The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Why Major/Minor in Afro-American Studies?

Our department is named for the great intellectual, a native of our Western Massachusetts region, who was the first academic scholar to pioneer the systematic study of people of African descent in the U.S. and throughout world. To earn a degree in Afro-American Studies, to take courses leading to a certificate or a minor is to follow in W.E.B. Du Bois’ footsteps of academic excellence and social responsibility. The reasons to major or minor in Afro-American Studies are thus ones Du Bois himself emphasized in his life of scholarship and activism:

1. We are interdisciplinary. If you like knowing your history, reading novels, watching films, and understanding politics, then you will like the disciplinary diversity of AFROAM. In the core of the major/minor, we require all students to take one literature, one history, and one social science class. After those courses you can take a deeper dive into a specific area of focus.

2. We think global and act local. We study Black folks wherever they are, and that means we’re all over the globe. Our faculty have taken students to Cuba, Ghana, and Jamaica. They have held the prestigious Fulbright Scholar title in Brazil, China, and given lectures and conducted research all over the Black World. We study how the Black experience compares to that of other groups, as well as what we can learn about all groups by studying the creation of Blackness as a socially constructed identity. We offer opportunities for engaged learning that integrates real life problems and experiences with the tools of research, theories, and analysis.

3. We help equip you with skills that can lead to a wide variety of career paths. To the question “What would I do with an AFROAM major/minor?” we answer that you can do all the same things that you would do with a sociology major or a philosophy or history major or any liberal arts major. The value of a liberal arts degree is that with it you are not limited to a single professional option. While in AFROAM you may focus on the Black experience and related topics, you are also learning how to think, write, and speak critically. Those are the tools that get you exciting jobs. Our graduates are lawyers and activists, they work as bankers and at public policy think tanks.  They start community centers and are teachers. Some go on to get their PhDs. It's also a great compliment to majors in other schools, especially Isenberg, SBS, and public health. Robert Fikes, Jr., has compiled a list of noteworthy people who majored in Afro-American Studies (also known as African American, Africana, African Diaspora, Black, Pan African Studies or Africology). See "What Can I Do With a Black Studies Major?" »

4. We are small and give our students a level of individualized attention not as available in programs of study with hundreds of majors. In advising sessions, we try to get to know our majors and minors, focusing on what they are interested in doing while at UMass and beyond.