Undergraduate Program

Students at 2024 Graduation


The Africana studies undergraduate major and minor prepare students for a broad range of academic and professional careers in both the public and private sectors. Africana studies has a history of shaping students' intellectual discipline, creativity, and social and political awareness.  The program also assists students interested in advanced graduate study for:

  • Teaching and research
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Public policy analysis and administration
  • Social work
  • Community development
  • International affairs and development

Each semester, Africana studies offers approximately 23 graduate and undergraduate courses examining the African, African-American and Caribbean peoples in the areas of history, sociology, political economy, Swahili and Yoruba language, music, literature, visual arts, education and gender studies.

Major Requirements

A major in Africana studies requires at least 10 Africana studies (ASRC) courses with a grade of C or better, distributed as follows:    

  • Introduction to Africana studies
  • Three courses, each of which falls under one of the following categories (at the 2000-level):  African, African-American, Caribbean or other diaspora studies
  • Four courses: To generate a more specific focus, choose up to two topics that fall within the African diaspora from the following: history, literature, politics, popular culture, race and inequality, or gender and sexuality and take two courses in each of the chosen topics (at the 3000-level)
  • Two seminar courses (at the 4000-level)

Minor Requirements

A minor concentration in Africana studies requires at least five Africana studies (ASRC) courses with a grade of C or better distributed as follows:    

  • Introduction to Africana studies
  • Three courses, each of which falls under one of the following categories (at the 2000-level) African, African-American, and Caribbean, or other diaspora studies
  • One course on history, literature, politics, popular culture, race and inequality, or gender and sexuality within the African diaspora (at the 3000-level)


An honors designation from the Africana studies program requires a 3.5 grade point average in Africana studies courses and a 3.0 grade point average overall.  In addition, the student must also:

  • Select an honors thesis chair and minor member
  • Submit a written request to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, by April of junior year, requesting to write an honors thesis

If request is granted, the honors thesis will be evaluated by the honors committee and the degree of honors to be awarded will be determined.

You will receive one of three honors designations: highest honors, high honors or honors.

This option is only available for students pursuing an Africana studies major.

African Language Program


Why Learn Swahili?

  • It is a Bantu language that emerged mainly as a result of the historical interaction between the coastal people and Arab traders in East Africa.
  • It is widely spoken in the East and Central parts of Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo and South Sudan).
  • It is the official and national language in Tanzania.
  • It is regarded as the national language in Kenya.
  • More than 60 million people speak Swahili all over the world.
  • Due to its popularity, it is used as an official language of instruction in Africa Union meetings, and it has become the most taught African language in America, Asia and Europe.
  • It is also a community of people who have maintained the Swahili culture from beginning of times.
  • By learning Swahili, you will indirectly learn about the Swahili culture, which defines the nature of the language.

Instructor: Happiness Bulugu, Africana Studies & Research Center, Tel: (607) 254-6341, Email: hpb36@cornell.edu


Why Learn Yoruba?

  • It is a major West African language that has influenced African American cultures.
  • It is spoken by about 30 million West Africans.
  • It has influenced religious and cultural practices in the United States, Brazil, Cuba and South America.
  • It is the language of research and memory in the Americas.
  • You will produce your own Yoruba video here in Cornell as part of your individual project.
  • It is an African language with a variety of both textual and interactive technology learning resources.
  • You will have the opportunity to work directly with your professor. 
  • You will have the opportunity to get a job in government and private agencies that require the knowledge of a less commonly taught language.

Instructor: Adeolu Ademoyo, Africana Studies & Research Center, Tel: 607-254-6341, Email: aaa54@cornell.edu


Why Learn IsiZulu?

  • It is the most widely spoken language in the Southern African region.
  • It is an official language of South Africa.
  • After learning to speak and listen to IsiZulu, you will be trained to communicate in everyday situations.
  • You will learn the significant status of the Zulu language and culture in contemporary multilingual South Africa.
  • You will learn the language from a set of web-based learning materials that features Zulu-speaking students and families in South Africa.

Instructor: Sandra Sanneh, Yale University African Language Program, Email: sandra.sanneh@yale.edu


Why Learn Arabic?

  • It is the national language of twenty countries, including those in which Western civilization was born.
  • It is the native language of approximately 300 million people.
  • It is the liturgical language of more than one billion Muslims.
  • It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
  • Arabic has a rich literary, poetic and scholarly tradition.
  • It plays a vital role in today's global political and economic landscape.
  • Manny common words in English and other European languages derive from Arabic.
  • The Arabic writing system is at the heart of an entire art form.
  • Along with its sister Semitic languages, Arabic is built on a unique linguistic system known as root and pattern morphology.
  • Arabic exemplifies a sociolinguistic pattern known as diglossia, involving a complex relationship between literary and spoken forms of the language.

Instructors: Yomna H. Chami (Near Eastern Studies), Email: yhc22@cornell.edu and Munther A. Younes (Near Eastern Studies), Email: may2@cornell.edu


Why Learn Wolof?

  • It is an African language that is widely spoken in West Africa in countries such as Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.
  • It is the most widely spoken language in Senegal.
  • It is an important historical and contemporary link between the African-American experiences and West Africa.
  • It has influenced some West European languages.
  • Banana is a Wolof word and it is also an English word! Study Wolof, know Africa and know the world!

Instructor: Mariame Sy, Columbia University, African Studies, Email: sms2168@cornell.edu