Admission Requirements:

Students may be admitted to the Black Studies Interest Area if they have a baccalaureate degree in Black Studies or an equivalent degree from an accredited college or university with an overall grade-point average of 3.25.  Applicants whose undergraduate GPA is less than 3.25 may be considered for admission upon petition to the Graduate Admission Committee for the Black Studies Program.

Students who have a baccalaureate degree with an overall GPA of 3.25 or better and who did not major in Black Studies may be conditionally admitted to the Program upon consultation with the program’s graduate advisor and enrollment into the Black Studies introductory course, BLKS 201.

Upon satisfactory completion of the above course, the student must receive final approval from the Black Studies Director for full admission to the Interest Area.

Prospective students applying for admission must submit, in addition to the UMKC application, the following documents:

  1. A “Statement of Purpose” in the form of a personal essay of approximately 1,000 words outlining the focus area the applicant wishes to pursue. The statement should include the student’s reasons for applying to the Program along with their academic plans and goals.
  2. An Academic Writing Sample.
  3. Three (3) Letters of Recommendation.
  4. Official transcripts from an accredited institution showing the awarding of an undergraduate degree. Transcripts are considered official if they are received in a sealed envelope from the institution or sent electronically to the UMKC Office of Admissions (

These documents (except the UMKC application) should be sent directly to the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program. The documents can be sent in print form to: MALS Program, 106 Cockefair Hall, UMKC, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Electronic copies may also be submitted as either Word or PDF attachments to an email to

Applications that indicate Black Studies as the focus area will be forwarded to the respective program for review by the Graduate Admission Committee for Black Studies.

Prior to submitting an application, prospective students should speak with the Black Studies graduate advisor

The priority deadline to apply for Fall Semester is March 1. The final deadline to apply for Fall semester is August 1. The deadline to apply for Spring semester is November 1.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the historical development of African American studies as an academic field.
  2. Be able to review and evaluate the work of key scholars in the field of African American studies.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to apply foundational ideas in African American studies in the interpretation of historical, political and social phenomena.

Program Requirements:

The degree is a 36 credit hour program. Students who elect to participate in the Black Studies Interest area should begin by enrolling in the Black Studies core courses, BLKS 5502 and BLKS 5503 (fulfills MALS introductory seminar requirement) and during their last year of the program, students should enroll in BLKS 5504 (fulfills MALS capstone seminar requirement).

Thesis Option

A written thesis is not required, however students who have a particular interest that lends itself to detailed research are especially encouraged to consider the thesis option. Students who wish to complete a thesis project may apply three credit hours from BLKS 5599 toward their degree requirements. With the thesis option, the students must select a Black Studies faculty member as their thesis adviser who will direct the plan of study and research.

Plan of Study

Graduate students should complete the three core courses listed below. Please note, that those students who may have taken undergraduate versions of the core courses must complete them at the graduate level.

The three core courses are:

BLKS 5502Conceptual and Theoretical Foundations in African American Studies (must be taken during the first year)3
BLKS 5503Writing for African American Studies (must be taken during the first year; fulfills MALS introductory seminar requirement)3
BLKS 5504Research Seminar (must be taken during the final year; fulfills MALS capstone seminar requirement)3

Students should work with the Black Studies graduate advisor, prior to the start of each semester, in order to review their plan of study worksheet and make sure they are accurately fulfilling the additional 27 hours of elective course work that is relevant to the field. Recommended courses include all graduate-level courses with a Black Studies prefix and other courses approved by the Director of the Black Studies Program. Students are encouraged to take elective courses with both humanities and social science focuses.

Examples of elective graduate courses in Black Studies are:

BLKS 5510African American Art History: Part II, 1960-Present Day (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5520Critical Health Issues in Black Communities (Social Science Focus)3
BLKS 5521The Black Family & Male-Female Relationships (Social Science Focus)3
BLKS 5525African American Business Development (Social Science Focus)3
BLKS 5530African American Migrations in Literature (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5534From Field Shout to Hip Hop: African American Poetic Traditions (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5535Stages toward Freedom: African American Dramatic Traditions (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5537The Civil Rights Movement in African American Literature (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5538Women's Literature in Africa and the African Diaspora (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5539Slave Narratives: Race, Gender and Writing Freedom (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5549Symbols and Codes from the Diaspora: African American Visual Arts Survey (Humanities Focus)3
BLKS 5551African American Art History: Part I, 1600-1960 (Humanities Focus)3

Electives may also be Special Topics (BLKS 5580) or Research and Thesis (BLKS 5599).

Examples of Special Topics courses with a Humanities Focus are:

  • African American Experience in Literature (1773-1960)
  • Contemporary African American Literature
  • Film Adaptations in African American Literary Text
  • Introduction to Caribbean Literature and Film

Examples of Special Topics courses with a Social Science Focus are:

  • From Vaudeville to Rhythm and Blues
  • Hip-Hop's Influence on African Americans and American Society
  • Kansas City and the Black Experience
  • Race, Class and Justice
  • Racial and Ethnic Relations

Students are strongly encouraged to take the remaining 3 hours of course work as an approved community engagement project/research under the Directed Study (BLKS 5590) or through Internship (BLKS 5596). Because faculty consent is required in order to enroll in the Directed Study or Internship options, students should begin building an academic relationship with the Black Studies faculty member whose academic background can best guide them.

For more information on the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Degree, please click here.