African American studies examine the unique experiences of African-descended people living in the North American colonies and the United States from the 17th century to today.

Students who take courses in this area acquire a special skill set that will enable them to critically interrogate their own experience, as well as the world around them.

The degree program also provides valuable background for careers in areas such as community work, public school teaching, religion, government, political science, and law.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa’s African American Studies Program features a broad-based curriculum and faculty who specialize in a wide range of topics. Because it is a small program, there are many opportunities for individualized attention.

The department formed in 1969 with courses intended to foster awareness of the role of African Americans in the development of the United States. Courses also were designed to promote understanding of the conditions and concerns of African Americans. Since then, the curriculum has grown and has become more comprehensive.

Course Work

Because a thorough understanding of the African American experience cannot be achieved through study restricted to the perspective of a single discipline, all students are required to pursue courses in the humanities, social sciences, and performing arts. 

The curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in African American studies begins with two introductory courses: Foundations in African American Studies and either Introduction to African American Society (for students with a social science focus) or Introduction to African American Culture (for those with a humanities focus).

Then you'll take two courses in each of these core areas, plus some elective course work:

  • History, religion, and the diaspora
  • Literature and performing arts
  • Media, politics, and social institutions

See African American Studies in the UI General Catalog to learn more about course requirements and graduating with honors.

Minor in African American Studies

See African American Studies in the UI General Catalog.

Admission Requirements

Students in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The African American Studies Program sponsors activities that enrich the community’s social, cultural, and intellectual experiences. One of these is the Darwin Turner Action Theatre, a social outreach group that focuses on African American dramatic literature.

Also, the Afro-American Cultural Center on Melrose Avenue serves as a museum and library of educational and cultural artifacts and exhibits of black culture, providing cultural enrichment for Iowa City and knowledge aimed at promoting interracial understanding.

The center features programs and services to meet the needs of African American studies majors, including conferences, workshops, forums, film series, and discussion groups; private rooms for confidential consultations; study areas; computers; a library; employment listings; and social areas.

Study Abroad

The African American Studies Program posts notices of study abroad opportunities of special interest to its students. Links with universities in Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Mexico give you the chance to study in those areas.

The UI Office for Study Abroad offers a wide variety of programs in many countries.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

African American studies are interdisciplinary, drawing faculty from American studies; communication studies; education; English; gender, women's, and sexuality studies; history; journalism and mass communication; therapeutic recreation; religious studies; rhetoric; sociology; and theatre arts.


The African American studies major provides valuable background for careers in a diverse society, in areas such as community work, public school teaching, religion, government, political science, and law. Some graduates go on to advanced study, many preparing for work as teachers and administrators at colleges and universities.

Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs. 


Consult multiple sources for scholarship information, including the Office of Admissions, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and departmental websites.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


African American Studies (BA)
African American Studies
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan