Graduate Program

Our master of arts program is designed to provide scholars, teachers, and professionals with a thorough grounding in literature and research at one of the nation’s most prestigious centers of research and scholarship in African-American Studies. Our program focuses particularly on the cultivation of critical analytical and methodical skills required to investigate the complex and historically specific experiences of Africans in the Americas.

The admission standards and selection procedures are identical to those followed by the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for all of its MA programs (with the exception of the Liberal Studies program). Applicants must provide a 15- to 20-page writing sample, three (3) letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with their academic work and history, and optional Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

The deadline for the submission of fully completed applications for Fall 2024 MA class is February 8, 2024.
We do not accept applications for the spring semester.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences prefers online applications. Apply online at If you have questions about the graduate school admissions webpage, call (212) 854-4737.

The MA in African American Studies at Columbia is a 30-credit interdisciplinary program that will support your scholarly interests and research in the African-American experience and in the cultures and histories of the wider African Diaspora. Our program is organized to provide you with the opportunity and flexibility to design a program of study and a thesis project that addresses your intellectual interests and career ambitions.

The capstone of your degree is your thesis. Your thesis topic will be developed in concert with a member of our faculty, who will work closely with you during the course of your tenure at Columbia. Typically, the faculty member you request as your thesis advisor will be an instructor with whom you have taken a course and who shares an interest and expertise in your thesis topic. During your final semester, you will enroll in a thesis-writing workshop and work closely with your thesis advisor. The thesis workshop allows all thesis writers to share their work, receive guidance and feedback from your peers as well as the workshop leader. Your thesis advisor also will advise you during the course of this semester toward the completion of your MA thesis.

In addition to completing your thesis, there are four further requirements:

You must take four required seminars: Total (12 points) -
Must Be Graduate Courses (4000 level or above)
You can not take Undergraduate courses.

  1. African American Studies Pro-Seminar (4 points)
  2. Research methodology (e.g., historical research, statistics, oral history, etc.) (4 points)
  3. Thesis / Practicum Research (4 points)
  • The successful completion of a Master's Thesis or Final Project.

A distribution requirement – 3 Courses: Must Be Graduate Courses

One course in history;

One course in the humanities (e.g., literature, theater or the visual arts)

One course in the social sciences (e.g., political science, sociology or anthropology)

This will fulfill your distribution requirement.

These courses can be taken within the department or outside the department.

3 courses @ 4 points = 12 points

Total: 24 points


A concentration requirement – 2 Courses:  Must Be Graduate Courses

In consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and your MA thesis advisor, you will identity TWO (2) graduate courses that address your intellectual focus and your proposed thesis topic. This concentration or cluster of courses can reflect, for example, a topical focus (e.g., women novelist of the French Caribbean) or a disciplinary focus (e.g., 19th century African American historiography). In short, your concentration will be designed to express your specific intellectual interests.

2 courses @ 3 points = 6 points

Total: 30 points to (fulfill GSAS Requirements)

***Note: Students are NOT allowed to take undergraduate courses toward the M.A. Degree, any undergraduate courses taken will NOT count toward the M.A. Degree Requirements***

MA Thesis / Final Project Presentation: After you have completed your MA Thesis/Final Project, and it has been approved by your thesis advisor, you are required to present a summary of your thesis/final project  at our annual Student Conversations. This oral presentation, supported by your MA thesis advisor, will occur during your last semester of study.