Center for African American Studies

ABOUT CAAS

In support of the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives of USC Upstate, The Center for African American Studies (CAAS) sits at the center of the university’s intellectual engagement with the African American experience.  The center, and its affiliate faculty oversee the university’s minor in African American Studies, and an interdisciplinary curriculum that allows students to explore the rich culture and histories of African Americans and build valuable critical thinking and qualitative analysis skills.  The center also seeks to develop and sustain extra-curricular intellectual discussions about the African American experience through its campus and community programming initiatives.

Vision Statement

Through curricular and extra-curricular programming, USC Upstate’s Center for African American studies seeks to serve the campus and greater community as a crossroads for the intellectual examinationof the African American experience in the region, state, and southeastern United States. 

Minor in African American Studies

The University of South Carolina Upstate’s minor in African American Studies provides an opportunity for students interrogate the African American experience from an interdisciplinary perspective.  The eighteen credit hour curriculum takes students on an intellectual journey exploring the major ideas of leading African American thinkers, the historical and cultural dynamics of the African American experience, and the literary voices of African American writers, all while helping students build valuable critical thinking and communication skills relevant for the 21st century workforce.


Our Core Programming

The center’s programming mission centers on five core initiatives that offer our campus, and the greater upstate community the opportunity to explore the history and culture of black Americans. All events are open to the public.

Black Carolina” Lecture Series

Our “Black Carolina” Lecture Series introduces our community to the work of scholars actively conducting research on African Americans in South Carolina, and in the southeast more broadly. 

Campus-Community Book Club & Study Group

The CAAS Campus-Community Book Club & Study Group allows students and community members to jointly participate in a series of seminar-styled discussions of four to six books over the course of an academic year. 

CAAS also hosts to annually occurring lectures, the John “Birks” Dizzy Gillespie Lecture on Black Culture, and the “State of the Field Address:” New Directions in AFAM Studies, which highlight innovations in the arts and academic scholarship, respectively. Our Classroom to Career: Opportunities in African American Studies program introduces our students to career opportunities where individuals with the knowledge and skills developed through studying the African American experience can excel.

Classroom to Career: Opportunities in African American Studies

The CAAS “Classroom to Career” program introduces USC Upstate students to a range of internship and career opportunities ideal for students engaged in studying the African American experience. The “Classroom to Career” program provides student a chance to dialogue with professionals working in fields where the intellectual insights, skills, and tools gained through African American studies coursework holds value.

The John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie Lecture on Black Culture

Named for creative musical genius and South Carolina native “Dizzy” Gillespie, the Dizzy Gillespie lecture is an annually occurring lecture event focused on highlighting innovation in African American Art and culture. The series invites Black cultural producers to USC Upstate to discuss the contributions of their work to the larger landscape of African American creativity.

CAAS "State of the Field Address:” New Directions in African American Studies

The “CAAS State of the Field Address” invites a leading African American Studies scholar to USC Upstate to discuss their recent work in the context of a forward looking African American Studies discipline, and the new lines of intellectual inquiry charting the future direction of the field.


The Director

Dr. Nicholas Gaffney Nicholas Gaffney, PhD
Director, Center for African American Studies
864-503-5634

Dr. Gaffney joined the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2020 and teaches courses on African American culture and the African American 20th century freedom struggle.  His research focuses on the intersections of African American cultural production and socio-political activism.  His current book project, Jazz Goes to Work: The Jazz Community and the Black Freedom Struggle from the New Negro Movement to the Black Arts Revolution, 1900-1980 explains why and how black activists called upon jazz and the jazz community to support their movements, and the political work that jazz performed in helping these activists to accomplish their goals.

For questions about the center, its programming, or the minor in African American Studies please contact Dr. Gaffney at ngaffney@uscupstate.edu.