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Course Descriptions

Program in African-American and African Studies

Minor Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400162
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4162
(434) 924-3109 Fax: (434) 924-8820

Overview African-American and African Studies (AAS) is an interdisciplinary program in which students examine various aspects of the black experience. The major consists of two core course requirements and seven area courses in the humanities and social sciences selected from the AAS Course Offering Directory, available in Minor Hall 108 or online at www.virginia.edu/woodson. The AAS program provides a solid liberal arts education as well as broad exposure to African and African-American history and culture.

Faculty The African-American and African studies faculty comprises professors in departments Grounds-wide who teach courses directly related to topics in African-American and/or African studies. Departmental offerings vary from year to year, but currently these departments include anthropology, art history, drama, economics, English, French, history, linguistics, music, philosophy, politics, psychology, religious studies, Slavic, and sociology. Each year, the AAS program also supports the teaching of special AAS seminars by visiting scholars.

The current steering committee for the AAS undergraduate program is as follows, with departmental affiliation: Scot French, Director of the AAS Program; Reginald D. Butler, history; Ellen Contini-Morava, anthropology; Scott DeVeaux, music; Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton, religious studies; Adria LaViolette, anthropology; Wende Marshall, anthropology; John Mason, history; Benjamin Ray, religious studies; Hanan Sabea, anthropology; Milton Vickerman, psychology; Corey D. B. Walker, religious studies; Melvin Wilson, psychology. These faculty are available as advisors to AAS majors and minors.

Students There are approximately 50 undergraduates majoring in African-American and African studies in a given year, quite a number of whom double-major with disciplines in the humanities or social sciences. Although there are distributional requirements within the AAS major, students have a great deal of freedom in shaping the major to reflect their particular area, topical, and disciplinary interests. Students also have ample opportunity for independent study with faculty members. In addition, some students study abroad in Africa or the Caribbean through the University or other programs, and receive credit in the AAS major for such experiences. Students minoring in AAS are usually either majoring in sciences or enrolled in non-College programs (in the Schools of Architecture, Engineering and Applied Science, or Commerce).

Graduates with a degree in African-American and African studies use their interdisciplinary training and skills as a basis for a wide variety of careers. Recent graduates are pursuing professions in such fields as law, international development, teaching, social work, small and corporate business, banking, and public administration. Every year AAS majors also begin graduate training, including M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the humanities and social sciences, law school, and medical school. Consider an AAS major a springboard from which anything is possible.

Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies The Woodson Institute provides a home base and support for the AAS major. The institute is named after Virginia-born historian Carter Godwin Woodson, who played a pioneering role in the institutionalization of the study of the black experience, and founded and was editor of the Journal of Negro History from 1916 until his death in 1950. The Woodson Institute supports advanced research in black studies, every year providing pre- and post-doctoral fellowships to scholars from within and outside the University. The Woodson Fellows conduct research in African-American and/or African studies on the premises of the institute, and undergraduates should consider them a resource. The Woodson Institute also sponsors an annual lecture series on topics related to African-American and African studies, open to the university community and the public.

Requirements for Major The African-American and African studies interdisciplinary major comprises 9 courses (29 credits) taken within a program approved by any member of the AAS steering committee, who acts as the student’s advisor. These courses may include classes taken before declaration of the major. In order to declare a major, a student must have taken AAS 101 and 102, and earned a grade of C or better in each course. Students must have an average of 2.000 in the major for it to be considered complete.

The major requires a distribution of courses in the following areas and levels, all to be selected from the AAS Course Offering Directory:

  1. AAS 101 and 102;
  2. one course concerning race and politics in the U.S.;
  3. one course in the humanities (art history, drama, English, French, music, philosophy, religious studies);
  4. one course in the social sciences or history, in addition to AAS 101, 102 (anthropology, economics, history, linguistics, politics, psychology, Slavic, sociology);
  5. one course about Africa, which may fulfill requirements (3) or (4) above;
  6. four courses above the 300 level, which may fulfill requirements (2-5);
  7. one 400-level seminar requiring a research paper, which may count toward requirement (6) above.

Each semester the Carter G. Woodson Institute publishes a list of courses that satisfy the above requirements. Students should speak with an advisor if they have any questions about how to distribute these courses.

Students frequently find that African-American and African studies works well as a double-major with another discipline in the humanities and social sciences. Up to 11 credits in another departmental major may count toward an AAS major, if the courses are among those listed in the AAS Course Offering Directory. Up to 6 transfer credits from relevant study abroad may be counted toward the major, with the advance written permission of the director of the major. Up to 3 credits of an appropriate language course may be counted toward the major.

Exceptions to any of these requirements is made only upon written petition to the director of the AAS major. No petitions are accepted after a student completes the seventh semester.

Requirements for Minor A Minor in African-American and African Studies consists of completion of AAS 101 and 102 with a grade of C or better in each course; twelve credits beyond AAS 101 and 102, chosen from the AAS Course Offering Directory; and an average of 2.000 in all courses counted under this requirement.

Independent Study AAS 401 allows students to work on an individual research project. Students wishing to pursue this should obtain an informational sheet at the Woodson Institute that explains the procedure and requirements. Students must propose a topic to an appropriate faculty member, submit a written proposal for approval, prepare an extensive annotated bibliography on relevant readings comparable to the reading list of a regular upper-level course, and complete a research paper of at least 20 pages.

Distinguished Majors Program in African-American and African Studies Third-year students with superior academic performance are encourage to apply for the AAS Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) in which they conduct research and write a thesis demonstrating originality and independent study of high quality. Participants are eligible for graduation with distinction. The requirements for admission to the DMP are:

  1. satisfaction of all College requirements as stated in the Undergraduate Record with a GPA of at least 3.400 in all university courses;
  2. permission of an advisor. This person may be any faculty member who teaches courses listed in the AAS Course Offering Directory, willing to supervise the thesis. Permission should be sought no later than the second semester of the third year. The supervisor’s written approval of the topic must be secured by the students and filed at the Woodson Institute;
  3. fulfillment of the distribution requirements for the major (see requirements 1-5 for the major above). Like the AAS major, the DMP comprises 29 credits. DMP participants must complete at least six credits of course work above the 400 level, in addition to the six credits specific to preparation of the thesis, outlined below.

Once the advisor has been secured, students should seek two additional faculty members who agree to read the thesis. The students register for three credits of AAS 451 (Directed Research) in the first semester of the fourth year. In this course, the students conduct research for, and write the first draft of their thesis. In the second semester, students register for AAS 452 (Thesis) and revise the draft based on the committee’s recommendations, producing a finished thesis of about 8,000 words or 40 pages, which must be approved by the committee and deposited at the Woodson Institute. The thesis committee makes a recommendation to the AAS Steering Committee for final approval of the thesis. Students who would like assistance in initiating this program should see their advisor.

Additional Information For more information, contact Scot French, Director of the Undergraduate Program in AAS, at the Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia, 108 Minor Hall, P.O. Box 400162, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4162; (434) 924-3109; www.virginia.edu/woodson.

Course Descriptions


The African-American and African Studies (AAS) courses in any given term comprise those offered by the Woodson Institute with an AAS number, and those offered in other departments that have an AAS-related content.

Core Courses

Students should check the AAS Course Offering Directory, produced every term, for the seminar topics to be offered in the next term.

AAS 101 - (4) (Y)
Introduction to African-American and African Studies I
This introductory course surveys the histories of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean from approximately the Middle Ages to the 1880s. Emphases include the Atlantic slave trade and its complex relationship to Africa; the economic systems, cultures, and communities of Africans and African-Americans in the New World, in slavery and in freedom; the rise of anti-slavery movements; and the socio-economic systems that replaced slavery in the late 19th century.

AAS 102 - (4) (Y)
Introduction to African-American and African Studies II
This introductory course builds upon the histories of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean surveyed in AAS 101. Drawing on disciplines such as Anthropology, History, Religious Studies, Political Science and Sociology, the course focuses on the period from the late 19th century to the present and is comparative in perspective. It examines the links and disjunctions between communities of African descent in the United States and in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. The course begins with an overview of AAS, its history, assumptions, boundaries, and topics of inquiry, and then proceeds to focus on a number of inter-related themes: patterns of cultural experience; community formation; comparative racial classification; language and society; family and kinship; religion; social and political movements; arts and aesthetics; and archaeology of the African Diaspora.

AAS 205, 206 - (3) (IR)
Travel Accounts of Africa
Reading, class discussion, and research on a special topic of African-American and African studies, intended for first- and second-year students. Subjects change from term to term, and vary with instructor.

AAS 250 - (3) (SI)
The Health of Black Folks
An interdisciplinary course analyzing the relationship between black bodies and biomedicine both historically and in the present. The course is co-taught by Norm Oliver, M.D. (UVa Department of Family Medicine), and offers political, economic, and post-structuralist lenses with which to interpret the individual and socio/cultural health and disease of African-Americans. Readings range across several disciplines including anthropology, epidemiology/public health, folklore, history, science studies, political science, sociology and literary criticism. Topics will vary and may include: HIV/AIDS; reproductive issues; prison, crime and drugs; and body size/image and obesity; the legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Trials. Cross listed as ANTH 250.

AAS 305 - (3) (Y)
Travel Accounts of Africa
Prerequisite: ANTH 101 or permission of instructor
Analysis of how travel accounts of Africa during the 18-19th century influence anthropological practices and contemporary representations of the Continent.

AAS 324 - (3) (Y)
Plantations in Africa and the Americas
Prerequisite: ANTH 101 or permission of instructor.
Comparative analysis of plantation culture, economy and polity in Africa, the US, and the Caribbean.

AAS 401 - (3) (S)
Independent Study
Allows students to work on an individual research project. Students must propose a topic to an appropriate faculty member, submit a written proposal for approval, prepare an extensive annotated bibliography on relevant readings comparable to the reading list of a regular upper-level course, and complete a research paper of at least 20 pages.

AAS 405, 406 - (3) (S)
Advanced Seminar in African-American and African Studies
Reading, class discussion, and research on a special topic of African-American and African studies culminating in the composition of a research paper. Topics change from term to term, and vary with the instructor. Primarily for fourth-year students but open to others.

AAS 451, 452 - (6) (Y)
Directed Reading and Research
Similar in format to AAS 401, but meant to be equivalent to twice as much work (6 credits), and taken over a full year. Students in the DMP enroll under these numbers for thesis writing.

AAS 528 - (3) (Y)
Topics in Race Theory
Prerequisite: ANTH 101, 301, or other introductory or middle-level social science or humanities course.
This course examines theories and practices of race and otherness, in order to analyze and interpret constructions, deconstructions and reconstructions of race from the late 18th to the 21st centuries. The focus varies from year to year, and may include "race, ‘progress’ and the West," "gender, race and power," and "white supremacy." The consistent theme is that race is neither a biological nor a cultural category, but a method and theory of social organization, an alibi for inequality, and a strategy for resistance. Cross listed as ANTH 528.

Supporting Courses

The AAS program’s Course Offering Directory, produced each term, lists the courses grounds-wide that fulfill the AAS major requirements for the coming term. Below is a listing of those courses which appear most consistently, but students should check the most recent AAS Directory, available at the Woodson Institute, for complete and updated information.

ANTH 227 - (3) (Y)
Race, Gender, and Medical Science

ANTH 225 - (3) (Y)
Racism, Nationalism, and Multiculturalism

ANTH 232 - (3) (IR)
Symbol and Ritual

ANTH 234 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Folklore

ANTH 256 - (3) (Y)
Peoples and Cultures of Africa

ANTH 281 - (3) (Y)
Human Origins

ANTH 329 - (3) (Y)
Culture of Underdevelopment

ANTH 341 - (3) (Y)
Introduction to Sociolinguistics

ANTH 357 - (3) (Y)
Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean

ANTH 358 - (3) (IR)
Creole Narratives

ANTH 388 - (3) (Y)
African Archaeology

ANTH 549 - (3) (IR)
African Language Structure

ARTH 380 - (3) (IR)
African Art

ECON 415 - (3) (Y)
Economics of Labor

ENLT 247 - (3) (Y)
Black Writers in America

ENAM 313 - (3) (Y)
African-American Survey I

ENAM 314 - (3) (Y)
African-American Survey II

ENAM 385 - (3) (IR)
Folklore in America

ENAM 482 - (3) (Y)
Advanced Studies in American Literature II: Harlem Renaissance

ENMC 331 - (3) (IR)
Major African-American Poets

FREN 411 - (3) (Y)
African Film and Literature

FREN 570 - (3) (IR)
Francophone Literature of Africa

PLAP 344 - (3) (Y)
Urban Government and Politics

PLAP 351 - (3) (Y)
Minority Group Politics

PLCP 212 - (3) (Y)
Government and Politics of Developing Areas

PLCP 581 - (3) (Y)
Government and Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa

PLCP 583 - (3) (Y)
Government and Politics of South Africa

HIAF 202 - (3) (Y)
Africa Since the 1800s

HIAF 203 - (4) (Y)
Africa Diaspora to 1850

HIAF 302 - (3) (Y)
History of Southern Africa

HIAF 401 - (3) (Y)
Seminar in African History

HILA 306 - (3) (Y)
Modern Brazil

HIME 201 - (3) (Y)
History of the Middle East and North Africa, ca. 570-1500

HIME 202 - (3) (Y)
History of the Middle East and North Africa, ca. 1500 to 1980

HIST 507 - (3) (IR)
Internship: African-American Interpretation at Monticello

HIUS 201 - (4) (Y)
American History 1607-1865

HIUS 202 - (4) (Y)
American History since 1865

HIUS 323 - (3) (IR)
The American South in the 19th Century

HIUS 324 - (3) (IR)
The American South in the 20th Century

HIUS 346 - (3) (IR)
History of Urban America

HIUS 365 - (3) (IR)
African-American History Through Reconstruction

HIUS 366 - (3) (IR)
African-American History, 1865 to Present

HIUS 367 - (3) (S)
History of the Civil Rights Movement

LNGS 222 - (3) (IR)
Black English

MUSI 208 - (3) (IR)
Contemporary African American Music

MUSI 212 - (3) (Y)
History of Jazz Music

MUSI 260 - (3) (Y)
Jazz Improvisation

MUSI 369 - (3) (Y)
African Drumming and Dance Ensemble

PSYC 311 - (3) (Y)
Psychology of Language

PSYC 465 - (4) (Y)
Oppression and Social Change

PSYC 467 - (3) (Y)
Psychology of the African-American Athlete

PSYC 487 - (3) (Y)
The Minority Family: A Psychological Inquiry

RELA 275 - (3) (IR)
African Religions

RELA 410 - (3) (Y)
Yoruba Religion

SOC 341 - (3) (Y)
Race and Ethnic Relations

SOC 368 (3) (Y)
Problems of Urban Life

SOC 410 - (3) (Y)
African-American Communities

SOC 453 - (3) (Y)
Sociology of Education

SWAH 101 - (3) (S)
Introductory Swahili

SWAH 102 - (3) (Y)
Introductory Swahili II

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