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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

African American Studies


What does it mean to major in African American Studies?

Study how the African American story helped weave the important fabric of our nation. African American Studies majors select the following areas of specialization: culture, history, or political & social institutions. They choose from among 60 courses in different disciplines, from art history and music, to English and history, to political science and sociology. As the only African American Studies program in Mississippi, students gain a broad understanding of the African American experience as well as skills in social science methodology, research, analysis, writing, and public speaking.


Why is the University of Mississippi a good place to major in African American Studies?

The African American Studies program regularly sponsors research seminars, speakers, films, art exhibits, and conferences. Students may become involved in projects with one of the 12 affiliated faculty or 7 faculty with joint appointments in African American Studies. Our core faculty have research interests that include examining mass incarceration; poetry and creative writing; race and media; minority politics; sports economy; African American history and literature, among others.

Students may also be involved in the UM Slavery Research Group, an interdisciplinary group whose goal is to create new research technologies and provide training for these future historians, curators, archaeologists, genealogists, scholars and interpreters. Recognizing the need for museums, memorials, and historic markers that commemorate slavery, there is insufficient expertise and staffing required to document and create these visitor experiences.


Faculty profile

Shennette Garrett-Scott

Shennette Garrett-Scott, associate professor of history and African American Studies

Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas.  She is a historian of gender, race, and capitalism who focuses on black women in the financial industry.

Dr. Garrett-Scott’s book project, supported by a fellowship year at Princeton University’s Davis Center, was titled “Let Us Have a Bank”: The St. Luke Bank and Race and Gender in U.S. Finance, 1860s-1930s. After the failure of the Freedman’s Bank in 1874, African Americans opened and controlled more than 100 banks before the Great Depression. She examined this period of African American financial innovation through the story of the St. Luke Bank in Richmond, Virginia, which opened in 1903. For more than three decades, Maggie Lena Walker served as president of the bank. She was the first woman of any race to both organize and lead a bank.  Dr. Garrett-Scott places race, gender, and class formation at the center of twentieth-century U.S. finance. The first history of the U.S. financial industry that focuses on black women, her book reveals the ways black women’s savings, spending, and lending practices challenge understandings of success and security, notions of risk, and the possibilities of citizenship.

Why study African American Studies at UM?  “UM offers a unique opportunity for students to explore the black experience in U.S. history, but especially in Mississippi and the Deep South. A quote attributed to William Faulkner, ‘To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi,’ is probably apocryphal, but it does highlight the ways Mississippi is the nation–indeed, the world–writ large. Here you can interrogate the multiple and complex meanings of the past and modern experiences of African Americans in Mississippi, the South, the country, and the world.” – Dr. Garrett-Scott


What can African American Studies majors do after graduation?

Infographic of alumni for AAS programA liberal arts education empowers and prepares students to deal with complexity and change through a broad knowledge of the world. African American Studies majors gain key skills in communication, problem-solving, and working with a diverse group of people. Related careers include education, business, urban planning, law, journalism, non-profit organizations, public policy, and much more.

Our AAS alumni are working in many sectors of the economy, with the top six groups shown in the infographic to the right. The largest percentages are working for non-profits, community services and business and finance firms.


Alumnus Profile

Dr. Brian Foster (BA African American Studies ’11) wrote his honor’s thesis,“Crank Dat Soulja Boy: Understanding Black Male Hip Hop Aspirations in Rural Mississippi,” to examine how young people develop and pursue “non-conventional” aspirations like those centered on rap music production. He considered factors like class, race, neighborhood composition, and socialization practices. He earned the Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and returned to the University of Mississippi as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Southern Studies.

Dr. Foster’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the American Sociological Association; and his writing has appeared in popular publications including CNN and The Washington Post.  Currently, he is writing a book, entitled I Don’t Like the Blues, that focuses on race and community life in the Mississippi Delta.

Why study African American Studies at UM?  “First, the African American Studies program introduced me to faculty who changed my life. Being a first-generation college student is difficult. Being a first-generation, black college student presents a different, even more challenging, set of obstacles. The faculty played an indispensable role helping me navigate those obstacles.  Second, the curriculum introduced me to books and ideas.  I learned to talk, in a meaningful and theoretically sound way, about racism and racial inequality, about gender and sexism. I discovered what literary criticism is, what interdisciplinary scholarship looks like, what my own scholarship could look like. I found I could study and write about black folks in the rural South, about race and hip-hop culture, about my own experiences, and do so in a way that was academically meaningful and stylistically engaging.”—Dr. Foster


Whom should I contact to learn more?

Dr. Ethel Young Scurlock, Director of African American Studies Program, Associate Professor of English, Senior Fellow of the Luckyday Residential College
211 Longstreet Hall
The University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677
(662) 915-5977