African American Studies

African American Studies Minor

About the African American Studies Minor

Explore the experiences and global impact of African American people.

People of African descent comprise more than 12% of the U.S. population. PennWest California’s undergraduate minor in African American studies provides an opportunity to look closely at their experiences, traditions and impact on the United States and the world.

Broaden your cultural awareness with this 21-credit minor at PennWest California — the only African American studies minor offered by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, and one of a just handful of similar programs in our region.

Students who select this interdisciplinary minor at PennWest California choose from a broad selection of courses addressing historical, cultural, sociological, political, psychological, literary and artistic factors that affect the lives of African Americans.

This minor program emphasizes intellectual dialogue, research methods and critical analysis — crucial skills that complement any major and are essential in a wide variety of careers.                                                                        

Choose electives that match your interests.                                                 

To complete the African American studies minor, students must take three required courses, then choose four additional electives. The wide variety of course options allows you to study topics that match your personal or academic interests.

While completing the minor, PennWest California students may use these courses to fulfill the multicultural requirement on the general education menu, or the non-Western course requirement for students in specific liberal arts programs, such as history.

Extend learning beyond the classroom.

Students in the African American studies minor are encouraged to enhance their learning by attending presentations and other out-of-class activities. Events such as PennWest California’s annual Hip-Hop Conference connect contemporary African American culture and classroom learning.

Students also may have opportunities to attend conferences or to publish their work in academic journals. The National Council on Black Studies and the African Studies Association, for example, offer publishing opportunities for students.

Program Highlights – African American Studies Minor

Career advantage: Employers in many fields look favorably on job candidates whose academic background includes coursework with a multicultural or diversity focus.  For example, history teachers in the Philadelphia School District may be assigned to teach African American History, a required course for the district’s high school students. The African American studies minor also may be useful for students seeking careers as law enforcement officials, social services providers or employees of multinational corporations.

Internship opportunities: PennWest California’s Internship Center works with students who are seeking faculty-led internships. Opportunities for internships related to the African American studies minor are offered by organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the BET Network. The Explore Microsoft Internship Program, Minority Access Internship Program and Black Enterprise Internships are just a few more options that students can explore.

Frederick Douglass Institute connection: The Frederick Douglass Institute at PennWest California works to create and sustain diversity on campus as part of the State System of Higher Education’s FDI Collaborative. Through ties to this organization, students in the African American studies minor can join the Frederick Douglass Student Debate Society or seek to publish their scholarly work in the FDI Collaborative’s journal, Making Connections.

Learn more about applying

Credits required to complete the minor in African American studies at PennWest California.
Student-to-faculty ratio at PennWest California.
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Benefits of the Minor

Because this minor draws on courses from several disciplines, students in the African American studies program learn the importance of collaboration and inclusiveness. They are encouraged to think critically and analytically as they explore the profound historical and contemporary impact of African Americans on our nation and the world. Students in this minor also build greater competence in writing, public speaking, research, strategic planning and problem solving – skills that benefit students in any field of study.

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Graduate Outcomes

Adding a minor in African American studies demonstrates an interest in learning about heritage and culture. PennWest California graduates can apply this specialized knowledge and cultural awareness in many fields, including education, social work, sociology, counseling, politics and the performing arts. Graduates seeking positions with agencies or nonprofit organizations that serve a multicultural population also benefit from a deeper understanding of African American history and culture.


African American Studies Curriculum



Course Credits
Required Courses 9
HIS 317  African American History to 1877 3
HIS 318  African American History since 1877 3
HIS 380  Readings in African American Studies 3
African American Studies Electives
(Select four courses from the following)
ENG 155  African American Literature 3
HIS 347  Race and Ethnicity 3
HIS 370  Topics in Atlantic History 3
MUS 305  African American Gospel and Caribbean Music: History, Form and Analysis 3
POS 326  The Politics of Africa 3
PSY 320  Black Psychology 3
SOC 210  Social Inequality 3
SOC 315  Social Minorities 3
WST 330  Gender, Race and Media 3
Total 21
Flowers blooming at PennWest California

High demand

Courses in African American Studies are in high demand as individuals of all races, and on many career paths, realize the value of increased knowledge and understanding in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Educators, business leaders, justice professionals, politicians, service providers and many others benefit from education that promotes a commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity. 

The fountain at PennWest California.

International perspective

The African America studies minor has broad appeal for students seeking a global perspective. It explores the African Diaspora – communities around the world that arose during the past 400 years from the movement of people of African descent to the Americas and other locations around the world.