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About the Department

Founded in 1970, the Department of African and African-American Studies (AAAS) provides an interdisciplinary space at the University of Kansas for studying historical and contemporary relationships among African and African-descended people. As a community of scholars and teachers, AAAS offers learning experiences for students to enrich their knowledge of African people on the Continent, as well as people of African descent in the Americas. Our academic wings span the humanities, the social sciences, and some professional fields. The Department’s areas of emphasis include art and culture; religion and rhetoric; families, gender and sexuality; and political economy. AAAS boasts concentrations in African Studies, African-American Studies, Arabic and Islamic Studies, and Haitian/Caribbean Studies at the B.A., B.G.S., and M.A. levels. 

In addition to our Undergraduate Major and Master’s Program, AAAS has an Undergraduate Minor and Graduate Certificate. As part of our mission of developing students’ cultural literacy from pan-Africanist, African-centered and Diasporic perspectives, the Department coordinates several languages: Amharic, Arabic, Kiswahili, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Somali, and Wolof, supported by Study Abroad opportunities. The Department also draws strength and vitality from two allied centers and an institute: the Kansas African Studies Center, the Langston Hughes Center, and the Institute of Haitian Studies.

Through scholarship, teaching, campus and community service, and public programming, the Department reflects intellectual and pedagogical practices that recognize the complexity and multiplicity of human experiences; promote critical thinking and creative problem-solving; and expand our understandings of citizenship in a rapidly changing multiracial, global society. Our core courses include “Introduction to African History,” “Introduction to African-American Studies,” “Islamic Literature,” “The Black Experience in the Americas,” “African Traditional Religion and Thought,” “Language and Culture in Arabic-Speaking Communities,” and “Field Experience.”  AAAS elective courses include “The Civil Rights Movement,” “African Theatre and Drama,” “Women and Islam,” “African-American Culture,” “Migration and Development in Africa,” “An Island Divided: Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” “Race, Sports, and Society,” “Unveiling the Veil,” “The Rhetoric of Black Americans,” and “Black Leadership.”

Given the breadth and depth of all that we offer, and the fact that we function genuinely as both an African and African-American studies unit, AAAS is the only department of its kind at a public or private university in Kansas and among the Big XII institutions. We demonstrate that a robust racial/ethnic and area studies presence attracts and retains a diverse faculty and student body, creates inclusive learning environments for the campus, produces lifelong learners, and supports KU’s leadership in delivering a dynamic, forward-looking Liberal Arts education that (1) encourages an appreciation of different ways of knowing; and (2) prepares informed and productive citizens in Kansas, the region, the nation, and the globalizing community of the twenty-first century.

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KU announces first Diversity Leadership Awards
Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Langston Hughes Center received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a June 2017 summer institute for high school teachers, entitled "Teaching the 'Long Hot Summer' of 1967 and Beyond."  The project will be led by Shawn Alexander, Clarence Lang, and John Rury.

Teresa Leslie-Canty, AAAS Lecturer and a Topeka High School teacher, nominated by her students in February, won a free Nissan Versa Tuesday night as the KSNT News and Capital City Nissan of Topeka “Teacher of the Year”. Teresa Leslie-Canty was previously the February “Teacher of the Month” after being nominated by 13 of her students.

Professor Jessica Gerschultz has been awarded the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. The Fellowship is for her book project, Decorative Arts of the Tunisian Ecole: Fabrications of Modernism, Gender, and Class in Tunisia (1948-1972).

African and African-American studies professor Professor Beverly Mack wins inaugural engaged scholarship award

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Professor Dorthy Pennington was inducted into the Central States Communication Association Hall of Fame (April 2015)

Student Spotlight

Second year AAAS MA student, Caroline Kastor is also a professional athlete.  This summer Caroline, former KU soccer standout, signed with FC Kansas City and topped off her rookie season by helping lead the organization to their second straight National Women’s Soccer League championship on October 1, 2015.

Previous Student Spotlight »

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