Courses & Requirements

Read the Africana Studies academic requirements and courses in the Vassar College Catalogue.

Download the Africana Studies academic requirements as a 60KB PDF.

Courses in the Spotlight

AFRS-228.51: From the Page to the Stage: Turning Black Literature into Black Drama

Offered in Spring 2022

This course will explore the dramatic possibilities of 20th-century canonical black literature by means of critical reading, critical writing, and critical performance. Students will examine key novels and poems in their historical context paying attention to the criticism and theory that have shaped their reception. They will then attempt to transform parts of these texts into scenes as informed by past and present theories of performance and theatre-making. Their work will culminate in a public performance of the pieces they have conceived.

AFRS-282.51: Rebel Routes

Offered in Spring 2022

Thinking through concepts like the politics of refusal, marronage, fugitivity, and abolition, this course explores the underground, overground, aquatic, visible, invisible, symbolic, and material paths Black people have considered—and taken—in the fight for liberation. With a particular focus on the postwar era, the course considers the ideas that animated solidarities across a multiplicity of geographies. Denisse Andrade.

AFRS-387.51: Inside and Out: Carceralities Beyond Prisons

Offered in Spring 2022

This course is structured as a workshop where students “map” out the carceral landscapes beyond the institutional walls of prisons and other similar structures that hold bodies in captivity. The course critically considers all the formal and affective structures that make up the landscapes of unfreedom. In order to “map,” we pay close attention to the role of visuality and representation, while at the same time delving into questions of environmental justice, immigration, feminist and gender theory, disability studies, technologies of surveillance, and aesthetics, among others. Denisse Andrade.

AFRS-276-01: How to Write A Black Memoir

Offered in Fall 2021

There have been moments in American history wherein there was a felt need among African-Americans to commit their life stories to print and circulate them among the public. The period before the Civil War and the decade surrounding the Civil Rights Act stand as the most prominent.

Black life writing, however, has remained a persistent expressive practice from the 18th century to the present…the genre has often functioned in ways both direct and not as means of combating the scurrilous claims about black character that supported white supremacy. These concerns continue to inspire writing in the present day, but are accompanied by an array of other issues such as sexuality, familial trauma, health and wellness, and wealth and poverty.

This intensive, focused on black writing, will pursue the dual objectives of critical reading and creative writing. Several accomplished black life writers will visit campus (virtually) to talk about their experiences with the genre.

My hope is for students to become familiar with the codes, tropes, and techniques of life writing well enough to understand them, analyze them and put in practice what they understand.

Study Abroad

In addition to its offerings on the Vassar campus, and a major and a correlate sequence, the program also has opportunities for study at American historically black institutions and for foreign study in Africa and the Caribbean through the college’s study abroad options.

To see the schedule of classes, go to Ask Banner Schedule of Classes, select AFRS Africana Studies in the “Department Menu,” and choose the semester you are interested in for a complete listing of courses offered.

Academic requirements and courses are listed in the Vassar College Catalogue.

Student Research and Travel Grants

The Africana Studies Program offers research and travel grants of up to $500, per academic year, to majors in Africana Studies. Research funds may be used to support travel and/or the purchase of books, supplies and materials related to preliminary or ongoing thesis research. Funds may also be used to travel to conferences to present a paper or poster.

To apply for funding, Africana Studies Program majors should email a 1–2 page research proposal, indicate the name of the Africana faculty who is advising the research, and provide a detailed budget outlining the proposed usage of the funds to Primavera Ward. We strongly encourage you to consult with your Africana Studies advisor as you prepare your proposal.

Completed applications will be reviewed twice a year; submission deadlines are November 30, 2021, and April 5, 2022.

*Grants cannot be used for expenses already incurred.


  • Africana Studies Major

Correlate Sequences

  • Africana Studies Correlate Sequence
  • Arabic Language and Culture Correlate Sequence
  • Prison Studies Correlate Sequence