What can I do with a degree in African and African-American Studies?

In 1968, San Francisco State University established the nation's first Black Studies department. In 1970, the University of Kansas created the Department of African Studies, which became African and African-American Studies in 1986. Like any department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas, our goal is to prepare students to succeed in a wide range of professions including the arts, business, education, foreign affairs, medicine, law, science, and the like. Yet we, along with many of the similar African and African American Studies departments around the country, are continually asked:

What can I do with a degree in African and African-American Studies?

In a word . . . Anything.

Robert Fikes, Jr., librarian at San Diego State University, compiled a representative list for the National Council of Black Studies (NCBS), of 150 accomplished professionals who have completed an undergraduate liberal arts major or double major in African, African-American, Africana, or Black Studies. This list only scratches the surface, but as you can see the possibilities are plentiful.


Current United States Ambassador to South Africa
Jendayi Frazer
  • B.A., African American Studies, Political Science, 1985; Ph.D., Political Science, Stanford University
  • Professor Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Special Assistant to President George W. Bush; former Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, 2001-04
TV Reporter/Producer
Haven Daley
  • B.A., African American Studies and Journalism, Pennsylvania State University , 1993
  • M.A., Broadcast Journalism, Northwestern University
  • Member of the Native American Journalists Association; ex-officio board member of the Radio and Television News Directors Association
  • Reporter/Producer at PBS TV39
Documentary Film Producer
David Van Taylor
  • B.A., African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard University , 1991
  • Film credits include the , "Ghost of Attica" (2001, winner of DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, (the "broadcast Pulitzer"); Local News, a five-hour PBS series exploring racial politics behind the scenes of a TV news room; and "Caught In The Crossfire": Arab-Americans in Wartime.
Broadcast Journalist
Ray Saurez
  • B.A., African History, New York University , 1978
  • M.A., Urban Affairs, University of Chicago , Chicago , IL
  • Senior Correspondent, Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) "Jim Lehrer's News Hour"; former host of National Public Radio (NPR) news program "Talk of the Nation." A longtime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; and a founding member of the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Local Government
Peter A. Shapiro
  • B.A., summa cum laude, Afro-American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, 1994
  • Served two terms on the Prince George 's ( Virginia ) County Council, representing District 2
  • Awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship for excellence in leadership and public service. Edited A History of National Service in America (1994) .
Science & Technology
Mae Jemison
  • B.A., African and African American Studies; B.S., Chemical Engineering, Stanford University , 1977
  • M.D., Cornell University School of Medicine, 1981
  • Speaks fluent Swahili, Russian and Japanese. Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia , West Africa .
  • Dr. Jemison was the first woman of color to travel into space aboard the shuttle "Endeavor".
Electrical Engineering
Kimani C. Toussaint, Jr.
  • B.A., African Studies; B.S., Physics and Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania , 1996
  • M.S., Electrical Engineering, 1999; Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, Boston University , 2004
  • U.S. patent pending for his research in quantum ellipsometry
  • Currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago
Museum Director
Thelma Golden
  • B.A., African American Studies and Art History, Smith College , Northampton , MA
  • Deputy Director for Exhibition and Programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem . Writer of books and articles on American art.
Assistant Professor
Naomi Pabst
  • B.A., summa cum laude, African American & African Studies and English, University of Minnesota, 1993
  • Ph.D., History of Consciousness, University of California , 2000
  • 2001 - 2002 recipient of the Woodrow Wilson and W.E.B. DuBois fellowships, Harvard University .
  • 2003 Assistant Professor, African-American Studies, Yale University
Political Cartoonist
Aaron McGruder
  • B.A., African American Studies, University of Maryland , College Park , 1998
  • Cartoonist, writer and creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip "The Boondocks."
  • 2002 NAACP Image Award recipient
Poet Laureate
Devorah Major
  • B.A., Black Studies, San Francisco State University, 1975
  • Former librarian, San Francisco African American Historical Society
  • Named the third Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2002. She is also a trained actress and dancer.
Civil Rights Activist & Playwright
Endesha Ida Mae Holland
  • B.A., African American Studies, 1979; Ph.D., American Studies, University of Minnesota, 1986
  • National Lorraine Hansberry Award Recipient, 1981
  • Pulitzer Prize nominated play, From The Mississippi Delta, (1997)
  • Profiled in Juan Williams' Voices of the Civil Rights Movement (2004)
Award Winning Novelist
Gloria Naylor
  • M.A., Afro-American Studies, Yale University, 1983
  • National Book Award Recipient for The Women of Brewster Place (1982)
  • Guggenheim Fellow and National Endowment Fellow
  • Has taught at Penn, Cornell, and the University of Kent (England). Established her own multi-media production company.
Activist, Writer & Rap Artist
Lisa Williamson aka "Sista Souljah"
  • B.A. African Studies and American History, Rutgers University
  • Global Student, anti-apartheid activist, volunteer in a medical center in Zimbabwe , and assisted refugee children in Mozambique .
  • Published No Disrespect (1994 ) and the NY Times bestseller The Coldest Winter Ever (2004). Founder Million Women March (1999), Philadelphia. Executive Director of a social program that serves inner city children.
Youth Development
Jonah M. Edelman
  • B.A., summa cum laude, African American Studies, Yale University , 1992
  • Attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, where in three years he earned an M.A. and the Ph.D. in Politics (1995)
  • Executive Director of Stand For Children. Jonah is the son of Marian Wright Edelman, CEO of the Children's Defense Fund.
Yvette Moyo
  • B.A., African-American Studies, Eastern Illinois University
  • President and CEO of Resource Associates International, Ltd.
  • Ms. Moyo has committed her professional life to the positive promotion of African-American culture.
Orthopedic Surgeon
Claudia Thomas, M.D. (First African American Female Orthopedic Surgeon)
  • B.A., Africana Studies, Vassar College, 1971
  • M.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1975
  • Attending physician at Johns Hopkins hospital for twenty years, where she served on admissions committee, actively raised scholarship funds and mentored countless individuals.
  • Recently joined former students in a private practice ( Leesburg , FL) destined to become the largest African American orthopedic surgery practice in the USA .
Judge Richard W. Roberts
  • B.A., cum laude, Black Studies and Political Science, Vassar College , 1974
  • M.I.A., School for International Training, Brattleboro , Vermont , 1978
  • J.D., Columbia University , New York , NY, 1978
  • Appointed by President Clinton (1998) to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia . Previously worked in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Tanya Greene
  • B.A., African American Studies, Wesleyan University, 1991
  • J.D., Harvard University, 1995
  • Attorney in the Capital Defender Office, New York City, representing people charged with capital crimes. Received the 1999 Reebok International Human Rights Award for her work against the death penalty.
Television Media
Bill Whitaker
  • M.A., African History, Boston University, 1974
  • Awarded Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 1997
  • News correspondent reports regularly for CBS Evening News; lead reporter covering the 2000 Presidential Campaign of George W. Bush.
State Leadership
Senator Carl Andrews
  • M.A., African-American Studies, State University of New York, Albany, NY
  • Democratic Senator and Majority Whip. Elected (2002) representing the 20th State Senatorial District, New York State.
  • Senator Andrews became active in the communities of his youth due in large part to inspiration provided by heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

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