University of South Carolina


African American Studies: What to Expect

African American studies majors at the University of South Carolina have the opportunity to pursue their own intellectual interest by working closely with outstanding faculty. You will learn about the history, culture, and contemporary situations of African Americans in South Carolina, the South, the United States, and beyond. The African American studies major is designed for highly motivated and intellectually adventurous students who have a serious interest in learning more about African American life. The program is set apart from other universities by its research specializations in South Carolina’s black communities, particularly in Civil Rights Era, Black Women’s History, and Sea Islands language and literature. As an African American studies major, you will be exposed to exciting and rigorous coursework and develop an understanding of race and the African American experience, as well as the dynamics of the African Diaspora. You can also attend the annual Robert Smalls Lecture Series, which brings leading-edge research in African American studies to the general pubic. Through required coursework, you will be able to develop service-learning experience by applying your knowledge in local civic organizations, public agencies, churches, and institutes of research.

The following courses fulfill some of the course requirements for a Bachelor of Arts with a major in African American studies:

  • Introduction to African American Studies before 1900
  • Introduction to African American Studies after 1900
  • Seminar in African American Studies

Some additional unique and interesting courses offered by the major include:

  • Race and Science Fiction
  • The Anthropological View of Blacks in Film

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. You may also choose to intern, volunteer, or conduct research abroad. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Web site for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of over 400 student organizations. African American studies majors are encouraged to join the African American Studies Student Colloquium. This will give you the opportunity to interact with other students and faculty in social settings, attend scholarly seminars within the discipline, and participate in career development workshops. Getting involved in organizations that interest you can help you network, meet new friends, and develop leadership skills. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. As an African American studies major, you will be able to learn from distinguished faculty who have published notable works. Faculty members include Dr. Todd Shaw, author of Now is the Time!: Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism; Dr. Kimberly Simmons, author of Reconstruction Racial Identity and the African Past in the Dominican Republic; Dr. Qiana Whitted, author of “A God of Justice?”: The Problem of Evil in Twentieth-Century Black Literature; and Dr. Valinda Littlefield, editor of South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times.
Graduate School is one of the many possibilities following graduation. African American studies majors often pursue graduate degrees in law, business, and public health.
Departmental Scholarships may be awarded to outstanding students. Each year the African American Studies Program offers the Grace Jordan McFadden Fellowship to a third year student at USC.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Student Spotlight

African American studies and political science major Hakeem Jefferson had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans to present his research findings at the Southern Political Science Association’s annual meeting. Hakeem conducted undergraduate research through the Magellan Scholars program. His research project was entitled “Implicit Racial Closeness and Support for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election.” He worked alongside Dr. Todd Shaw, Assistant Professor Thomas Craemer from the University of Connecticut, and another undergraduate researcher. His primary duties included assisting in the analysis of online survey data while helping to unpack the results. “I learned the value of statistical data in the social sciences,” he said. “Being able to theorize is important, but it’s even better when data can support your theory.” Hakeem said the courses he took while at the University helped him become more intellectually curious, which proved beneficial during his research experience. “Dr. Shaw and others had inspired in me a desire to ask tough questions, and quite frankly, that’s what research is all about,” he said. Hakeem was able to develop additional skills during his experience. “Being engaged in undergraduate research allowed me to hone my verbal and written communication skills, helped me better understand statistical analyses, and made me a much better student overall,” he said. Hakeem encourages current students to take advantage of undergraduate research opportunities while at Carolina. “Talk to professors about the work they’re doing,” he suggests. “Think about tough questions you are interested in asking and then apply for the Magellan Scholars undergraduate research grant.”

Career Opportunities

African American studies majors often pursue careers in education, politics, law, and business. Many graduates also go on to get careers in public health, social work, tourism, non-profit management, and the arts. Graduates often receive a salary of $35,000 and $50,000 within the first five years following graduation.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the African American Studies Program

The African American Studies Program at the University focuses on academic strengths that include black political and social movements, African-American literature, and comparative cultural anthropology. The program also features an annual Robert Scott Smalls Lecture Series that brings nationally-renown scholars and researchers in African American studies to the general public. The African American Studies Program is in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Additional Resources
African American Studies Website
College of Arts and Sciences Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin