Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

Undergraduate Studies in AFAS

About Our Department

The African and African American Studies department offers opportunities for students to explore the social, political and intellectual history as well as the literature, culture and artistic life of the people and places of the African diaspora. Our department, like the field of Africana Studies, is distinguished by a commitment to community-engaged, transformative research, teaching, programming, and service. 

Led by leading scholars in their fields of Africana Studies, Anthropology, History, English, Sociology, Design, and more, the department examines a wide spectrum of experiences and issues and is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary in its approach. Courses are offered in the humanities, the social sciences and the performing arts. Our faculty and students study geographic areas throughout East, West and Central Africa, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and our departmental programs and initiatives are deeply enaged with St. Louis. 

Students who major or minor in African and African American Studies design a course of study that focuses on either a particular area of interest (e.g., health and wellness; arts and culture; global studies) or a more comprehensive examination of black culture and life. Students also have opportunities to collaborate in faculty research and undertake internships with St. Louis community organizations such as the Missouri Historical Society, the Griot Museum of Black History, and the George B. Vashon Museum. Our summer programs in Kenya and Senegal, as well as class trips and study abroad in other parts of the U.S. and global African Diaspora, can further enrich the student experience. Our alums have achieved success and distinction across a wide spectrum of fields, including the arts, medicine, law, education, science, and many other areas of creative and professional endeavor. 

AFAS Alum '21 Tyrin Truong becomes youngest mayor-elect of hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana

AFAS Alum '21 Tyrin Truong becomes youngest mayor-elect of hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana

Overseas Programs

Alley in Île de Gorée, Dakar, Senegal

Summer in Senegal Program

The summer program to Senegal, West Africa is designed for students who want to build their conversational French language skills, learn more about Francophone West Africa, and experiment with field research. Dakar, Senegal provides the perfect opportunity to explore themes in African and Francophone studies because of its geographical space and unique history. Geographically, Dakar naturally opens itself to the wider world, as reflected in its history, its role in the former French empire, its religious landscape, and its current relationships with other countries. Senegal, very proud of its place as an intellectual center, is the epicenter of many artistic and cultural movements. The program is intended to accommodate individual student interests and may therefore appeal to students with interests in African Studies, French, Anthropology, International and Area Studies, Public Health, History, Women’s Studies and Political Science.

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Summer in Kenya Program

Washington University's Summer Program in Kenya is a dynamic program in language and culture offering four weeks of full immersion in the central region of the country: Nairobi, Rift Valley, Mt. Kenya area, and the coast (subject to confirmation). This program is designed to enhance a student’s understanding of Kenyan society by carefully blending coursework, home stays, community conservation projects through the Green Belt Movement, guest lectures, and memorable excursions. The program is intended to accommodate individual student interests and may therefore appeal to students who major in African Studies, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Education, Kiswahili, Women’s Studies and Political Science.

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The WashU & Slavery Project

The WashU & Slavery Project is an initiative through the global consortium of Universities Studying Slavery currently led by AFAS Professor Geoff Ward. There are many ways for AFAS and other students to become involved in the initiative, including related courses, internships, and paid research assistance. Follow the link below to learn more about this university initiative and ways you can become involved.

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Majoring in African and African American Studies

When you decide to become an AFAS major, second major or minor, we will work with you to select an advisor who fits your interests in terms of fields and areas of study. This faculty member should sign your declaration form no later than the beginning of the second semester of your sophomore year. With guidance from your advisor, you will design a specific course of study. This includes determining which advanced courses you should take to fulfill AFAS requirements as well as your areas of interest. You will also discuss with your advisor other opportunities as it relates to the major, such as AFAS-based community internships, summer study aboard (in Kenya or Senegal), a senior honors thesis plan, and independent study with a faculty member.

Introductory Required Courses

  • 255 Introduction to Africana Studies (TH, SD, CD)
  • 1002 Foundations in African & African American Studies

Senior Requirement (Majors and 2nd Majors)

AFAS 401 Senior Seminar is a culminating experience that gives you an opportunity to meet with other seniors and exchange ideas. The overriding goal is to summarize and integrate your learning within AFAS and make connections between academic learning and the real world, or your post-graduation plans. You will complete a capstone project that brings together your specific interests into final piece. Students writing senior honors thesis can use their thesis as their capstone.

Distribution of Remaining Courses

  • A minimum of one additional course (any level) and six additional advanced (300/400) level courses (does not include Senior Seminar) are required for the major or second major.
  • One Semester of language (Swahili, Wolof, or approved language)
  • Four advanced (300/400) level courses in Focus Area
  • Four additional electives


The Honors program in AFAS is open to majors in African and African American Studies who have strong academic records. Students usually have an overall grade point average of at least 3.65. Application to the program should be made to the undergraduate committee as early as possible in the junior year.

To help expedite the process, you should talk with the faculty member you wish to have supervise your work, and obtain their agreement to be your thesis supervisor. Then complete a proposal form, setting out what you plan to do for your thesis, naming your thesis advisor, and enclosing a copy of your transcript. The proposal form and transcript should be submitted to the Chair of African and African American Studies no later than May 1 of your junior year.

Upon admission to the program, you should find 2-3 outside readers who will agree to be on your committee. They will hear your defense of your thesis. Their recommendations will determine what is contained in your final draft of your thesis.

Minoring in African and African American Studies

To complete the minor in African and African American Studies (AFAS), a student needs 18 credit hours of AFAS course study. These include:

Two Introductory Required Courses

  • 255 Introduction to Africana Studies (TH, SD, CD) - 3 credits
  • 1002 Foundations in African & African American Studies - 1 credit

Additional Courses Based or Cross-Listed in AFAS

  • One additional course (any level) 
  • Four additional advanced level (300/400 level) courses

Note: to count a cross-listed course towards the AFAS major or minor, you have have to register for the course through the AFAS course designation.

My time in AFAS provided me with a family that kept me focused and motivated throughout my time at WashU. There was an abundance of resource sharing and support from both students and faculty. My time in AFAS also encouraged me to ask questions and challenge the erasure of Blackness in other areas of study. AFAS gave me a second home while at WashU, and continues to keep me rooted today.

―Ashley ThompsonClass of 2021, double major in Political Science and AFAS with a minor in Sociology. She is currently a second-year law student at Stanford Law School.

Still wondering what one can do with a degree in African and African American Studies?

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