Perimeter College’s new African-American Studies pathway

In the fall of 2020, Perimeter College introduced a new African-American Studies associate of arts degree program featuring four new courses and combining the expertise of over 20 professors.

This pathway allows students to learn about African-American history and economics, language, sociology, psychology, and literature. The pathway focuses on critical thinking skills, applying knowledge, and understanding how ideas connect.

According to the study pathway’s site, “[the] African-American Studies [program] is the systematic study and exploration of people of African descent in the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and Africa.”

Just two months before Perimeter College introduced the new African-American Studies degree pathway, Georgia State opened the Georgia State Center for Studies on Africa and its Diaspora on the Atlanta campus. According to its official site, the center is a “… hub for the exchange of cultural, scientific, economic, policy and humanities knowledge.”

Georgia State joins 126 colleges as it emphasizes teaching Black history but still lags far behind many other colleges. The first African American studies program in the 1960s was started thanks to a group of student activists.

Despite their rich history, African-American studies programs struggle to find their footing. Since 2016, only a few students around the nation have earned their Black Studies degrees as the programs suffer from low funding and low interest.  

An Illinois Black Studies program closed its doors after facing fiscal struggles. However, it kept its smaller Black Studies program, which it claims had better enrollment.

“The unique challenges associated with an African-American studies major has more to do with institutions than it does students,” Angela M. Siner, Director of Africana Studies and anthropology programs at the University of Toledo, stated in an interview with Best Colleges

Still, many students don’t choose an African-American Studies degree because they question its applicability. Students fear that there is no clear career pathway for them or that there are no jobs that require their expertise.

The National Council for Black Studies seeks to address those concerns with their 46-page document, “What Can I Do With A Black Studies Degree? 500+ Answers”.

“[African-American Studies graduates] professions range from A (Astronaut) to Z (Zoo administrator),” The National Council for Black Studies’ site claims. “In short, the answer to those asking what can a person do with a Black Studies major is simple […] anything!”

At Georgia State, one option for those students is to continue to achieve their Master’s degree in African-American Studies.

Georgia State’s African-American Studies Master pathway offers two concentrations: the Community Empowerment Track and the Culture and Aesthetics track. Students can take courses ranging from sociology courses like “Black Feminist Thought” to geography courses like “Geography of Africa.”

The department features professors who specialize in “the traditional disciplines of African-American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Social Work and Public Health,” their site states.