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Living While Black: Themes in African American Thought and Experience

Situating Americans of black African descent at the center of inquiry and analysis, African American Studies is also known by other names, most specifically, Black Studies, Africana Studies, Pan-African Studies, and African and African American Studies. (See also Theme 01 Terminology and Glossary sections.) But whatever the label, African American Studies focuses on black people who live in the United States, particularly those who descended from enslaved Africans and enslaved African Americans who labored in what is now the United States. At the same time, since African Americans have long been mindful, let alone connected, to people of African descent outside of the United States, African American Studies also looks at the cultures and lives of people of black African descent in the Americas and Europe as well as in Africa. Hence, African American Studies exams the African Diaspora, the people of black African descent living outside of Africa, primarily in the Americas.

Course Goals

  1. Describe the multifaceted culture, history, and life of African Americans and their many contributions to the intellectual, cultural, political, social, and economic life of the United States and the world.
  2. Explain historical and current affairs, issues, phenomena, and events from a multitude of African American perspectives based on the availability of sound research and scientific data.
  3. Correct the still commonplace, oftentimes racist-inspired, misunderstanding and misinformation of African American intellectual, cultural, social, and everyday life.
  4. Prescribe approaches and actions that would lead to a United States (and the world) without racism and white supremacy and to affirm the dignity, human rights, and equality of African Americans.

African American Studies is a highly interdisciplinary academic field. It builds upon the research and theories in a wide array of disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, art, communication studies, economics, family studies, gender studies, health and medicine, history, labor studies, literature, music, philosophy, political science, religious studies, psychology, and sociology. As African American Studies scholar Abdul Alkalimat writes, “Afro-American Studies is an academic field that combines general intellectual history, academic scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities, and a radical movement for fundamental education reform.[i]

African American Studies raises the following questions. What is the black experience? What is black history? What are the fundamental ideologies and theories in African American Studies? What are the great social change debates in African American Studies?




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[i] Abdul Alkalimat, “Intro to Afro-American Studies,” Introduction to Afro-American Studies: A Peoples College Primer,, accessed October 2012.

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