A Kente cloth,  a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips made and native to the Akan ethnic group of Ghana.

African & African American Studies


General Information


The African & African American Studies program at PSC offers a pathway for students to explore the rich histories, cultural traditions, and achievements of peoples rooted in African & African American experiences. Courses in this critical field of study fit within PSC's general education learning outcome of Cultural Understanding and are offered in an array of interrelated scholarly fields. All courses in African & African American Studies place particular emphasis on students being able to see the world from a global perspective. The curriculum will build skills that will help students to navigate and thrive within diverse communities and workplaces, and develop an appreciation for the values of diversity, equity, and sustainability.

Students who want to complete a number of their general education requirements toward a degree or certificate with a specific thematic focus can do so in African & African American Studies. A wide range of general education courses are offered on a rotating basis in English, History, and Sociology. Each course is designated with an Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI) code that identifies it as part of the IAI program. A listing of course descriptions is available in the current Academic Catalog. For a listing of when courses are offered, consult the current course schedule or WebAdvisor.


Fall 2021 Courses

This is the first course in the composition sequence. It provides an introduction to college-level writing, with emphasis on rhetorical knowledge, analysis of a diverse range of texts, and conventions of various genres, with special attention to academic writing. As part of the African & African American Studies Program at Prairie State College, this course will emphasize the works and literary contributions of Black authors.

This class is being offered in a Hybrid Format - a blend of online learning and face-to-face sessions. The first on campus meeting is set for Tuesday, August 24 at 11 AM.

- Prof. Alanna Cotch, acotch@prairiestate.edu

In 2019, a group of writers and editors started the 1619 Project to mark and think about the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The collection of essays, poetry, and photography would, in their words, aim to place "the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." In this class, we'll be reading from the 1619 Project as we consider all that has happened even since 2019, both to learn from the examples of excellent writers and to think about our world and our roles in it. We'll also develop together some additional ways to think and write about "our national narrative" as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all of Prairie State's English 101 classes, this class will introduce you to college writing and fulfill credit for a variety of majors. If you're interested in thinking more about "the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans" in a positive, up-building community, I hope you'll consider signing up and lending your own voice to the conversation.

This class is being offered in a Hybrid Format - a blend of online learning and face-to-face sessions. The first on campus meeting is set for Tuesday, August 24 at 12:30 PM.

- Prof. Jason Evans, jevans@prairiestate.edu

This survey course examines the varieties of the Black experience in America as it is found in poetry, the novel, the short story, and drama. Particular emphasis is placed on trends and themes as revealed in changes in style and content.

We will explore literature by Black American writers who sought to protest the injustices of racism, to celebrate the beauty of Black lives, and to contribute to American literary and artistic traditions. We will dive into fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays by at least two dozen writers, including Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison; and we'll talk about how these writers often challenged the literary establishment that tried to exclude them.

This course will be offered as an IN course – Online Course with no designated meeting time. Class begins on Tuesday, September 7 on Desire2Learn (D2L).

- Prof. Alanna Cotch, acotch@prairiestate.edu

This course examines the roots of African civilizations, with a focus on the development of major African societies prior to the period of European imperialism.

This class is MP - Online with a designated meeting pattern. Although entirely online, students will attend this class as they would a traditional course – just virtually! You will meet online once a week on Mondays from 11:00AM - 12:15PM, with other course content completed throughout the week at your own pace. The first virtual meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 13!

- Prof. Steve Tallackson, stallackson@prairiestate.edu

In African American History, we will explore the wide range of African American experiences from origins in the 1600s, through the present day. We will learn about, and discuss in a virtual setting, the primary sources that shed light on the hidden histories of peoples who have long been left out of the dominant narrative of American history. We will spend the first half of the course examining the many contributions of both free and enslaved peoples of African descent to the birth of America. The second half of the course will focus on developments since Reconstruction, emphasizing the centrality of Black culture to “American” culture, ongoing Black resistance in the face of structural racism, oppression, and white privilege, the triumph of the Obama presidency, and historical events in recent times.

This class is being offered Face to Face as part of the Honors Program at Prairie State College, and will meet on campus Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 – 1:55 PM. Class starts Wednesday, September 8!

- Prof. Justin Pariseau, jpariseau@prairiestate.edu



Alanna Cotch

Professor, English
Honors Program Coordinator

(708) 709-3654



Justin Pariseau
Coordinator, African & African American Studies
Associate Professor, History

(708) 709-3629



Lalinda De La Fuente
Associate Professor, Sociology
Coordinator and Department Chair, Social Sciences

(708) 709-3651



Stephen Tallackson
Adjunct Professor, History



Jason Evans
Professor of Developmental Writing and English
Coordinator of Developmental Writing and Reading



Cherise Stone
Adjunct Professor, English



Under the umbrella of the African & African American Studies program, guest speakers will be invited to campus to benefit program participants, and the campus community as a whole, to promote understanding of the field of study, and encourage the exploration of Cultural Diversity. Off-campus cultural experiences will be planned to expand upon themes taught in the classroom.

Past examples include a college-sponsored field trip to the Chicago Symphony’s Orchestra Hall in Chicago to see the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guests,The Born Frees, perform The South African Songbook – a collection of traditional and contemporary South African music. Past field trips to the Art Institute of Chicago have featured the works of African & African American artists, as well as a special exhibition celebrating the life and works of the renowned artist, Charles White, known for his chronicling of the African American experience.

Three students standing in front of an exhibit for Charles White,an American artist known for his chronicling of African American related subjects in paintings, drawings, lithographs, and murals.

Academic Awards

African & African American Studies Graduation Cords

Students who complete a minimum of three courses / nine credit hours, with a C or better in African & African American Studies, will be awarded program-specific graduation cords at a cording ceremony to be held in late April/early May. The program’s graduation cords are to be worn as part of the student’s academic regalia at Commencement and are intended to recognize the personal commitment of scholars in the field of African & African American Studies.The symbolism of the four colors used in the African & African American Studies graduation cords – Black (communion with ancestral spirits, maturity), Gold (wealth, prosperity, elegance, high status), Red (shedding of blood, sacrifice and struggle), and Green (growth, renewal) – is informed by Ghanaian and African American cultural traditions, and will be listed in the Commencement Program alongside other graduation awards and honors.

Black,Gold, Red, and Green graduation cords symbolic of African-American history.  
African & African American Studies Cording Ceremony

The ceremony will be patterned on traditional "Donning of the Kente" ceremonies held at four-year institutions in programs where students receive traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth stoles to be worn at graduation. In receiving their African & African American Studies graduation cords, students will be able to select up to two mentors – a member of the faculty,advisor, or staff member, friend, or family members – to join them on stage to don their cords.

African & African American Studies Book Award

A top student in African & African American Studies will receive the program’s annual Book Award in recognition of their accomplishments at the spring cording ceremony. In addition, their name will be listed on a plaque to be displayed at the college, recognizing all past recipients. Their achievement will be mentioned in the Commencement program.

Book Award Criteria

  • GPA 3.5 or higher in African & African American Studies;
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher overall;
  • Student must have filled a graduation petition for participation in May Commencement;
  • Nomination by a full-time or adjunct faculty member for having demonstrated exceptional promise as a scholar;
  • Voting on eligible candidates by all faculty teaching African & African American studies courses at PSC;
  • Notification of the African & African American Studies Book Award to go out in late March.