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Center for African American Studies


Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


Wallace D. Best, also Religion

Daphne A. Brooks, also English

Anne A. Cheng, also English

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also Religion

Tera W. Hunter, also History

Imani Perry

Carolyn M. Rouse, also Anthropology

Valerie A. Smith, also English

Cornel R. West

Associate Professor

Melissa V. Harris-Lacewell, also Politics

Stacey Sinclair, also Psychology

Assistant Professor

Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

Joshua B. Guild, also History

Angel L. Harris, also Sociology

Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

Alexandra T. Vazquez, also English


Noliwe M. Rooks

Associated Faculty

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy, University Center for Human Values

Eduardo L. Cadava, English

Paul J. DiMaggio, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Mitchell Duneier, Sociology

Simon E. Gikandi, English

William A. Gleason, English

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Albert J. Raboteau, Religion

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

The Center for African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, the center promotes teaching and research on race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

The center's curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

1) Global Race and Ethnicity: Using race and ethnicity as a lens, students are introduced to a critical perspective and approach to the examination of American institutions (e.g., schools, families, prisons, etc.). They are also exposed to other related questions such as the formation of racial and ethnic identities and the nature of inequality in an increasingly global context.

2) African American Culture and Life: Drawing on the insights of cultural studies, broadly understood, students encounter the rich history, literature, religion, and the arts of African Americans. Moreover, pushing the boundaries of historical accounts of African American life beyond U.S. national borders to include the diaspora in all of its diversity and plurality, this subfield also familiarizes students with many of the contributions of African-descended peoples around the world.

3) Race and Public Policy: Exploring, among other things, the historical, cultural, political, and economic causes and consequences of problems facing African American communities, students examine the various initiatives that have defined American public policies in relation to race. In addition, they are challenged to assess the implications for creating and implementing effective public policies that directly relate to communities of color in the United States.

Admission to the Program

Students may apply for formal admission at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in the core course, AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.

Program Requirements

In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate in African American studies are required to take two courses in the African American Culture and Life subfield. These two courses must be selected from the history (AAS 366, AAS 367) and literature (AAS 353, AAS 359) survey courses, one of which must be a pre-20th century course.  Students must also take three additional courses in AAS or approved cognates in order to qualify for the certificate. Students are strongly urged to  take at least two of these additional courses either in the Race and Public Policy subfield or in the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. The center further suggests that race figure centrally in the student's senior thesis.  

In addition to offering a certificate program, the Center for African American Studies provides an array of courses, programs, and internships, open to all students, that expand and deepen their understanding of race in the United States and in the world.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American studies upon graduation.


AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices   Fall SA

An interdisciplinary examination of the complex array of African American cultural practices from slavery to postmodern times. Close readings of classic texts will seek to provide a profound grasp of the dynamics of African American thought and practices. Two lectures, one preceptorial. C. West

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also SOC 202)   Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 211 The American Dance Experience and Africanist Dance Practices (see DAN 211)

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (see SOC 221)

AAS 230 African American English and Syntactic Variation (see LIN 270)

AAS 262 Evolution of Jazz Styles (see MUS 262)

AAS 311 An Introduction to Black Women's Studies (also WOM 313)   Fall SA

An interdisciplinary introduction to the study of women of African descent in the United States, 1830 to the present, through sociology, history, law, religion, and film. This course discusses black women's identity as reflected in community, stereotype, and individuality. One three-hour seminar. N. Rooks

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (see WWS 317)

AAS 318 Black Women and Spiritual Narrative (also REL 318)   Spring LA

Analyzes narrative accounts of African American women since the 19th century. Drawing on the hypothesis that religious metaphor and symbolism have figured prominently in black women's writing--and writing about black women--across literary genres, the class explores the various ways black women have used their narratives not only to disclose the intimacies of their religious faith, but also to understand and to critique their social context. Students will discuss themes, institutions, and structures that have traditionally shaped black women's experiences, as well as theologies black women have developed in response. One three-hour seminar. W. Best

AAS 320 African American Religious History (see REL 320)

AAS 321 Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation (also REL 321)   Fall HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power Era. It charts the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. It also explores the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. The aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also ENG 393)   Fall LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. One three-hour seminar. V. Smith

AAS 333 Studies in the Classical Tradition (see CLA 335)

AAS 334 Educating a New Majority (also SOC 334)   Not offered this year SA

This course examines minority education in the United States in the context of the sociology of education and intergroup relations from a historical perspective, and the most recent conditions facing African Americans and other minorities. It will study the impact of changing demographic characteristics of these groups on the quality of their education, and the consequences of those changes for urban America and educational institutions in the 21st century. One three-hour seminar. R. Hope

AAS 336 Race and American Politics (see POL 336)

AAS 340 Shades of Passing (also ENG 391/AMS 340)   Fall LA

Studies the trope of passing in 20th-century American literary and cinematic narratives in an effort to re-examine the crisis of identity that both produces and confounds acts of passing. Examines how American novelists and filmmakers have portrayed and responded to this social phenomenon, not as merely a social performance but as a profound intersubjective process embedded within history, law, and culture. Focuses on narratives of passing across axes of difference, invoking questions such as: To what extent does the act of passing reinforce or unhinge seemingly natural categories of race, gender, and sexuality? One three-hour seminar. A. Cheng

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (see REL 367)

AAS 351 Law, Social Policy, and African American Women   Spring

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will show how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, students will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated. Two lectures, one preceptorial. I. Perry

AAS 352 Black Protest in 20th-Century America (also HIS 483)   Not offered this year HA

Examines the evolution of African American political mobilization in the 20th century. Explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship, using worker's rights, the church, feminism, education, war, grassroots organizations, the federal bureaucracy, international allies, and the law as tools for political action. Prerequisite: HIS 387 recommended. One three-hour seminar. N. Rooks

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also ENG 352)   Not offered this year LA

A survey of literary materials produced within the African American experience, from the 18th century through the contemporary period, with special emphasis on genre, theme, and context. The course will investigate dominant and marginalized literary histories and the importance of gender, region, and sensibility. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Brooks

AAS 356 Migration, Urban Space, and African American Culture (also AMS 356)   Not offered this year SA

From 1910 until 1940, African Americans migrated from rural to urban areas. This interdisciplinary course will focus on cultural geography, or how the resulting changes and realignments of place and space have shaped and continue to shape American society and affect understandings of African American identity and culture. One three-hour seminar. N. Rooks

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also ENG 366)   Spring LA

This introductory course surveys literature from the early 20th-century to the present; it covers Harlem Renaissance prose and poetry from writers including Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Nell Larsen, Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer; modernist poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Hayden; drama by Lorraine Hansberry; novels by Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison; and nonfiction by James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Richard Wright. The course analyzes aesthetic forms and locates literary texts in social and political contexts. Two lectures, one preceptorial. V. Smith

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also WWS 497/POL 338)   Fall SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. Two lectures, one preceptorial. I. Perry

AAS 363 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (see SPA 352)

AAS 365 Migration and the Literary Imagination (also REL 362/ENG 394)   Fall LA

This course will explore the various meanings of migration and mobility found in 20th-century African American literature. Through careful historical and literary analysis, we will examine the significant impact migration has had on African American writers and the ways it has framed their literary representations of modern black life. W. Best

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (see HIS 386)

AAS 367 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present (see HIS 387)

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also REL 368/POL 424)   Not offered this year EM

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Two lectures, one preceptorial. M. Harris-Perry

AAS 370 History of Criticism (see ENG 306)

AAS 373 History of African American Art (see ART 373)

AAS 384 Prejudice: Its Causes, Consequences, and Cures (also PSY 384)   Fall SA

Prejudice is one of the most contentious topics in modern American society. There is debate regarding its causes, pervasiveness, and impact. This goal of this course is to familiarize students with the psychological research relevant to these questions. We will review theoretical perspectives on prejudice to develop an understanding of its cognitive, affective, and motivational underpinnings. We will also discuss how these psychological biases relate to evaluations of, and behavior toward, members of targeted groups. In addition, research-based strategies for reducing prejudice will be discussed. S. Sinclair

AAS 388 Studies in African American Popular Culture   Not offered this year SA

Explores the production, reception, aesthetics, and politics of black popular culture in the United States. Examines current and historical media images and exchanges while interrogating the dynamics, tensions, and personalities shaping the reception and circulation of popular cultural texts. Two lectures, one preceptorial. N. Rooks, M. Petty

AAS 389 Women Writers of the African Diaspora (see ENG 389)

AAS 390 African American Intellectual History (also HIS 481)   Not offered this year HA

An examination of the ways in which African American intellectualism is constructed in the history of Africans in the United States; the written and oral works of recognized black intellectuals; and the economic, cultural, historical, social, and political conditions under which such works are created and remembered. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 391 Race, Class, and Intelligence in America (also SOC 391)   Not offered this year EC

The course explores relationships among race, class, and intelligence measurements. The history of the measurement of intelligence is analyzed. Historical and contemporary conceptualizations of race, ethnicity, and social class in America, including gender inequality, are examined. The "nature versus nurture" IQ heritability controversy is given thorough examination, as are analyses of works such as The Bell Curve. Attention is given to the educational system in America, expectancy and labeling effects, stereotype threat, and to public policy. One two-hour lecture, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also ENG 392)   Not offered this year LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Brooks

AAS 403 Race and Medicine (also ANT 403)   Spring EM

In 1998, then-President Clinton set a national goal that by the year 2010 race, ethnic, and gender disparities in six disease categories would be eliminated. While the agenda, called Healthy People 2010, is a noble goal, there is one major hurdle. No study has definitively determined the cause of health disparities. This course examines the role culture plays in reproducing health inequalities in the United States. For a final project, students will be asked to propose their own solutions for eliminating health disparities. One three-hour seminar. C. Rouse

AAS 412 Seminar in Political Theory (see POL 411)

AAS 413 Major Author(s) (see ENG 411)

AAS 422 Race and Sport (also HIS 482)   Not offered this year HA

Explores the connections between race, class, and gender and organized sports in 20th-century America. Looks at how athletics and team sports mirror broader social and political debates on race in American society. One three-hour seminar. S. Mathieu

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also HIS 477)   Spring HA

This course examines the evolution of African American political mobilization from 1945 to 1975. It explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship, using workers' rights, the church, feminism, education, war, grassroots organizations, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The readings for this course draw heavily from personal narratives, oral testimonies, and historical scholarship. One three-hour seminar. I. Perry, J. Guild