Africana Studies Program

Geographical and Interdisciplinary Scope

The Atlantic slave trade resulted in the largest forced migration in human history. It altered every civilization which came in contact with the traffic, including those in Africa. The rise of empires involved in the trade—including Portugal, Britain, France, Spain, and later, the United States—transformed the globe and the course of modern history. At its core, Africana Studies is the study of the historical, cultural, and political legacies left by this world-changing event.  However, Africana Studies gives central attention to the study and perspectives of communities within the African diaspora, from the U. S., the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe to Africa and the Middle East.  For example, students might study Ghanaian Independence, the rebuilding of New Orleans, Caribbean literature, Afro-Latin history or race and the law in the U.S. The program’s geographical scope will also help prepare students for the challenges of an increasingly global world.

To accomplish this, the Africana Studies Program at GW promotes an interdisciplinary, comparative course of study. Students in the program are introduced to methodology from core areas of the humanities and social sciences, such as history, sociology, literature and anthropology. Africana Studies students have gone on to advanced study and careers in a wide array of fields. Public policy, medicine, international affairs, history, education, literature, communication, law, and ethnic studies are just of few of these.

Our Location

Our unique setting in the historically rich and internationally vibrant city of Washington, D.C., allows for a living program which strives to connect the classroom to the larger community.  Many famous black Americans, including Duke Ellington, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison have called D.C home.  Students can engage with the world-class museums D.C. offers, from the National Museum of African Art, the Anacostia Community Museum, The African American Civil War Museum, to the future National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Library of Congress is unmatched for investigating black political history. Howard University's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center boasts a large research collection pertaining to local D.C. history and culture. Our students also benefit from the many national and international non-profit organizations located in the District, such as the TransAfrica Forum and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Meet the Program Director

Jennifer James, Program Director

Director of the Africana Studies Program Jennifer James specializes in African American literature and culture. Her interests include slavery and abolition in the Americas, as well as African American perspectives on war, sustainability, and social justice. She is currently researching the history of family members enslaved by President Andrew Jackson, and the legacy of a 19th century black labor riot.