African-American Studies Certificate
Although Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania in 1749, it was not until 1879 that the first African Americans – four young men – entered the University to pursue formal academic study. In spite of the long-standing presence of African Americans on Penn's campus, African Diasporic study remains a relatively new field of inquiry at the University.
A milestone in the development of the African-American Studies Program at Penn occurred in 1968. On February 8th, Theodore Hershberg was chosen to teach the History Department's first course in African-American History, "The Negro in America." At the time, Hershberg was teaching "Controversial Topics in Negro History" as part of an experimental seminar program sponsored by the Daily Pennsylvanian, the University’s student newspaper. During the spring semester of 1969, the course "Black History" was also offered by the History Department. Then, in December of 1970, John Wideman, Associate Professor of English, was appointed chairman of the Black Studies Committee and the Director of the newly-formed African-American Studies Program.
Recognizing the need for an informed, comprehensive and inclusive study of African peoples, the Center for Africana Studies has continued to develop a curriculum that addresses the unique experiences and interconnections of African peoples on the continent, in the Americas and throughout the Diaspora. For 30 years the Center for Africana Studies has sought to provide students with knowledge to understand and critically evaluate the human, cultural, social and economic factors that have helped to create and shape the African-American and other African Diaspora experiences throughout the world. This academic and intellectual mission has become even more significant with the emerging global economy and the increasing social interdependence of nations in the 21st century. Thus, the Center seeks to explore the profound ways in which African peoples have functioned on a global scale and how their experiences have resonated in numerous sites around the world throughout history.
The core of the African-American Studies curriculum and the vast majority of courses are taught by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences. Most courses comprising the curriculum originate in several departments and programs including Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Comparative Literature, English, History, Folklore and Folklife, Linguistics, Music, Political Science, Religious Studies, Romance Languages, Sociology, Urban Studies and Women's Studies. Select courses are also offered through the Graduate Schools of Education, Nursing and Social Work, as well as the Annenberg School for Communication and the Wharton School.
- Five courses with content relevant to African-American issues
- A Capstone Project that addresses aspects of African-American culture, completed as one of the five course unit
- An MLA Proseminar
- Three electives from the MLA curriculum
Students wishing to pursue a certificate in African-American Studies through the Master of Liberal Arts Program should complete an MLA Application.