MA in African American Studies

The Master of Arts degree is focused on building conceptual and research skills that allow students to become critical investigators of cross-cultural interaction and the historical contexts of race, power, and the formation of knowledge. It is also meant to empower students with an advanced understanding and study of diversity, which will enable them to pursue both higher academic and other professional endeavors.

Our focus is on African Americans and the experiences of African-descended people worldwide via the cultural and intellectual products of those experiences; however, our program approaches that focus in the context of global processes and in terms of its relationship to other groups and operates with a commitment to intersectional approaches in which all differences are engaged alongside issues of race and ethnicity, such as gender, sexuality, and immigration.

Candidates for the Master of Arts in African American Studies must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Because of the broad focus of this program, there are no specific undergraduate concentration requirements except that the student must have completed some study in both the humanities and the social sciences.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with an MA in African American Studies are expected to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of conceptual, theoretical, and research skills that can enable them to become lifelong critical investigators of cross-cultural interactions.
  • Become leaders in all professional and cultural engagements with diversity, tolerance, and critical thinking.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of African American studies within a global context, paying particular attention to peoples of African descent in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Course Requirements

Candidates for the MA in African American Studies must complete eight courses (32 credits). The course requirements are as follows:

  • GRS AA 591 Black Thought: Literary and Cultural Criticism in the African Diaspora
  • GRS AA 808 Seminar: Ethnic, Race, and Minority Relations
  • GRS AA 871 African American History
  • Five additional courses at the 500 level or above in African American Studies

Language Requirement

All students pursuing an MA degree in African American Studies are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in a foreign language prior to completion of the degree. Language proficiency can be demonstrated either through a language examination, successful completion of a noncredit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University, or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate study of the language at Boston University.

Research Papers

Students are also expected to produce two major research papers, one of which must be orally defended during the last semester in residence. The two papers should not be undertaken during the same semester. Each paper should be completed as part of the requirements of a graduate course, with the prior consent of the professor.