College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Jun 20, 2024  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Black Studies



Joseph Nelson (Educational Studies & Black Studies), Program Coordinator
Cheryl Sharp, Administrative Coordinator
Deborah B Sloman, Administrative Assistant


Jamal Batts (Black Studies)
Timothy Burke (History)
Désirée Díaz (Spanish)
Anthony Foy (English Literature)
Nina Johnson (Sociology and Anthropology)
Peter Schmidt (English Literature)3
Christine Schuetze (Sociology and Anthropology)
Marshall Smith (French and Francophone Studies)
Valerie Smith (English Literature and Black Studies) 
Edlin Veras (Sociology and Anthropology and Black Studies)
Carina Yervasi (Modern Languages and Literatures, French and Global Studies)

3Absent on Leave, 2023-2024.

The purpose of Black Studies is to introduce students to the history, culture, art, social relationships, and political, religious, and economic experiences of Black people in Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere in the world, and to explore new approaches - in perspectives, analyses and interdisciplinary techniques - appropriate to the study of the Black experience. 
Black Studies has often stood in critical relation to the traditional disciplines. Its scholars have used traditional and nontraditional methodological tools to pursue knowledge that assumes the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora are central to understanding the world accurately. The courses in the Black Studies Program at Swarthmore enhance the liberal arts tradition of the College, acknowledging positivist, comparative, progressive, modernist and postmodernist, postcolonial, and Afrocentric approaches.

First Course Recommendations

  • This course introduces students to the breadth and depth of the discipline in the Black Studies Program, using primary sources. It begins with an examination of current debates that define theory, method, and goals in black studies. It also examines the movement from the more object centered Africana studies to subject- and agentic oriented black studies that occurred as a result of civil rights and anti-colonialist movements in the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe. The course examines the challenges that were levied against traditional academic disciplines with the rise of anti-racist scholarship. It briefly examines the conversation between American, Caribbean, and African postcolonialists, and it allows students to delve into some of black studies’ most current and exciting scholarship, with a focus on the U.S.

The Academic Program

Course Minor

All interdisciplinary minors in Black Studies are required to take BLST 015: Introduction to Black Studies, ordinarily during their first two years, and four additional courses listed in the catalog that earn Black Studies credit. Of these four additional courses, at least one of them must be outside of the departmental major, and no more than one course taken outside of Swarthmore may be counted toward the minor. To be accepted into the minor a GPA of 3.0 in Black Studies related courses is recommended. We strongly advise students to take at least one course in African or African diasporic history.

Honors Minor

Honors minors must meet all requirements of the course minor. Students participating in the Honors Program are invited to define a minor in the Black Studies Program.  Honors minors in Black Studies must complete a two-credit preparation for their honors portfolio to be submitted to external examiners. The following options apply:

1) A two-credit honors thesis written under program supervision,

2) A one credit thesis paired with a BLST course,

3) A two-credit honors seminar that counts toward the BLST Program, or

4) The pairing of two one-credit courses that count toward the BLST Program.

Requirements and Preparation for Honors Minors

The two-credit honors thesis must include work done for the interdisciplinary minor and should entail some unifying or integrative principle of coherence. The Black Studies Committee must approve the proposal for the 2-credit honors thesis, normally during the fall of the student’s senior year.

Work in the Black Studies Program may be represented in the honors portfolio sent to the external examiner by the inclusion of an essay designed to enhance and/or integrate work done in two or more courses, a revised and enriched seminar paper or a term paper from a Black Studies Program course, a video or audio tape of a creative performance activity in dance or music, or other approved creative work.

Special Major

Students preferring more intensive work in Black Studies are welcome to design a special major by consulting with the program’s coordinator, usually during sophomore year. The special major includes the requirements for the minor plus 5 additional credits, one of which usually includes a capstone experience to be decided upon in consultation with the program’s coordinator. Forms for the Special Major are available from the Registrar’s Office and should be filed with the program coordinator and the Registrar’s Office.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

Students may complete a one-credit course thesis (BLST 091) as part of the Black Studies minor or special major.  Permission will be granted only after consultation with the Black Studies coordinator and committee, normally either during the spring of the junior year or in September of the senior year. Students may also do a thesis/culminating exercise as part of another Black Studies course taken during their senior year, but this arrangement must be approved by the Black Studies program beforehand.  

Application Process Notes for the Major or the Minor

Students in any department may add an interdisciplinary minor in Black Studies to their departmental major by fulfilling the requirements stated above. Applications for admission to the Black Studies minor or major should be made in the spring semester of the sophomore year through MYSwarthmore. 

Life After Swarthmore

Students with a background in Black Studies have pursued many different professions after graduation. Some have worked in research, or social service organizations, while others have gone directly to graduate school. Many eventually become teachers or professors. But many others work in broadcasting, arts, journalism, law (including international law), business, finance, politics, or non-governmental organizations. All consider Black Studies to have been an important part of their liberal arts education.

Black Studies Courses

Courses in the Black Studies Program are listed below. Courses of independent study, special attachments on subjects relevant to black studies, and courses offered by visiting faculty that are not regularly listed in the catalog may also qualify for credit in the program, subject to the approval of the Black Studies Committee. Students who wish to pursue these possibilities should consult with the program coordinator.

The following courses may be counted for credit in the Black Studies Program. Descriptions of the courses can be found in each department’s course listings in this catalog.

Film and Media Studies