About Us

The African American Studies Program building, located at 138 Mountfort Street Brookline.

Boston University’s African American Studies program is one of the oldest in the country.  Founded in 1969, we have a long history of focused study and deep commitment with all aspects of African American Experiences as well as broader American experiences as they intersect with issues of race, culture, immigration and politics. Our goal is to allow students a practical training in such issues along with the theoretical tools necessary for either more advanced study or a more direct engagement in any range of professional fields.  In a world where terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” are as important to cultural and social stability as they are to political and economic viability, our program stands ready to produce students able to help guide this country fearlessly forward.

At Boston University, we situate African American experiences in a global perspective. That means we compare and contrast the experiences of African–descended people in the United States with those who have similar histories elsewhere in the world—in Africa itself, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. We strive to understand how the political patterns and cultural responses of these various regions have created opportunities and disadvantages for African–descended people, and we also pay attention to the remarkable and complex ways those peoples—particularly in the United States—have managed to transform the cultural and social landscapes they have arrived in.  This, of course, requires a commitment to the history and legacy of slavery, but also acknowledges how those people have produced central insights and cultural forms that have redefined not just America, but the world itself as well as how knowledge about that world is produced.

Our program is multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary, with world class scholars from History, Political Science, Sociology, Economics, English, Art and Art History, Music, Ethnomusicology, Religion, and more contributing to our curriculum and the intellectual life of the program. Because we think of African-American Studies as something also eminently practical, we constantly seek out new linkages for the program, such as in Computer Science, Medicine, Business and Law. As such, most classes are cross-listed with other departments and there is room for students to pursue a wide range of interests while satisfying the background goals of the program.

Due also to our focus on the most cutting-edge theories, contexts and cultural forms available to us—particularly around the categories of race, gender, sexuality as well as “culture” itself–the program is a rigorous one, challenging but immensely rewarding.  Beyond the classroom, BU’s AFAM Program has one of the most intriguing and engaging Events Schedules on campus and is very much a part of student life.  Lively interactions between faculty, staff, students and world-renowned guests make the intellectual life of our unit reach far beyond the campus and into the Boston area itself.

African American Experiences have always been the acid test of American possibilities.  This is why our program is proud to be at the center of conversations about tolerance, justice, cultural change and indeed diversity. The degree to which the promise of America for fair play, equal opportunity, and social mobility rises and falls on the degree to which this promise is true for African Americans and other immigrant peoples. Boston University’s African American Studies Program has already insured its place in history; but our focus now is on inventing a new future rooted in that past but certainly beyond its limitations.  Join us.