College of Arts and Sciences

Program History

The interdisciplinary program in African American Studies at USC was established in 1971 to broaden the University's curricular offerings to include analysis of the many aspects of the African American experience, including social, political, religious, artistic, intellectual, and historical.

Much has changed in the world since 1971. The intervening decades have brought a massive and still-growing body of new scholarship on the life and culture of peoples of African descent in the western world. Increasing public interest in the African American experience has spurred radical changes in popular culture and American society. Greater awareness of black intellectual traditions has enriched current studies. More extensive access to scholarship across the African Diaspora has reconfigured the possibilities for all scholars of the African American experience.

These changes are evident in increased student demand for courses about African American and African Diaspora life and meaning. Today, students of diverse ethnic backgrounds are attracted to the study of another aspect of the American experience. Most often, better-prepared students are those who have knowledge of African American cultures, which enhances job opportunities in the corporate world, the public service arena, and public school education.


Learning Outcomes

  • Majors in AFAM 201 and 202 courses will demonstrate a growing competence in analysis of the contextualized, dynamic realities of race in America, especially utilizing African American intellectual currents, past and present. The rigorous engagement of scholarship and a collaborative work ethic will be expected of students.

  • Students will work across disciplines, synthesizing major themes, while developing skills in written and verbal communication of such scholarship.

  • Students’ development as scholars and researchers is of primary importance to the Program’s faculty. Therefore, tasks of rigorous scholarship are stressed, including: critical thinking; precise writing; constructive discussions; and critical engagement with written material, especially primary documents.

  • Majors will strengthen abilities to synthesize major ideas and produce well-written arguments and analyses. Students will learn to raise effective questions, leading to the creation of new knowledge, and thereby to develop as citizen leaders.