Professor Darko Opoku in class.
Program Overview

Africana Studies

Pursue an expansive, socially-relevant field of study.

Professor Darko Opoku teaches African Politics through the First-Year Seminar Program.
Photo credit: Matthew Lester

Pursue an Interdisciplinary, Timely Field of Inquiry

One of the first programs of its kind at a liberal arts college, Oberlin’s Africana Studies Department continues to be at the forefront of academic engagement with the history, cultures, politics, and experiences of African-descended peoples. Students explore key aspects of Black life in Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, Europe, and the Americas. Our majors are future creatives and change-agents who know that it is not enough to understand the world, one must also contribute to its growth and change.

A Dynamic Artistic and Intellectual Hub

Africana studies partners with the Afrikan Heritage House and student-led groups to host lectures, readings, performances, fashion shows, screenings, discussions and dinners to weave together a broader community of students, staff, faculty and residents of Oberlin. With the support of faculty, our majors write and direct plays, organize educational programs, speak at professional conferences, study abroad throughout the world, and make their voices heard across multiple media. With Oberlin’s history of admitting women and Black students, the college’s Africana studies community exemplifies a constant and ongoing process to realize its founding ideals.

Over eight Africana student organizations on campus
Explore Oberlin’s Africana student organizations
One in three Oberlin students takes an Africana studies class

Step into a Community

The Afrikan Heritage House serves as a center of Black culture and student life on campus, hosting a broad range of activities designed to advance community-wide knowledge of Africana heritage, including soul sessions, art shows, poetry readings, and the Kuumba (Creativity) festival.

Students smiling as they gather outside the Afrikan Heritage House.

Featured Courses

AAST 101

Introduction to Africana Studies

An interdisciplinary exploration of key aspects of Black history, culture, and life in Africa and the Americas. The course attempts to provide students with a fundamental intellectual understanding of the universal Black experience as it has been described and interpreted by humanists and social scientists. Included in the course will be such topics as the Africana Studies movement, the African heritage of Afro-Americans, Pan-African relations, racism and sexism, the family, the role of religion in Black life, class structure and class relations, the political economy of African American life, and Black political power.

Taught by
Justin Emeka ’95
AAST 131

Traditional African Cosmology and Religions: Shifting Contours and Contested Terrains

This class explores how African Cosmology (the conception of the origin and nature of the universe) helps to frame the understanding of Traditional African religions (TAR) and their practices as they have emerged in the history of the African continent. It examines the underlying nature of African Religious thought and the role and function of myth and ritual in these religions. The class will investigate indigenized Islam and Christianity as well as western modernity.

Taught by
Darko Opoku
AAST 249

Afrofuturism: Black to the Future

When Octavia Butler and Charles Delaney coined ‘speculative fiction’ as a genre that challenged the absence of Black people in conventional science fiction, they presented models for a future where Black people were subjects not excluded from the narrative of American progress. This course examines the emergence of Afrofuturism in 1992 and its application to Black Speculative Fiction in the 20th and 21st centuries as part of an ongoing international dialogue on Black identities.

Taught by
Meredith Gadsby
AAST 278

Playwriting and Performance in the Time of the Black Lives Matter Movement

In this exciting time in the fight for social justice centered on the Black Lives Matters Movement, students will write/create their own original plays and performance pieces responding to current and historical events.  Students from all backgrounds are invited to explore how the worlds of theater and performance are making work steeped in the quest for Black equality in a climate of other great challenges-including works on virtual platforms.

Taught by
Caroline Jackson Smith

Student Profile

Community, Mentoring, and Diversifying Athletics

When Malaïka Djungu-Sungu ’22, a member of the women’s track and field team majoring in economics and Africana studies, became cochair of the Black Student Athlete Group (BSAG), she recognized an opportunity work creatively with her peers to diversify the school’s athletics department.

The Black Student Athlete Group board members having a Zoom meeting.

Confidence in Research

At Oberlin, Morgan Thomas ’19 majored in neuroscience with a minor in Africana studies. Because of Oberlin’s small class sizes and focus on undergraduate students, Thomas gained valuable research skills that she now employs as a research technician in a neurotoxicology lab at Purdue University.

Morgan Thomas.

Early Success as a Playwright

At Oberlin, B.J. Tindal worked closely with professor Caroline Jackson Smith. Fresh out of the graduate program in Writing for the Screen and Stage at Northwestern University, the 2016 graduate returned to campus for the opening of the Oberlin theater mainstage production of What We Look Like, a play he developed his first year at Oberlin.

BJ Tindal.

What does Africana Studies at Oberlin look like?

Students in class.

Students in Professor Darko Opoku’s First Year Seminar on African politics.

Photo credit: Matthew Lester
Pam Brooks in the sitting area of the Africana studies department in Rice Hall.

Professor Pam Brooks researches and teaches courses on the Black Freedom Movement, women’s history, as well as race and the prison industrial complex.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Meredith Gadsby, Gina Perez, and Shelley Lee.

Professors Meredith Gadsby, Gina Perez, and Shelley Lee collaborated on “Sanctuary Practices: Race, Refuge, and Immigration in America,” a StudiOC learning cluster.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Justin Emeka.

Professor Justin Emeka directing The Glass Menagerie reimagined and set in East St. Louis during the turbulence of the early 20th century.

Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko
A student leaving the stage in Warner Concert Hall.

The Black Parent and Family Appreciation ceremony is held every year the Sunday before Oberlin’s Commencement day.

Photo credit: William Bradford
Dancers on stage. A woman gazes into a handheld mirror, surrounded by others in colorful costumes.

Students from the Choreography in the Cultural Traditions class perform in the Oberlin Dance Company concert directed by Professor Talise Campbell.

Photo credit: John Seyfried
Students at a patio table outside the Afrikan Heritage House.

The Afrikan Heritage House hosts welcome dinners at the start of each academic year.

Photo credit: Zach Jamieson ’15
Yemko Pryor and their peers.

Oberlin students visit alum Yemko Pryor ’17, now a PhD student at Emory, as part of a Winter Term trip beginning in Memphis and ending in Atlanta, focusing on the Civil Rights era and the arts.

Photo credit: Michael Hartman

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Afrikan Heritage House residents gathered in Saunders lounge.
Photo credit: John Seyfried