but they also help us understand the ways those oppressions have been challenged and dismantled.

The world stands poised to make a definitive break with the legacy of oppression, and Africana Studies stands ready to prepare a new generation to usher in that new world. As we strive together to realize the transformative potential contained within the pain of the present moment, Africana Studies is today more than ever a vital part of education for all people, not just Black people.

We encourage all students to engage with this work through the undergraduate courses offered by the Department of Africana Studies.


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Overviews & Introduction

01:014:140 Intro to American Cultures (1.5 credits)

Through an examination of narratives of American settlement, pluralism, and national dialogue, the goal of this course is to introduce students to the key cultural debates that have informed American society, both historically and during the contemporary moment. The course discusses the process of identity and cultural construction, and the political struggles that have come out of this process.

01:014:202 What Everyone Should Know About Race

What everyone should know about ‘race’ is an introductory course about ‘race’ in the United States. Literally every person in this country is impacted in some way by what we call ‘race’, many on a daily basis. Yet, this complex, all-consuming, multifaceted, bewildering phenomenon is not at all well understood. The goal of this course is to help students understand ‘race’ by paying attention to the historical, biological, political, social, psychological and economic dimensions, by considering the points of view of important segments of our population, and by exploring the insights provided by relevant theoretical frameworks.

01:014:233 Intro to Research in Africana Studies

This course connects the ways that the philosophical underpinnings of Africana Studies influence which questions we ask, and how.  Africana Studies uncovers the hidden stories of black people and histories through critical and innovative thinking that has developed a range of new investigative techniques. In this course, you will learn to develop and apply those skills through multidisciplinary approaches to the study of Africana materials, original research projects, lectures and introduction to major archival resources.  Additionally, you will learn how to conceptualize and write a research proposal.

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01:014:404 Race in Today's World

This course is about ‘race’ in the United States and elsewhere. It critically explores and analyzes theories of race and evaluates their relevance to today’s events. There are several objectives: (1) to acquaint students with sociological, psychological and anthropological theory as regards ‘race’; (2) to create a comparative perspective for viewing ‘race’ in the United States and elsewhere; (3) to help students hone their analytical skills; and (4) to explore pressing ‘race’ issues.

Black Communities Around the World/International Contexts

01:014:302:05 Topics in Africana Studies, Section 5: Race, International Law, and Empire

This seminar critically examines how international law helped establish racial regimes in a global order using an approach known as TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law). Topics to be covered include how legal cases involving indigenous peoples laid the foundations for global racial exclusion; the evolution of the principle of self-determination from the League of Nations to the 1970s; abolition and imperialism using Haiti as a primary case study; repressive inclusion in the international order using Ethiopia and Liberia as case studies; Third World revolt featuring the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the American Indian Movement, and the US-based Black Power movement; the neoliberal underbelly of human rights; and laws of war for irregular combat tracing how guerrillas became combatants in the language of law. The class will meet once a week for 3 hours. Grades will be assessed based on class participation, a midterm, and a final paper.

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01:014:370 Afro-Atlantic Diaspora - [CORE- HST]

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This course is an introduction to the history of the dispersal of African people to the Americas, and focuses primarily on Latin America and the Caribbean. It traces the origins and development of the Atlantic slave trade, and the creation of new African-based cultures in the Americas. This is a companion course to African Diaspora Cultural History (Africana Studies 014:250).

No prerequisites - open to all levels.

01:014:371 New Scramble for Africa

This course reviews prospects for ‘development’ on the African continent in light of big power competition, self-serving international economic interests and internal barriers. Major topics to be examined include: UN Millennium development goals; the global economic order; strategies for development; foreign aid and African debt; the emergence of China, India, Russia and Brazil as major actors; the continent’s oil and mineral wealth; ‘free trade’; ‘fair trade’; improving education and alleviating poverty; gender and human rights, domestic political obstacles and regional organizations.

01:014:376 Pan African Movement

This course covers political initiatives of Black communities ranging from decolonization struggles to Black Lives Matter as local manifestations of reactions to global racism. The course moves from traditional pan-African ideas and institutions as they interacted with Western European colonialism and continental African, African American, Caribbean and Latinx liberation struggles to contemporary issues that simultaneously encourage/challenge the solidarity between African Diaspora communities.

Black Sociology, Economics & Politics

01:014:206 The Black Woman

The Black Woman course introduces students to the major psychological, social and cultural factors that influence women of African descent in the African Diaspora. The course integrates an analysis of intersectionality, and the impact of the structural oppressions of racism, sexism and classism on Black women's lived experiences throughout the Diaspora. The goals of this class are accomplished through the incorporation of interdisciplinary academic readings, films - documentaries and popular media, and class discussions. This course enhances the cultural literacy of all who attend.

01:014:207 The Black Male Identity in the US [CORE-CCD]

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Examines historical, sociological, psychological and political factors that influence the identity of black men in the United States.

01:014:230 Psychology of Black Experience

How does racism get under the skin? That is, where and how do African Americans experience racism, and at what cost to health and well-being? In what ways do Black persons expend psychological resources to negotiate a social context permeated by racial inequalities? In this course we will attempt to answer these questions using a novel about 1940s Harlem as our focal point, allowing us to connect the historical and contemporary Black experience. We will draw on a wide range of sources to interpret the Black experience, including social science, humanities, and public health scholarship; quantitative data (e.g., survey data); film; popular media; and more. We will pay particular attention to the structures that perpetuate inequalities and the extent to which inequalities have changed over time.

01:014:353 Black Community Law and Social Change [CORE - CCD]

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This course focuses on the African American enduring struggle for political and social equality. Using the American judicial system as one of the main pivots, we will analyze its impact on African Americans in their efforts to pursue legal remedies, launching protest movements, and challenging voter suppression in the body politic. Additionally, the political tempo of the times will serve to put the struggle of African Americans in proper context. Evolving from an historical, political, and legal approach, the law impacted such stages of slavery, racial segregation, racial profiling, and tentative steps toward freedom as blacks define their agency in American society. It is within this context that the intertwining roles of lawyers, judges, legislators, administrators, protest leaders, and grassroots mobilization will be assessed.

01:014:362 Black Identity, Religion and Politics

The meshing of black identity, religion and politics has contoured the cultural experience of African Americans in the United States as well as shaped their protest politics. Together, these elements move black political struggle toward spiritual redemption at times, and at other times toward political and social change. This course will analyze the various ways that black leadership -- electoral, religious, and grassroots -- utilize these elements as instruments of empowerment.

01:014:423 Black Thought: Readings in Race, Gender and Freedom

One of the enduring questions in Black Thought concerns what it means for Black people to free themselves from the clutches of white supremacy and colonialism. This course introduces students to a series of foundational thinkers in Black intellectual history: Maria Stewart, David Walker, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Anna Julia Cooper, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kiese Laymon and many others. We consider questions about whether racism is a permanent feature of American life, what tactics could potentially overcome it, what role questions of gender and feminism have to play in the quest for Black liberation, issues of class and elitism in Black communities, and many other questions. Through attention to readings and film, students come to understand the broad arc of Black Intellectual History and come away informed about the critical and enduring problems of white supremacy and patriarchy in Black life.

01:014:481 The Black Family

Prerequisite: Junior, senior, or graduate standing. Recommended: Previous seminar course work. Consideration of the black family in historical and contemporary contexts: nuclear versus extended families; two-parent and female-headed households; rural and urban environmental effects.

The Black Experience Through Culture

01:014:132 Black Experience and Film Medium

This course analyzes African American achievement in the genre of film, from the earliest days of the silent film to the contemporary moment. We will pay close attention to the political, historical, and artistic contexts of African American representation, participation and creative agency in the motion picture industry. This course provides an opportunity to study some of the most significant films, actors, and directors in African American cultural history.

01:014:302:01 Topics in Africana Studies, section 1: Director Spike Lee

This course will survey the work of Spike Lee through screenings, lectures and group discussions. Students will expand their understanding of the narrative film genre as well as that of storytelling. This course will also examine the use of film as a medium and conduit for change, conversation and understanding. Spike Lee's films, both narrative and non-narrative will be compared and contrasted for their similarities and differences. In addition, students will gain first-hand experience with the film industry through guest lecturers including actors, filmmakers, casting directors and set designers.

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01:014:302:02 Topics in Africana Studies, section 2: Seminar in Hip Hop Culture

This course is designed to provide students with a familiarity with the political, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic concerns surrounding hip hop. Of particular interest are the ways in which hip-hop reflects ongoing historical questions about gender, race, class, violence, capitalism, sexuality, and racism within black communities.

01:014:302:07 Topics in Africana Studies, section 7: Poetics of Black Diaspora

This is an interdisciplinary course that explores the representation and discourse of blackness in Black diasporic cultural production. Specifically, the course will explore how black experiences are represented, embodied, performed, and theorized. Some authors/artists that we will analyze include: Cardi B, Solange Knowles, Elizabeth Acevedo, Warsan Shire, Arthur Jafa, Hanif Abdurraqif, among others. This course’s focus on poetry, performance, and the visual attempts to motivate students to think about the archive our bodies create, its narrations and movements. Hence, our classroom community will be an intimate space where students will share from their course journal, participate in a performance and creative writing workshop, as well as create and write from the archive their bodies create. This is a course that challenges students to question our understandings of blackness, epistemology, and the archive.

01:014:304 Afromusicology

Afromusicology explores the evolution of Black music in America beginning with the Ring Shouts and Work Songs of enslaved blacks circa 1619 to the current Hip Hop Era of the 21st Century. This course will examine Africanisms that shaped African American music, culture and oral tradition. Students will recognize the evolution of the Blues, Jazz, R&B, Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop as art forms and their impact as a vehicle and voice for social equality and protest against discrimination and oppression in American society past and present. Within this context, their relevance and impact will be viewed relative to the African American experience, and how Black music has helped to shape and define African American culture in particular and American culture in general.

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01:014:317 Black Profiles in Humor and Entertainment

This course explores the historical role that humor and comedy have played in African American political resistance, cultural history, and creative expression, from the era of Slavery to the contemporary moment. We will examine works from a wide array of genres - including folktales, essays, short stories, Spoken Word poetry, stand-up routines, sketchshows, sitcoms, and films - to understand how comedy can serve as a vehicle for social and political commentary and change. We will study the comedic profiles and works of key Black artists who have distinguished themselves in the fields of humor and entertainment, including: Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Dick Gregory, Moms Mabley, Ishmael Reed, Chester Himes, Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Wanda Sykes, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Kevin Hart, Mo’Nique, Boots Riley, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Anthony Anderson, to name a few.

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01:014:386 African Americans and Sports

Sports touch our lives unlike almost anything else. Apart from perhaps music, nothing reaches all segments of society simultaneously to the degree that sports do. Both the custodial staff and the board of directors of America’s top companies stop their lives to watch the same Super Bowl. Countries at war order cease-fires during international sports competitions so that their nations can devote complete attention to sports. In 2006, for example, the civil war that had been waged in the Ivory Coast for four years took a hiatus as both sides of the conflict paused to celebrate and support the nation’s national soccer team in World Cup play. The widespread penetration of sports into our lives, regardless of our station, makes sports a unique tool to examine people’s racial, economic, political, and social interactions.

In this course, we will look at the role that sports have played in African Americans ’quest for freedom, equality, and full recognition as human beings in America. We will examine the notion that African Americans ’success on fields of play translates into success in the larger American society. Perhaps most importantly, we will also examine the role race plays in sports and the relationship between capital and labor within the $71 billion American sports industry.

Africana Experience in Science and Technology

01:014:347 Health Issues in the African American Community

Health Issues in the African American Community focuses on the combination of sciences, skills, and beliefs that are directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of an entire population. This course examines critical health issues impacting the African American Community, which has often suffered from disparities in health care. In addition, it presents the basic knowledge needed to comprehend and interact with the information that continues to be published in this field.  The course exposes the student to the interaction between the citizen, the problems as related to healthcare, and the solution. Attention to practical solutions is an integral part of the process. Students will have the opportunity to shadow ODASIS alumni who are currently practicing physicians, and to teach what they have learned within the class setting. 01:014:347 Syllabus

01:014:380 Blacks in Science

Pre-or corequisite: 01:014:274 or 321.

This course is a broad survey of the contributions of Africans (past and present) to science and technology, and of the roles of science and technology in African communities in the African continent and in the African diaspora. There will be discussions on scientific thinking, the general history of science, the sociology of science, the rise of civilizations, the roles played by Africans in discoveries and technologies, and the influence of science on human values.

Current SyllabusSpring 2024

Past Syllabi Fall 2023Spring 2023 

Hands-On/Africana in Action

01:014:307 Africana Community Health Internship

Race through Health Mentoring is a 300-level credit course. This independent research opportunity allows you to find a physician or another health care provider in which to "shadow" and be mentored by, which entails observing the doctor or health care provider on a weekly basis and keep a journal of the day's thoughts, events, and questions . This health care provider will act as a mentor for students in order to guide them through the course. You will focus on a variety of topics including, but not limited to : (1) the responsibilities of the doctor or health care provider within the facility, (2) the doctor's or health care provider's interactions with overall environment, i.e. relationships with other doctors, co-workers, patients, (3) how the doctor or health care provider is perceived by others, (4) treatment of patients by physicians - including both positive and negative aspects, i.e. racial factors, economic factors and, (5) ethical/ moral decision making process. Through this real world experience you will gain insight on everyday health issues and earn course credit at the same time. Only by special permission 01:014:307 Syllabus

014:286 Mentoring as Public Service

Introduces students to the Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) program and the basic skills, practices, and ethics of mentoring high school scholars from economically and educationally challenged backgrounds within the New Brunswick and Piscataway community. This course examines contemporary inequalities and barriers to access higher education and initiatives to address educational access. Students will be assigned a group of scholars to mentor throughout the semester on a weekly basis. For more information visit @RFSMentoring on Instagram and visit Prerequisite: By special permission.

014:341 Supervised Community Placement

Supervised study and experience in a black community of the United States, the Caribbean, South America, or Africa.

Seminars, Honors & Original Projects

01:014:490 Seminar in Africana Studies [CORE WCr or WCd]

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This seminar is designed for advanced students of Africana Studies, and is a required course for majors and minors. After having completed most of your coursework in the discipline, the Seminar is your opportunity to explore some of the history and issues you have studied in greater depth, and to develop a research project using the conceptual and methodological tools of the discipline. The semester begins with a review of the core issues of the discipline of Africana Studies.

Seminars are a special kind of course, organized around a theme. The entire class reads about and discusses the theme, and each student will select a topic to write a 20-page research paper that allows you to explore that theme in a specific context. For the Fall 2020 semester students will conduct original research in the field of Africana Studies, exploring the theme of “Black Liberation in a Black Feminist Context” which will explore scholarship by Black women on Black liberation and freedom movements. We will briefly examine the history of resistance movements as well as the contributions of Black women writers, activists and scholars on what resistance and liberation look like. We will be examining the works of scholars such as Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Brittney Cooper, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, among others.

Since this is a certified core course covering the cognitive skills Writing and Communication, in which the culminating assignment in this course is a 20-page research paper, we will also spend time working through the multi-step process of writing a well-researched and well-written paper through assignments and in-class (online) workshops/exercises.

01:014:497 Africana Scholars Project

Twelve-credit departmental honors program in which student develop original interdisciplinary scholarship in Africana Studies. See department website for requirements