About the Major

Hamilton’s Africana studies faculty and students represent a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, bringing to the classroom a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and disciplinary strengths. Students often spend a summer conducting research with a professor; some have earned fellowships to continue their academic work abroad after graduation.

Students Will Learn To:

  • Apply at least two disciplinary lenses of analysis that focus on a specific aspect of the life experiences of people of African descent (for example in written/digital assignments, performative or oral presentations)
  • Explain, verbally and/or in writing, the interrelationships among people from sub-Saharan Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, or other parts of the African diaspora in two or more of the following areas: linguistic, intellectual, political, economic, or cultural
  • Define and provide examples of colonization, decolonization, Black liberation/power movements and their legacies
  • Explain, verbally and/or in writing, the concept of intersectionality via specific connections with race, ethnicity, class, and gender
  • Explain the goals of one or more current social justice initiatives involving people of African descent in the United States and globally

A Sampling of Courses

Professor Vincent Odamtten lectures to his students in his Marrow of African American Literature course in Couper Hall at Hamilton College on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 in Clinton, NY. (PHOTO BY NANCY L. FORD)

Exploring Social Justice

This course explores the historical movements for social justice and contributions of a new generation of black leadership including students, women and community organizers during the civil rights and Black power movements. We will consider the contributions of well-known figures like Huey Newton and Malcolm X and lesser-known figures like Septima Clark, the director of the freedom schools, and their significance in the present times.

Explore these select courses:

Forefronts the consequences of assumptions based on hegemonic ideas and representations of blackness and Black life. We examine how visual and narrative representations impact our perceptions and sense of collective and individual selves, and the lived experiences of Black subjects. We explore dominant cultural representations of blackness and how they are in dialogue, negotiation, and contestation, along with the tension and interaction between ideas inherited from the outside, and the created inner ones.

An introductory course primarily engaging the literary and other works of writers and artists concerned with the use of multiple genres and media to critique present-day realities and received partial histories of New World and global life through an Afro-diasporic lens. Emphasis will highlight the transdisciplinarity of these works. Students will read and examine the works of such writers and artists as Sutton Griggs, W. E. B. DuBois, Samuel R Delany, Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Vincent D. Smith, Sun Ra, Nalo Hopkinson, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Janelle Monae.

Our present age demands we explore the theory and practice of anti-racist work through an examination of the foundational construction of race and racism in America and the resistance of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Frances Seward, and others; the role of white supremacy, and anti-blackness. This course also seeks to answer questions like: What is anti-racism? Taking a dialectical approach to such questions we will explore work by anti-racism scholars and activists such as Ibram X. Kendi; the Black Panthers; James Baldwin; and recent critical writing on white supremacy.

An interdisciplinary introduction to global social and political movements in Africa and the Americas from the Revolutions at the end of the 18th century to the present. Addresses theories of social movements, their racial and cultural formation, the variations in type and consequences of movements, and the contexts in which they arose. These contexts include the intersectionality of race, class and gender within persisting historical & racial hierarchies. Movements examined include the anti-slavery movement; the Pan-Africanist movement, the women’s movement and the rise of modern NGOs.

Meet Our Faculty

Nigel Westmaas

Chair, Professor of Africana Studies


history, sociology, and Africana studies

Donald Carter

Professor of Africana Studies


culture theory; racial formation; visual culture; diaspora; invisibility and transnational cultural politics

Mark Cryer

Chair and Professor of Theatre


acting; Shakespeare; African-American theatre; Sanford Meisner; Uta Hagen; August Wilson

A. Todd Franklin

Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies


existentialism, African-American philosophy, and Nietzsche

Heather Merrill

Professor of Africana Studies, Director of Italian Studies


critical human geography; race, place, and belonging in Italy, Black Europe, and the U.S.; gender and intersectionality; African Diasporic politics and identity in Italy; Blackness and anti-blackness

Vincent Odamtten

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Literature and Africana Studies


African literature with a focus of Ghanaian and women's literature; 20th-century Caribbean literature; African-American literature; science fiction; literary criticism; use of digital technology in the study of literature

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in Africana studies are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps
  • Financial Analyst, Lazard Capital Markets
  • Architectural Designer, Coyle & Associates
  • Foreign Services Officer, U.S. Department of State
  • Program Coordinator, Posse Foundation
  • Editorial Assistant, EPIX
  • Teacher, Bronx Academy of Letters

Explore Hamilton Stories

Venus Williams

Global Race and Sport Class Meets Venus Williams

“Venus Williams exemplifies how sports serves as a microcosm of broader societal issues offering a powerful example of the impact of individual agency in challenging and reshaping societal norms,” Professor Westmaas said. “Listening to her insights provided students with a direct ‘real-world’ application of the theoretical concepts we cover…making the abstract more tangible and concrete in the presence of a superstar.”

Nigel Westmaas

Westmaas Address Marks 200th Anniversary of Enslaved Revolt in Guyana

Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas was recently the invited keynote speaker at a symposium organized by the University of Guyana to mark the 200th anniversary of the Demerara enslaved revolt of 1823 in Guyana.

From left: Mark Cryer, Robert Knight, Michelle LeMasurier, and Nigel Westmaas

Four Faculty Promoted to Professor

Hamilton President David Wippman announced the promotion of four faculty members to the rank of professor, as approved by the College’s Board of Trustees at its June meeting. They include Mark Cryer (theatre), Robert Knight (art), Michelle LeMasurier (mathematics and statistics), and Nigel Westmaas (Africana studies). All were effective July 1, 2024.


Department Name

Africana Studies Program

Contact Name

Nigel Westmaas, Chair

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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