History of American Cultures

Fought for throughout the latter half of the 1980s, agreed upon by campus faculty in 1989, and the first courses launched in 1991, Ling-chi Wang, emeritus professor of Asian American Studies, called the American Cultures (AC) requirement “one of the most important curriculum-reform projects in the history of this campus. American Cultures challenges each discipline to raise questions that they had never raised before, and in the process, they have uncovered unknown aspects of their own disciplines.” The requirement was instituted in 1991 to introduce students to the diverse cultures of the United States through a comparative framework.

The American Cultures requirement and courses constitute a new approach that responds directly to the problem encountered in numerous disciplines of how better to present the diversity of American experience to the diversity of American students whom we now educate.

Faculty members from many departments teach American cultures courses, but all courses have a common framework. The courses focus on themes or issues in United States history, society, or culture; address theoretical or analytical issues relevant to understanding race, culture, and ethnicity in American society; take substantial account of groups drawn from at least three of the following: African Americans, indigenous peoples of the United States, Asian Americans, Chicano/Latino Americans, and European Americans; and are integrative and comparative in that students study each group in the larger context of American society, history, or culture.

These courses focus upon how the diversity of America's constituent cultural traditions have shaped and continue to shape American identity and experience. This is not an ethnic studies requirement, nor a Third World cultures requirement, nor an adjusted Western civilization requirement, nor a course on racism.

Introduction to the AC Requirement