Africana Studies

Academic Department Introduction

We acquaint students with a critical perspective on the Africana world, found primarily in Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, but also among peoples of African descent in Asia and Europe. Our program of study examines movements such as Negritude, Garveyism, pan-Africanism, the Civil Rights Movement, decolonization, Black consciousness, Black identities, and Black feminism. Through courses in history, literature, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, religion, and the creative arts, students examine the African world and the relationship between Africana people and the larger world system.

Practical hands-on experience is an important complement to the classroom. We encourage students to participate in conferences, colloquia, field trips, study abroad programs, and internships in professional or governmental programs, such as the Black Caucus and the United Nations programs.

Learning goals

  • Understand and communicate the concepts, theories, and knowledge of Africana studies from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • Understand the discourses of the African diaspora through a variety of disciplines.

Programs of Study

Africana major and minor

Students develop and synthesize knowledge of Africana world issues.

Course Highlights

  • With readings, documentary films, discussions, and lectures, this course will examine the complex spiritual beliefs and expressions of peoples of African descent in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and North America. The course surveys African diasporic religions such as Candomble, Santeria, Voodoo, Shango, and African American religions. Attention will be paid to how diasporic Africans practice religion for self-definition, community building, and sociocultural critique, and for reshaping the religious and cultural landscapes of the Americas. (AFR 242 and REL 214 are cross-listed courses.)
  • Why is it that although the majority of cocoa is grown in Africa the most expensive chocolate is made in Europe? Why is it that the average cocoa farmer lives in poverty or earns just $2,000/year when the wealthiest chocolate and candy families are worth more than $10 billion? During the course of this semester, we will study the supply chain from natural resource extraction to final project and investigate the politics that allow for inequalities as well as the progress that has been made. Therefore, this course will examine the sociohistorical legacy of chocolate, with a delicious emphasis on the eating and appreciation of the so-called “food of the gods.” Interdisciplinary course readings will introduce the history of cacao cultivation, the present-day state of the global chocolate industry, the diverse cultural constructions surrounding chocolate, and the implications for chocolate’s future in terms of scientific study, international politics, alternative trade models, and the food movement. Assignments will address pressing real-world questions related to chocolate consumption, social justice, responsible development, honesty and the politics of representation in production and marketing, hierarchies of quality, and myths of purity. (AFR 304 and POL3 302 are cross-listed courses.)

Research highlights

  • Professor Kellie Carter Jackson stands at a podium and speaks at a Harambee House event.

    Professor Kellie Carter Jackson’s current projects include We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance (Basic Books, 2024), which examines the multiple ways Black people have combated white supremacy, from the Haitian Revolution to the present, and two podcasts with Radiotopia: This Day in Esoteric Political History and You Get a Podcast!

  • Two students stand next to a research poster with images of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama on it. Both students are smiling.

    Professor Chipo Dendere is researching how some of Africa’s first ladies have influenced national policy-making; her investigations will culminate in a forthcoming book. Hailey Lunceford ’26 assisted with research as a 2023 SSSRP fellow.

  • Layli Maparayan sits on a wooden chair and gesticulates while she speaks to another person who is barely seen on the right side of the picture.

    Wellesley Centers for Women Executive Director and Professor Layli Maparyan is one of the world’s foremost experts on womanism and has played a key role in building and defining the field. Her forthcoming book, Womanism Rising (University of Illinois Press), is a collection of new essays and artwork by emerging womanist scholars and visual artists.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Our graduates are prepared for graduate schools and careers in such fields as education, health care, finance, journalism, law, and city planning. Recent employers include Marc Jacobs, Bank of America, and Boston University.

For more

The Griot

The Griot is our Africana Studies Department newsletter that focuses on faculty and students throughout the year. We hope you enjoy the articles.

Department of Africana Studies

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Kellie Carter Jackson
Department Chair