Courses & Requirements

The requirements below apply to those students with a 2020-2021 catalog year. Students are required by college policy to follow the major (and minor) requirements found in the catalog in effect at the time they declared their first major. To find your catalog year, please visit your Grades and Academic Records found in myOxy and access the catalog that matches your catalog year.

Black Studies

Overview

Black Studies at Occidental College is a transnational and interdisciplinary study of the history, scholarship, arts and culture of people of the African diaspora. As a heterogeneous and diverse discipline, Black Studies encourages rigorous critical contemplation and debate. It engages with and expands upon the vibrant intellectual tradition of critical engagement already established at the college. Students of Black Studies learn to examine the world and their local communities with an eye to black people's important and sometimes overlooked contributions, and to understand the ways the experiences of people of African descent have shaped and continue to inform campaigns for human rights.

Courses draw from faculty expertise in the fields of Politics, International Relations, English, American Studies, History, Philosophy, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and others. The program explores the conditions and experiences of race in the twenty-first century through a historical study of the enduring traditions of scholarship, activism, and community throughout the African diaspora. Students participate in intersectional analysis of black populations, paying close attention to how class, location, gender, sexuality, have shaped black identities, cultural productions and forms of political engagement both past and present.

Students who major in Black Studies will:

  • Learn about the history and contemporary culture of people in African descent across the diaspora, including the development of foundational ideas and documents for our contemporary understanding of social justice and human rights;
  • Engage in interdisciplinary and intersectional analysis of black communities in the U.S. and abroad, both past and present;
  • Contribute to longstanding discussions about the enduring effects of slavery and colonization, the place of race in conceptions of citizenship and justice, the centrality of people of African descent to major developments (social, artistic, political, and scientific) throughout the world;
  • Experience black communities outside the United States through study abroad;
  • Have the opportunity to get involved in the local community through community-based partnerships in Los Angeles and surrounding communities;
  • Graduate prepared for careers in law, medicine, education, entertainment, international business, and several others that involve communicating with and understanding people across difference and within specific communities.


Major Requirements

The Black Studies major consists of a minimum of 40 units, or ten 4-unit courses.

There are two core required courses for the major, BLST 101 and BLST 490.

There are three Interdisciplinary clusters: expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory. Students are expected to complete six of these, with a minimum of two in each of the three interdisciplinary clusters.

Students must take two additional electives in consultation with the faculty advisor and selected from a list of approved electives or any of the interdisciplinary clusters.

Of the ten required courses, no more than two courses can be at the 100-level, and at least three must be at the 300-level.

No more than two courses taken outside the college (including but not limited to study abroad) may count toward the major. These may only fulfill the elective requirement. Prior approval by the adviser and chair is required.

COURSEWORK

Core Courses

BLST 101Introduction to Black Studies

4 units

BLST 490Black Studies Senior Seminar

4 units

Interdisciplinary Electives

There are three Interdisciplinary clusters: expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory. Students are expected to complete six courses (24 units) across these interdisciplinary clusters, with a minimum of two courses (8 units) in each of the three interdisciplinary clusters.

 

Expressive Forms
BLST 302/RELS 302Spirit Possession

4 units

CTSJ 280Rastafari

4 units

CTSJ 330Ballroom. Renaissance. Pose. Werk.

4 units

ENGL 142Joyful Noise! On Black Literature and Musicality

4 units

ENGL 377Literature and Other Arts

4 units

MUSC 104/BLST 104Music of Africa and the Middle East

4 units

MUSC 105/BLST 105Topics in American Music

4 units

MUSC 111/BLST 111Topics in Jazz History

4 units

RELS 245/BLST 245African American Religious Traditions

4 units

RELS 259/BLST 259Race and Religion

4 units

WRD 245/BLST 201Black Protest Rhetorics

4 units

Students may also apply CTSJ 295 to the expressive forms cluster if they have enrolled in the "Black Popular Culture // The Black Digital Age" section of the course.

Students may also apply THEA 201 to the expressive forms cluster if they have enrolled in "The Black Arts Movement" section of the course.

Historical Perspectives
BLST 242/AMST 242The Great Migration

4 units

BLST 256/AMST 256Race Women: African American Women's Protest Culture

4 units

BLST 268/AMST 268Style Politics: Beauty and Fashion in Black Women's History

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

HIST 207/BLST 207African American History

4 units

HIST 21319th Century Black Activism for Abolition and Equality

4 units

HIST 309/BLST 309Slavery in the Antebellum South

4 units

HIST 312/HIST 312Race, Rights, and Revolution in the Atlantic World

4 units

Politics and Theory
BLST 352/POLS 352Black Political Thought

4 units

CTSJ 386Blackness and Anti-Blackness

4 units

DWA 233/BLST 233African Political Thought

4 units

DWA 234/BLST 234Southern African Politics

4 units

PHIL 321Philosophy of James Baldwin

4 units

POLS 258/BLST 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

POLS 301/UEP 301Urban Policy and Politics

4 units

POLS 347Race and Law

4 units

Students may apply CTSJ 295 to the politics and theory cluster if they have enrolled in the "Blackness, Gender, & Sexuality" section of the course.

Students may also apply CTSJ 395 to the politics and theory cluster if they have enrolled in the "Chattel Slavery and Its Afterlives" section of the course.

Additional Electives

Students must take two additional electives chosen from the list of approved electives below, or any of the interdisciplinary clusters.

CTSJ 255Women of Color Feminisms

4 units

DWA 335Junior Seminar: Theories of Revolution from Africa and the African Diaspora

4 units

EDUC 215/BLST 215Educating African America

4 units

EDUC 320/BLST 320Critical Race Theory in Education

4 units

ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature

4 units

HIST 277/BLST 277Women and Community Health

4 units

POLS 206Race and American Politics

4 units

RELS 244Islamophobia

4 units

Second-Stage Writing Requirement

The Second-Stage Writing Requirement may be fulfilled in one of two ways:

Option 1

A student may complete the Second-Stage Writing Requirement in Black Studies by taking one of the following courses and receiving a grade of B- or better, determined by the instructor of record, on a 15-page final paper focusing on a topic relevant to Black Studies.

BLST 352/POLS 352Black Political Thought

4 units

BLST 355/POLS 355Critical Fanonism

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

Option 2

A student may complete the Second-Stage Writing Requirement in Black Studies by submitting to the chair a portfolio consisting of fifteen pages of writing submitted as a final assignment in a 300-level Black Studies designated course or a course approved by the adviser in which the student has composed a final assignment addressed specifically to the topic of Black Studies. The portfolio may include more than one essay if a single essay is less than fifteen pages in length. The portfolio will be assessed by the adviser in consultation with the chair.

In order to successfully pass the Second-Stage Writing Requirement, submitted essays must exhibit evidence of the following: 

  • Correct use of the conventions of American academic prose including grammar, punctuation, syntax, and vocabulary
  • Proper citation formatting in MLA or Chicago Manual Style, preferably
  • Construction of a compelling and clear thesis or argument
  • Persuasive use of evidence (secondary sources, data, etc.) to support the thesis and related claims
  • Organization of the essay as a whole into a logical sequence with smooth transitions

Essays submitted as part of a portfolio will be assessed against these criteria and graded Acceptable/Unacceptable.

The course or portfolio must be completed by the end of the spring semester during the student's junior year.

Should a student not successfully complete the writing requirement by the end of their Junior year Spring semester, they will be required to submit a revised essay/portfolio to the adviser no later than the fourth week of their senior year fall semester.

Comprehensive Requirement

Students are expected to enroll in the senior seminar (BLST 490) in their senior year in order to develop the work for their comprehensive project. Students will complete their comprehensive requirement by submitting a 25-page paper on a topic relevant to Black Studies.

College Honors

To be eligible for honors, a student must have at least a 3.25 GPA overall and a 3.5 GPA in the major. Additionally, the student will be required to enroll in the senior seminar (currently BLST 490) in their senior year and complete a 40-page paper on a topic relevant to Black Studies. The paper must earn a grade of A- or above which is to be determined by the adviser in consultation with readers and the department chair.

Minor Requirements

The Black Studies minor is a five-course, 20-unit program consisting of one required core class (BLST 101); one elective from each interdisciplinary cluster (expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory (three courses /12 units); and one additional elective chosen from the approved Black Studies courses.

Coursework

Note: No more than three courses from the same department can be counted toward the minor.

Required Core Course

BLST 101Introduction to Black Studies

4 units

Expressive Forms

One course from this category.

BLST 302/RELS 302Spirit Possession

4 units

BLST 346/ENGL 346Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century African American Literature

4 units

CTSJ 280Rastafari

4 units

CTSJ 330Ballroom. Renaissance. Pose. Werk.

4 units

ENGL 142Joyful Noise! On Black Literature and Musicality

4 units

ENGL 377Literature and Other Arts

4 units

MUSC 104/BLST 104Music of Africa and the Middle East

4 units

MUSC 105/BLST 105Topics in American Music

4 units

MUSC 111/BLST 111Topics in Jazz History

4 units

RELS 245/BLST 245African American Religious Traditions

4 units

RELS 259/BLST 259Race and Religion

4 units

Students may also apply CTSJ 295 to the expressive forms cluster if they have enrolled in the "Black Popular Culture // The Black Digital Age" section of the course.

Students may also apply THEA 201 to the expressive forms cluster if they have enrolled in "The Black Arts Movement" section of the course.

Historical Perspectives

One course from this category.

BLST 242/AMST 242The Great Migration

4 units

BLST 268/AMST 268Style Politics: Beauty and Fashion in Black Women's History

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

HIST 207/BLST 207African American History

4 units

HIST 21319th Century Black Activism for Abolition and Equality

4 units

HIST 309/BLST 309Slavery in the Antebellum South

4 units

Politics and Theory

One course from this category.

BLST 258/POLS 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

BLST 352/POLS 352Black Political Thought

4 units

CTSJ 386Blackness and Anti-Blackness

4 units

DWA 233/BLST 233African Political Thought

4 units

DWA 234/BLST 234Southern African Politics

4 units

PHIL 321Philosophy of James Baldwin

4 units

POLS 258/BLST 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

POLS 347Race and Law

4 units

Students may apply CTSJ 295 to the politics and theory cluster if they have enrolled in the "Blackness, Gender, & Sexuality" section of the course.

Students may also apply CTSJ 395 to the politics and theory cluster if they have enrolled in the "Chattel Slavery and Its Afterlives" section of the course.

Additional Electives

One course either from this category or the above categories.

CTSJ 255Women of Color Feminisms

4 units

DWA 335Junior Seminar: Theories of Revolution from Africa and the African Diaspora

4 units

EDUC 215/BLST 215Educating African America

4 units

EDUC 320/BLST 320Critical Race Theory in Education

4 units

ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature

4 units

HIST 277/BLST 277Women and Community Health

4 units

POLS 206Race and American Politics

4 units

SOC 250Race and Ethnicity in American Society

4 units

RELS 244Islamophobia

4 units

Transfer Credit Policies

The Black Studies Program accepts online courses for general elective credit, but will not accept online courses for major or minor credit. No more than two courses taken outside the college (including but not limited to study abroad) may count toward the major. These may only fulfill the elective requirement. No more than one course taken outside the college (including but not limited to study abroad) may count toward the minor. Transfer students should consult with their adviser and the department chair on how work completed prior to matriculating at Occidental may be counted toward the major or minor. Students should reference the Transfer Credit section for more details.

Courses

Black Studies Courses