Curriculum Overview


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

A major in Africana Studies consists of nine courses:

  • AFS/AMS 150 or AFS/HIS 149
  • AFS/HIS 141 or 142
  • AFS/HIS 233
  • AFS 490
  • Five electivescarrying an AFS designation, at least one of which must be numbered 300 or higher. At least one of these five AFS electives 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 joint major in Africana Studies consists of eight courses:

  • AFS/AMS 150 or AFS/HIS 149

  • AFS/HIS 141 or 142

  • AFS/HIS 233

  • Five elective courses carrying an AFS designation, at least one of which must be at the 300 level or above.    

A minor in Africana Studies consists of six courses:

  • AFS/AMS 150 or AFS/HIS 149

  • AFS/HIS 141 or 142

  • AFS/HIS 233

  • Three electives carrying an AFS designation, 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 in Senegal; IES and SIT in South Africa;  CET and SIT in Tunisia; CET and SIT in Morocco; SIT in Kenya; and VCU in Barbados. 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; (WP) World Perspectives; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement. 



141. History of North and West Africa. (NW) (S) (WP)
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 141.            

142. History of East and Southern Africa. (NW) (S) (WP)
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 142.    

149. Africa and the Black World: Concepts and Context. (NW) (S)
Explores the emergence 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 149.    

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.   

233. 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. Same as HIS 233.    

490. Independent Study.
The independent study is a requirement for completing an AFS major. It is intended to give students the opportunity to form a deeper holistic understanding of the field based on what they have learned in the program and their own independent investigation of a specific subject. The research question for the independent study may be inspired by a particular course, a conversation with a professor, or a student’s personal interest. Independent studies are supervised by the Africana Studies staff. For more details, see the Africana Studies webpage.     



105. Jazz. (A)
The history of jazz, from its roots to the present day, with emphasis on stylistic distinctions. Considers African and European contributions, blues types, New Orleans jazz, Harlem Stride, Swing, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, free jazz, fusion, neo-classical, and acid jazz, touching on most major figures and their contributions. Each stylistic period is studied from an economic and sociological viewpoint with emphasis on form, texture, improvisation, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. Same as AMS 105 and MUS 105.     

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 AMS 106 and MUS 106.    

131.    History of Colonial Latin America: From Contact to Revolution. (NW) (S)
Survey of Latin America from pre-Conquest times to the present. Begins with historical backgrounds of indigenous societies as well as Spain, Portugal, and Africa before 1492, followed by an examination of the conquest and colonial period through independence. The course focuses on the contributions of these major cultural groups in the formation of colonial Latin American society and culture. Same as HIS 131.    Shelton

169. Caribbean Literature. (H) (NW)
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/FLM/WGS 213.    

218. Narrative Journeys in Arabic Literature. (H) (NW) (WP)
This course introduces students to a variety of narratives in different literary genres from the Arab world. The organizing theme of this course is that of the journey, whether it be a physical trek through the desert or a metaphorical one such as an inward psychological quest. Students will encounter narratives by both male and female writers from various parts of the Arab world and from different periods of Arabic literary history. All texts are translated from the Arabic into English. Same as ARB/LIT 218. 

239. HipHop: Global Politics of Culture.
Who gets to be "real" in hip hop? Why does being "real" matter? This course examines hip hop's "politics of authenticity," which opens avenues to help us speak about colonialism, white supremacy, sexism, and Black cultural resistance. Rightfully centering and honoring the genre's Afrodiasporic influences, we will examine debates involving transnationalism, gender, sexual, and racial boundaries in hip hop. We will also explore hip hop's global relevance, such as its sonic and cultural presence in reggaet n and its spread as a global dance form. Overall, this class will prompt students to untangle hip hop's seemingly contradictory ethos of "keeping it real" while simultaneously promoting broader ideals of cosmopolitanism and global commodification. Same as AMS/MUS/WGS 239.

256. African American Literature I: Declarations of Independence and the Narratives of Slavery (H)
This course covers African American narratives of slavery from the colonial period through the early 19th Century. The Declaration of Independence, the founding narrative of American selfhood and agency, provides the discursive background of the course. The Declaration did not mention Slavery, thereby erasing Slaves’ experiences in the American narrative about peoplehood. We will engage the logic, rhetoric and contradictions of the document by pluralizing “declaration” to broaden and then examine how Slaves’ oral narratives (the Spirituals, etc.) and texts (by Phyllis Wheatley, Oladuah Equaino, etc.) were figurative and literal declarations of independence that simultaneously question the Declaration’s principles and ideology and affirm its transcendent meanings in the writers’ discourses on Slavery, Black humanity and selfhood, race, the American Dream, etc. Same as AMS/ENG/WGS 256.    

257.  African American Literature II: Meaning of the Veil and African American Identity. (H)
In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the African American writer W.E.B. Du Bois introduces two concepts—the “veil” and “double-consciousness”—to explain the black experience in America. This course, which covers African American literature from Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Aesthetic/Black Power movement and beyond, will examine the recurrence of the veil metaphor (and its synonyms) generally and engage Du Bois’s formulation of the concept specifically in the cultural and historical contexts that frame this period’s literature. We will explore how writers (Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, etc.) engage topics (race, gender, music, identity, etc.) that reinforce, expand and/or complicate Du Bois’s metaphor. Same as AMS/ENG/WGS 257.    

281. Political Economy of Africa. (S) (NW) (WP)
A broad introduction to 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.    

283 B. African Drumming.
Private lessons and masterclass in African Drumming. Admission by audition with the instructor. May be repeated. (One half credit.) Same as MUS 283 B.    

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.  

315. Cross-Cultural Psychology.
Cross-Cultural Psychology serves as an introduction to the relationships among cultural processes, human consciousness, human health and human development. Prerequisite: PSY 100 or SPM 100. Penn

316. Harlem Renaissance. (H)
The Harlem Renaissance represented an explosion of Black cultural, economic and political activity in the first and second decades of the twentieth century. Fifty years after emancipation, African Americans were still struggling for equality and acceptance from White America. The cultural products of the period -- events, writings, music, theater, and literature, for example -- represented a desire by African Americans to forge a new identity and find a place in American democracy. We will explore how African Americans used these cultural products to express their history, experiences, predicaments, hopes and racial consciousness and pride. In this course, we will examine some of the writers and the texts of the period. Same as ENG/AMS 316. 

323. Cuba and the United States: The Closest of Strangers. (S)
This course examines the long history of relations between North Americans and Cubans, two peoples separated by only 90 miles. Our topics will range from baseball to guerrilla warfare, from the Mambo to the Missile Crisis. This history includes a shared commitment to anticolonial liberation; annexationist schemes among Southern slaveholders; repeated military interventions by the United States; solidarity from the U.S. with various Cuban Revolutions, including but not limited to Fidel Castro’s; and two hundred years of cultural contact between African Americans and Afro-Cubans that has profoundly influenced U.S. culture, music, and sports. Same as AMS/HIS 323.     

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. Students will engage in a Reacting to the Past (RTTP) simulation of the South African move to majority rule.  Prerequisite: GOV 120 or permission of the instructor. Same as GOV 326. 

334. The American South: Slavery, Secession and War, 1800–1865. (S)
Traces the antebellum south and the emergence of a distinct southern identity and consciousness by examining the following topics: slavery (from the perspective of both masters and slaves), the dispossession of the Native Americans, westward expansion and territorial ambitions in Central America and the Caribbean, politics at the national and state level, and the growth of the region’s intellectual life. Same as HIS 334.    

354. Gender and Race in Ethnic Studies Film. 
“Gender and Race in Ethnic Studies Film” examines the concept of Ethnic Studies as an educational curriculum emerging from social movements. In an effort to understand Ethnic Studies, we will explore the media productions by and about people of color in relation to U.S. social unrests of the late-1960s, 1970s, and the aftermath of these decades. We will focus on three groups: U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Same as AMS/TND/WGS 354.    

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.    

363. Marginal Sexualities in the Maghreb. (H) (NW) (WP)
This course will explore the cultural constructions of gender and sexuality in the Maghreb, and their relationship to the concept of nation. We will also focus on new spaces of negotiation offered on the threshold of the 21st century by Francophone North African authors such as Tahar Ben Jelloun, Rachid O, Abdellah Taïa, and Assia Djebar. The course will examine concepts such as desire, fluidity, heteronormativity, homosocial vs. homosexual relationships, hypermasculinisation, discursive/rhetorical/ subjective communities, and misogyny in the context of 20th/21st century North Africa. Prerequisite: FRN 261 or FRN 302 or placement. Same as FRN/WGS 363.

366. Race, Ethnicity, and Health. (S)
The course will utilize a sociological lens to examine the role of race and ethnicity in health outcomes, healthcare experiences, medical research, and clinical practice. Topics will include: socio-historical perspectives on notions of race in relation to biological difference; socio-historical understandings of the health consequences of racialized public health policies and politically sanctioned medical practices;contemporary racial and ethnic disparities in disease morbidity and mortality indicators; the operationalization of racial categories in epidemiological, public health, and biomedical research and practice; contemporary debates regarding race and genomics; and understandings of racial and ethnic dynamics in relation to health and medicine at the intersections of socioeconomic class, immigration status, gender, sexuality, and other markers of social identity. Same as SOC/PBH 366.    

369. À contre-courant: le théâtre francophone (H) (NW) (WP)
Le théâtre francophone est généralement empreint d’un sentiment d’urgence, d’un besoin irrépressible de se dire. Le théâtre francophone, c’est la communauté qui s’affirme faisant du texte un catalyseur de l’âme de la collectivité. Les pièces de théâtre francophones résonnent et raisonnent suivant leur pertinence sociale et mettent à mal le principe même de la règle. Faisant fi des conventions, ces mêmes pièces font des choix dramatiques expérimentaux et se posent en détractrices de la tradition sociale, politique et culturelle, elles se posent en théâtre de résistance. Dans ce cours, nous explorerons différents domaines tels que la typographie, la narration, l’espace et le temps, ou encore la langue, sur lesquels se jouent diverses stratégies de résistance et qui témoignent de l’aliénation de l’Homme dans un contexte francophone classique, colonial et postcolonial. Prerequisite: FRN 261 or FRN 302 or placement.
Same as FRN 369.    Hebouche

430. Africa and Slavery. (NW) (S) (WP)
This course begins with an overview of how slavery has functioned in a variety of societies around the world through history, with the goal of cultivating a broad conceptual understanding of what we mean when we talk about slavery. We then narrow our gaze to Africa, concentrating on how African conceptions of freedom and servitude contrasted with and, in an economic sense, complemented European notions. Our engagement with the Atlantic slave trade focuses on the African side, and draws on primary and secondary sources to explore African perspectives. We conclude the course with a look at arguments about what some scholars and activists argue is a resurgence of slavery in today's world. Students will write a significant research paper on some aspect of African slavery. Same as HIS 430.​   

460. Race, Gender, and Class on Campus. (S)
On college and university campuses across the country, intersecting social identity politics have come to the fore over the course of recent decades. This course will examine the socio-historical forces and contemporary dynamics that inform, challenge, support, and disrupt the establishment and cultivation of inclusive campus communities. Drawing from sociological literature on higher education, social mobility, race, gender, socioeconomic class, and social policy, students will critically analyze the complex issues germane to how American institutions of higher education operationalize ideas of “diversity” and “inclusion” in the 21st century.  Same as SOC/WGS 460.  

462. Toni Morrison. (H)
This seminar will focus on Toni Morrison as a major African American and American writer. We will examine Morrison’s oeuvre in both fiction and criticism, and explore how her aesthetics and vision, and her analyses of them, are informed by historical contexts and their racial, sexual, gendered, class, etc. impulses. Permission of the instructor required. Same as ENG/WGS 462.

467. Multi-Media Memoir. (A) (H)
This course is an exploration of memoir through several media and genres—prose, poetry, performance art, photographs, film and theater. We also engage with the most recent “mnemonic theory,” and our theoretical study takes form in essays that probe the curious genre of memoir–a genre that slips between literary and fact-based writing, between imaginary and nonfiction prose. The seminar provides a longer workshop or “studio” component in which you’ll probe connections between assigned work and the writing of your own memories and experiences. Permission required. Same as AMS 467. 

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.”

American Popular Music.
Climate Crisis, Human Health and Justice.
Gender and Sustainability. 
History of Colonial Latin America.
Long History of Civil Rights.
Multi-Media Memoir - Race, Class, Sex in Movies.
Race and Gender in Mediterranean Migrant Film.
Race, Gender and State Violence.
Race and Inequality in the US.