Graduate Study

Covid-19 Update

To our Admitted Graduate Students: Please know that our priority during this challenging time is the well-being of our students and ensuring their ability to fulfill their academic program requirements. This applies to our current students as well as you, our incoming graduate students. Due to the growing impact of COVID-19, all prospective and accepted student days, interview days, and individual student visits will be moved to a virtual format. 

 We are also aware of the increasing concern around delayed visa appointments for our international students and delayed air travel for both our domestic and international students. Please be assured that we are currently working on alternative enrollment options for admitted students who are unable to make it to campus by the start of classes in September. You will be contacted via email with updates as they become available. Please be in touch if you have any questions or concerns.  

AFAM Studies Director Louis Chude-Sokei and Master’s graduate Lynae Bogues (GRS ’18) posed at the May 2018 Convocation Ceremony.

Founded in 1969, the African American Studies Program at Boston University was the first graduate program of its kind in the country. In keeping with its location at a major research institution with a wide range of academic and cultural resources, the Program is committed to rigorous and sophisticated critical thinking, historical analysis, and social engagement. Our students are encouraged to balance theory and practice, applying their work in eminently practical, professional contexts. Ours is a small, boutique program, with a successful history and growing profile; and so, focused mentoring and personal engagements with our world-class faculty are central to each student’s experience.

The wider Boston area with its high concentration of stellar colleges and universities, creates one of the most exciting intellectual cultures in the country if not the world. As a program rooted in and structured on inter-disciplinary thinking and research, our students have access to the wide range of departments, programs and scholars that Boston University has to offer. Boston University’s institutional history includes the first African American born a slave to receive a PhD in America—John Wesley Bowen—awarded by BU’s School of Theology. As is well-known, Dr. Martin Luther King studied at BU, and donated his personal papers to the University. His mentor, Civil Rights leader, Howard Thurman, served as dean of Marsh Chapel, and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground is a significant presence on our campus (his papers are also preserved and promoted here at Boston University in the Howard Gottleib Archival Research Center).

Though rooted in the histories and experiences of African Americans, our program has always been comparative, looking at race, culture, immigration and politics in a global and cross-cultural context. Issues of sex and gender are also crucial to our Program since difference, diversity and inclusion are what have oriented our research and modes of expression far in advance of the current demand for expertise in those topics.

Today, students who enroll in the MA program are required to take eight total courses towards completion of the degree —a core course in African American History; a critical methods course entitled “Black Thought”; a seminar in Ethnic, Race and Minority Relations; and five electives. The electives can be taken in a variety of disciplines, from faculty who hail from departments across the university, including History, English, Art History, American Studies, African Studies, Political Science, Economics, Ethnomusicology and Sociology. In addition, the program has worked to create strong connections with other schools at the university, including the College of Communication, the Wheelock School of Education and the renowned Initiative on Cities with its global focus on urban studies, culture and politics. African American Studies enables students to identify a particular focus or theme, work intimately with faculty advisors from these different backgrounds, and produce a final thesis that represents that work, followed by a public defense of the project.

The program runs a lecture series through the academic year that regularly hosts innovative and significant figures in the worlds of thought, activism, art and media, figures of such great impact that we’ve become notable as a center of ideas and debate across campus. In addition, we regularly hold symposia and conferences that investigate the many dimensions of race, gender, immigration and Black experiences worldwide. Graduate students in the program not only have the opportunity to attend these programs but also to interact with these nationally and internationally renowned figures. Students are highly encouraged to gain experience by helping to initiate, plan and implement these and other program events.

The Masters program in African American Studies offers the best of both worlds: a small program housed in a great research university in an exciting and diverse city and an environment in which students can forge close relationships with faculty. Ours is a truly remarkable program, and this is a truly remarkable time for those involved and those we welcome. Please check us out on Facebook and look through this site for previous events and details of the program. Also, we are happy to communicate with you directly, so feel free to reach out.