Curriculum Overview

Africana Studies is an interdisciplinary program combining the study of Africa and the African Diaspora, including the African American experience. Several disciplines contribute to Africana Studies at Franklin & Marshall, among them American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, English, Government, History, Music, Religious Studies and Sociology.

A major in Africana Studies consists of nine courses: AFS/AMS 150 or AFS/HIS 249 or AFS/HIS241 or 242; AFS/HIS 333 or AFS/HIS 331 or 332; AFS 490; and five electives, at least one of which must be numbered 300 or higher. At least one elective must come from American Studies, Art, English, French, Music or Religious Studies; at least one elective must come from Anthropology, Economics, Government or Sociology. Prospective majors should take note that some of the electives may have prerequisites (e.g., introductory level courses in anthropology, economics or sociology), such that the number of courses necessary to complete the AFS major may exceed nine.

A minor in Africana Studies consists of six of the following courses: AFS/AMS 150 or AFS/HIS 249; AFS/HIS 241 or 242, AFS/HIS 333 or 331 or 332, and three electives, one of which must be numbered 300 or higher.

For further information, students should consult the Africana Studies Program Chair.

Africana Studies students have studied abroad with the following programs in recent years: Arcadia University, IES and SIT in South Africa; CET and SIT in Tunisia; and CET and SIT in Morocco. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.

Courses Offered

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement. 



150. Introduction to African American Studies. (S)

The development of the United States as a global and multiracial society. Topics can include the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries; Pan Africanism, mass media in the African Diaspora; the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights movement. Same as AMS 150.  


241. History of North and West Africa. (NW) (S)

This course introduces major themes in the history of North and West Africa from ancient Egypt through the present crisis in Sudan. Emphasis falls on West African political and social formations, domestic and trans-Atlantic slave systems, notions of identity, the role of Islam and the rise and fall of colonialism. Students use primary sources to explore historical problems. Final unit explores recent events in Sudan. Same as HIS 241.


242. History of East and Southern Africa. (NW) (S)

Introduction to major themes in the history of East, Central and Southern Africa from the Bantu migration through the Rwandan genocide. Emphasizes social, political and religious change in pre-colonial Africa and resistance to slavery and colonialism. Students use primary sources to explore historical problems. Final unit explores the legacy of colonialism in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Same as HIS 242. 


249. Africa and the Black World: Concepts and Context. (NW) (S)

Explores the emergency of continental (“African”) and racial (“Black”) identities with particular emphasis on the roles of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the rise of racial thought in Europe and the Americas and the impact of European imperialism. Same as HIS 249.  


333. African American History. (S)

An advanced course tracing the progress of African Americans from slavery to freedom, beginning in the larger Atlantic world of the 17th and 18th centuries, and continuing through the American Revolution, the battle against slavery culminating in the Civil War, and the struggle for black citizenship between the Reconstruction of 1865 –1877 and the “long civil rights movement” of the 20th century. Replaces AFS/HIS332. Same as HIS 333.


490. Independent Study.

Independent research directed by the Africana Studies staff. Required of all majors; ordinarily to be undertaken in the Fall semester of the senior year.  




106. History of the Blues. (A)

Blues history from its origins to the Blues Revival of the 1960s. Emphasis on the Delta blues tradition of Charley Patton, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Additional topics include: oral formulaic composition; politics of race and sex in the blues; the blues as a “secular religion”; the music business; appropriations of blues style in jazz and rock; the ongoing function of the blues as a core signifier of “blackness” in American culture. Same as MUS 106.  


169. Caribbean Literature. (H)

What is Caribbean literature? Some writers and scholars question the identity of a region of so many diverse languages, races, ethnicities, religions, and nations.  At the same time, others argue for the coherence of a region marked by a history of European colonization and slavery. This course will focus on anglophone (English-language) Caribbean literature of the twentieth century, a rich and varied body of work that has recently produced two Nobel Prize winners, Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul.  In this course, we will explore how this literature grapples with issues of race, gender, nationalism, independence, decolonization, the ethics of violence, the importance of vernacular expression, and the formation of a literary tradition. Same as ENG 169. 


213. Black American Film. (A)

An introduction to film studies using black film as a genre of Hollywood and independent film. Covers the work of Oscar Michaux through the “blaxploitation” films of the 1970s and beyond. Explores films as social commentary in their particular historical contexts. Particular attention is given to screen analysis of segregation, sexuality, class differences and more. Same as AMS/TDF/WGS 213.  


250. Witchcraft and Sorcery in a Global Context. (S)

In this course we will consider how the categories of “witchcraft” and “sorcery” have been used in Anthropology, both to describe mystical acts (particularly mystical attacks) and as an ethnographic metaphor to discuss the pressures of communal life for individuals. Course content will consist of, but not be limited to, witchcraft and sorcery as a “social strain gauge,” witchcraft and sorcery as expressions of symbolic power, the gendered name of witchcraft and sorcery, as well as witchcraft and sorcery under conditions of Western-style modernity. Same as ANT/RST/WGS 250. 


256. African American Literature I. (H)

Significant writers from the colonial period through the 19th century are studied to establish the Black literary tradition in the developing nation. Same as AFS/AMS/ENG 256.  


257. African American Literature II. (H)

Selected writers from the Harlem Renaissance through the Black Aesthetics movement compose the modern study of the Black literary tradition in America. Same as AFS/AMS/ENG 257.


267. Peoples and Cultures of Africa. (NW) (S)

Social and historical practices of various African cultures, with a special emphasis on sub-Saharan groups. Topics considered will include the intersections between political economy, performances, religion, art, and popular media on the continent. Prerequisite: ANT 100. Same as ANT 267.


281. Political Economy of Africa. (S) (NW)

A broad survey of economic and social conditions in Africa and the factors that influence economic development in the region, power structures and processes of change. Historical analysis of pre-colonial systems of production and exchange and modifications introduced during the European colonial period. Examination of major current issues such as food production, external debt and the role of the state. Reflection on the question of ‘development.’ Prerequisites: ECO 100 and 103, or permission of instructor. Same as ECO 281. 


301. Pops & Jelly Roll: New Orleans and Its Music in the Early Twentieth Century. (A)

An examination of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans. The course evaluates their music and the more general style of early New Orleans jazz in relation to the geographical, social, political, and economic dynamics of that great American city in the early 20th century. Particular attention will be given to the social and musical interactions among New Orleans’ disparate ethnic groups that led to the formation of a unique style of jazz derived from ragtime, blues and the ubiquitous marching band music from that era. Same as AMS 301 and MUS 301. 


302. Bebop. (A)

A history of the bebop movement in jazz of the 1940s and ‘50s. Special attention given to the social, economic, and political conditions that led a small handful of musicians to abandon Swing Era big bands in favor of the small combos that formed out of Harlem jam sessions between 1941­ and 1943. Covers distinguishing features of the bebop style through an examination of the music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and others. Concludes with an evaluation of the social and political meanings of bebop and its historical legacy. Same as AMS 302 and MUS 302.


313. African American Religion. (H)

Surveys a variety of religious traditions and expressions of African Americans throughout the history of the United States. Of particular interest to our study will be the problems of slavery, colonization and racialism as they have been embodied in the history of African American religion. Same as RST 313.

Lardas Modern

326. African Politics. (NW) (S)

An exploration of the socio-economic and political challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa since independence. This course will focus specifically on the prospects for socio-economic development and democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an investigation into foreign aid, corruption, and NEPAD. Prerequisite: GOV 224 or permission of the instructor. Same as GOV 326.


349. Modern South Africa. (NW) (S)

With an emphasis on the 20th century, this course explores the emergence of South Africa’s multi-racial society. Major themes include African state systems, European immigration and conquest, Africans’ individual and collective responses to white supremacy and changing gender roles. Students use historical documents, film, and fiction in addition to secondary readings. Discussion is an important component of course grade. Same as HIS 349.


360. Race and Ethnic Relations. (S)

Study of intergroup relations, with an emphasis on processes of racial/ethnic stratification, assimilation and cultural pluralism. Focus is on American society, past and present. Topics include the development and change of race/ethnic identities, intergroup attitudes, racial ideologies, immigration, education and the intersection of race with social class and gender. Prerequisite: SOC 100. Same as SOC 360.  


430. Selected Studies in African History. (NW) (S)

Readings and research in selected topics of the political, social and cultural history of Africa. See relevant departmental offerings for prerequisites. Recent topics include “Slavery in Africa.” Same as HIS 430. 


491. Directed Reading.

A continuation of independent research directed by the Africana Studies staff. Prerequisite: AFS 490.




Students may also select electives for the AFS major and minor from topics courses offered by the following departments: American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, English, Government, History, Judaic Studies, Music, Psychology, Religious Studies and Sociology. Topics courses taken in these departments will count toward the AFS major only if they primarily address issues surrounding Africa and the African Diaspora and are alternatively designated “AFS.”