Undergraduate Program

African American Studies (AAS) focuses on the study of people of African descent in the United States and the African diaspora.  AAS originated in 1969 through courses intended to foster awareness of African Americans' role in the development of the United States and the world. Because a thorough understanding of the African American experience cannot be achieved through study restricted to the perspective of a single discipline, all students are required to pursue courses in the humanities, social sciences, and performing arts.

AAS draws up faculty from many academic departments, including American Studies, Communication Studies, English, History, Journalism & Mass Communication, Religious Studies, Rhetoric, Sociology, Theatre Arts, and Women's Studies.

The University of Iowa offers both a minor and a major (BA) in African American Studies.  All course offerings and more detailed requirements are available in the UI General Catalog.


Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies

The Bachelor of Arts with a major in African American studies requires a minimum of 120 s.h., including at least 30 s.h. of work for the major. Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 2.00 in the major. Transfer credit is evaluated individually and is limited to a maximum of 9 s.h. Students must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education Program.

Students are required to complete following two introductory courses:

  • AFAM:1020 (129:061)/AMST:1030 (045:030) Introduction to African American Culture    3 s.h.
  • AFAM:1030 (129:060) Introduction to African American Society    3 s.h.

Introduction to African American Society [AFAM:1030 (129:060)] examines the construction of social and historical institutions in the United States and the African diaspora (e.g., Black church, Black family, gender, sexuality). The course may include readings in political science, religion, history, sociology, geography, anthropology, and other disciplines.

Introduction to African American Culture [AFAM:1020 (129:061)] presents themes in African American cultural studies. It includes readings in literature, music, film studies, religious studies, and the visual and performing arts.

In addition to the two required introductory courses, all students must complete at least two courses (minimum 18 sem hours) from each of the following topical areas:  Literature and Performing Arts; History, Religion, and the Diaspora; and Media, Politics, and Social Institutions.  Through consultation with an African American Studies advisor, additional courses may be approved for the topical areas.

Students also must take two elective courses (minimum of 6 s.h.) selected from the three topical areas listed above.  With the approval of an African-American Studies advisor, students may substitute relevant courses offered by other departments for one or both electives; the substituted courses may not be cross-referenced with African American Studies. Students must gain the advisor's approval before enrolling in a substitute course.

Students also have the opportunity to pursue special interests and individual in-depth research to graduate with honors in the program.

All degree requirements and associated courses are listed in the UI General Catalog

Honors in the Major

Honors in the African American Studies major offers students the opportunity to pursue special interests and individual in-depth research. Honors students in African American Studies must maintain a cumulative University of Iowa GPA of at least 3.33 and complete all of the required course work for the major (30 s.h.). Those who wish to graduate with honors in the African American Studies major should register for up to 6 s.h. of AFAM:4990 (129:095) Honors Project.  Work in this course enhances the student's ability to complete honors projects under the guidance of the supervising faculty member. Students enroll in the Honors Project with the approval of their African American Studies advisor, who typically supervises the course.  Students may count up to 6 s.h. earned in the Honors Project toward the 30 s.h. required for the major.

Under the guidance of the African American Studies advisor, the honors student defines a research project (thesis) using primary, secondary, or archival sources. Students submit project proposals by the end of their junior year. Each student completes a thesis under the guidance of a supervising faculty member and presents the results as a senior essay to a committee of two faculty members, including the supervising African American Studies faculty member and one other African American Studies faculty member, chosen in consultation with the supervisor. The student's committee may choose to hear an oral defense of the honors thesis, usually during the student's last semester.

Students should use one or more of their elective courses to develop the honors thesis.  More detailed honors requirements are listed in the UI General Catalog.


Minor in African American Studies

The minor in African American Studies requires a minimum of 15 s.h., 12 of which taken at The University of Iowa.  Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.00 in the minor. Course work in the minor may not be taken pass/nonpass. Course work done for another major or minor may not be counted toward the minor in African American Studies.

Students are required to complete following two introductory courses:

  • AFAM:1020 (129:061)/AMST:1030 (045:030) Introduction to African American Culture    3 s.h.
  • AFAM:1030 (129:060) Introduction to African American Society    3 s.h.

Minors must also take one course in each of the following three topical areas:  Literature and Performing Arts; History, Religion, and the Diaspora; and Media, Politics, and Social Institutions.   Two of the three topical area courses must be taken at The University of Iowa.

All minor requirements and associated courses are listed in the UI General Catalog.