African American Studies

African American Studies

An interdisciplinary approach to history, culture and experience of African Americans from the fifteenth century to the present, the minor program attracts students interested in the African American experience from either a heritage or intellectual perspective, or a combination of both. It will serve as a foundation experience for students who wish to pursue post-graduate study of the African American experience. For questions or to join the program contact Dr. Warren Carson, Interim Director of the Center for African American Studies.

History of the Minor

The University of South Carolina Upstate has offered courses in literature, culture and history with an African American focus for many years. In fall 2006, the university began offering a formal minor degree program in African American studies. 

Scope of the Minor

Students completing the minor program will be introduced to seven major themes throughout their studies:

  • Connections to the African American Past, where students will learn about the pre-Atlantic slave trade world Africa with emphasis on West African civilizations and societies;
  • Becoming African American, where students examine the effects of enslavement on African identity and the construction of an American identity;
  • Race and Identity Issues will examine the political, social and economic impact of the construction of blackness for African Americans;
  • Resistance and Agency will examine the strategies used by African Americans to combat their disempowerment;
  • Spirituality will trace the impact of African American spirituality on culture, community life and political activism;
  • Cultural Expression will examine the material and intellectual contributions of African Americans to literature, music and art;
  • and Liberation will include discussions on how the struggle for freedom and inclusion has shaped the African American experience and impacted the definition of freedom in the United States.

USC Upstate alumnus Les Davis, graduated with a communications major and a minor in African American Studies.  “The classes I have taken have given me the drive to strive – the inspiration – to go on,” he says. Davis adds that the obstacles that African Americans had to endure and the successes they have realized despite all the odds against them, has been “uplifting” and inspirational to him personally. He studied Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois and Claude McKay, citing them as individuals who made their mark on African American history, American history and on him personally.

Students are required to complete 18 credit hours, or a minimum of four required courses and two elective courses for the minor degree.

Required courses (12 credits total):

  • Introduction to African American Studies (AFAM U201)
  • African American Culture (AFAM U204)
  • One of the following--African American Literature (ENGL U391) or Harlem Renaissance (ENGL U429)
  • One of the following--African American History to 1865 (HIST U310) or African American History 1860 to present (U311))

Two Elective (300- and 400-level) courses selected from the following:

  • Topics in African American Studies (AFAM U398)
  • African Art (ARTH U210)
  • Southern Folk Art (ARTH U304)
  • Minorities, Crime and Criminal Justice (CRJU U380)
  • Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRJU U451/POLI U451)
  • Topics in African American History (HIST U495)
  • Minorities in the Media (JOUR U480)
  • Jazz History (MUSC U310)
  • Race and Ethnic Relations (SOCY U433)