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Minor in African American Studies 

The University of South Carolina Upstate has offered courses in literature, culture and history with an African American focus over the years, but in fall 2006, the university began offering a formal minor degree program in 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, and it will serve as a foundation experience for students who wish to pursue post-graduate study of the African American experience. 

“The minor offers all students a means of understanding not just African Americans but the role that race has played in our culture and generate understanding across cultural lines of the varieties of the human experience,” says Dr. Carmen Harris, associate professor of history.

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.

davisUSC Upstate alumni, 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 Claud 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 hours, or a minimum of four required courses and two elective courses for the minor degree.

Required courses (12 credits total):

  • SAAS 201: Introduction to African American Studies (3 credits)
  • SAAS 204: African American Culture (3 credits)
  • One of the following--SEGL 391: African American Literature or SEGL 429: Harlem Renaissance (3 credits)
  • One of the following--SHST 310: African American History to 1865 or SHST 311: African American History 1860 to present (3 credits)

Two Elective courses selected from the following (6 credits total):

  • SAAS 398: Topics in African American Studies (300 and 400 level)
  • SATH 210: African Art
  • SATH 304: Southern Folk Art
  • SCRJ 380: Minorities, Crime and Criminal Justice
  • SCRJ 451/SGIS 451: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
  • SHST 495: Topics in African American History
  • SJOU 480: Minorities in the Media
  • SMUS 310: Jazz History
  • SSOC 433: Race and Ethnic Relations

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