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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

W.E.B. Du Bois Department


Graduate Courses


Fall 2016 Course Offerings

Afro-American Course Descriptions (pdf)



AFROAM 591A. Gender in Pan-African Studies (Undergraduate/Graduate)

This course reviews the historical literature related to the social construction of masculinity and femininity for African and African-descended peoples.  The course compares the ways gendered notions of family, community, and nation have impacted local and international projects of black liberation.  In addition to the U.S. and Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America will be important regions of consideration.

AFROAM 591B. Black Radical Thought  (Undergraduate/Graduate)

This course will focus on contributions to Marxist intellectual and political traditions by African and African-descended thinkers. We will read and discuss works by major figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Walter Rodney, Amilcar Cabral, Angela Davis, Aime Cesaire, Franz Fanon.  We also hope to introduce you to a selection of perhaps lesser known figures such as Babu, Achille Mbembe, George Padmore, Claudia Jones, Harry Haywood, James Boggs, Muhammad Ahmad.  The course will require extensive reading, informed participation in class discussion, and a final paper. 

AFROAM 597C. Black Politics in America: Haiti and Cuba

AFROAM 597D. The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois (Undergraduate/Graduate)

This course will focus on the contributions of W.E.B. Du Bois to the study of the sociology of African Americans and race relations in the U.S. We will be examining such works as The Philadelphia Negro, the Atlanta University Studies, reports for various government agencies and selected essays. The course also will address Du Bois' influence on the work of other sociologists such as E. Franklin Frazier, St. Clair Drake, Oliver Cox and William Julius Wilson.  The course is open to both graduate and upper-level undergraduate students.

AFROAM 601. Slavery

This seminar will focus on the rise of slavery in the United States until its destruction during the Civil War.  We shall study slavery as a political and economic institution as well as a day to day lived experience. Within this historical framework, the emphasis will be on broad themes and interpretations: for example, the construction of the concept of "race" and the debate over the origins of slavery, the nature of slave communities and culture, gender and slavery, slavery in a comparative perspective, the significance of slave resistance and the politics of slavery.  The format of the course is discussion.

AFROAM 604. Black Intellectual History & Ideology

Most of the principle currents of black intellectual history and ideology from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries.  Themes of assimilation, nationalism, black feminism, civil and political rights, religion, and international perspectives explored in some depth.  Particular focus on the structural and thematic patterns which emerge through study of various ideas of African Americans ranging over a century and a half.

AFROAM 605. African Americans and the Movement to Abolish Slavery

This seminar will trace the rise of the antislavery movement in the United States fro the American Revolution to the Civil War, with particular attention to the role of African Americans.  We will look at the ideology of black abolitionism, its contributions to the antislavery movement as a whole, black emigrationism, individual African American abolitionists, and African American women activists among other topics.  We will attempt to explore the nature and impact of black abolitionism on the broader movement.  In short, what difference did black abolitionism make on the rise, growth and success of the antislavery movement?  The format of the course is discussion.  Recent historical literature on the above topics will comprise the readings for the course.

AFROAM 610. The Life and Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois

A critical examination of the life and thought of W.E.B. Du Bois, paramount black scholar and activist whose massive body of scholarly work spans the period from late 19th through the mid-20th centuries.  Course covers the major works of Du Bois: The Philadelphia Negro; The Souls of Black Folk; Black Reconstruction; and, Dusk of DawnThe Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois, The World and Africa, and The Education of Black People, as well as selected essays by Du Bois, are also addressed.  Topics include Du Bois as a sociologist, historian, propagandist, and creative writer, taking into account his often shifting views on art and culture, politics, leadership, civil rights and the color line, trade unionism, Pan-Africanism, socialism, internationalism, and, of course, double consciousness, among other issues.

AFROAM 652. Literature of the Harlem Renaissance

An intensive study of the literature and orature associated with the Harlem Renaissance, from the philosophical underpinnings supplied by Du Bois, Johnson, Locke, Garvey, and Randolph to the varied poetic visions of Hughes, Spencer, Brown, Cullen, and McKay to the fictional explorations of Toomer, Hurston, Fisher, Larsen, Fauset, and Thurman to the inspiration supplied by blues, jazz, and folklore of the African American tradition. Journals connected with the movement and the contributions of interested patrons such as Van Vechten, Cunard, and the Spingarns, and the relations of the Harlem Renaissance to other contemporary American literary currents (realism, naturalism, and modernism.)

AFROAM 667. Afro-American Presence in American Literature

An intensive survey of the portrayals of Afro-Americans in American literature, examining how characters, themes, and ideas are portrayed when filtered through the race, gender, class, politics, historical time frame, and individual artistic aesthetic of a variety of writers.

AFROAM 690B. The Civil War and Reconstruction

This course examines the revolutionary significance of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era in United States history. While not ignoring military history, it will focus on the demise of slavery during the war and contests over the meaning of freedom, citizenship, and the powers of the state. It will also look at African American political mobilization, constitutional issues, and vigilante violence during Reconstruction. Other topics include the role of Lincoln, the Confederate experiment, gender and Reconstruction, the transition from slavery to free labor, and the fall and aftermath of Reconstruction. Recent historical literature will constitute the bulk of the reading. Students will have the option of writing a historiographical paper on a topic of their choice or a more substantial research paper based on primary sources.


AFROAM 690E. Blackness and Utopia

This seminar explores the vibrant history of utopian thought in Black Studies and African American literature and culture. It considers how the black radical tradition poses particular challenges to Western utopian thought as well as how the question of utopia might contribute to, or help to re-configure, the future(s) of Black Studies. Topics of discussion will include Afrofuturism, utopia and the black radical tradition, cultures of life and cultures of death in Black Atlantic, black science and speculative fiction, and blackness and metaphysics.

AFROAM 690F. Writing Gender & Sexuality: Reconstructions, Post-Reconstructions

This seminar will serve as an intensive introduction to African American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, focusing on issues related to gender and sexuality during the period. In addition to reading major—and some minor—texts, including works by Julia Collins, Charles Chesnutt, Frances E.W. Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Jean Toomer, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others, we will survey recent critical turns in the field, including work on gender and sexuality in performance studies and queer studies.

AFROAM 690G. Fugitive Science, Fugitive Literature

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century famously witnessed the rise of forms of scientific racism, linked to the rise of comparative anatomy, that were used to reinforce regimes of enslavement and perpetuate racist ideas about African Americans, both enslaved and free. But the popularization of natural science in the period simultaneously opened the door to the construction of a distinctively anti-racist science by an unlikely set of actors. This course examines the ways that African American writers, performers, and other cultural producers of the nineteenth century both crafted artful critiques of racist science and mobilized sciences with no particular connection to the science of race--from geology to astronomy--in the struggle for emancipation and in the development of more speculative imaginaries of freedom. Across the semester, students will track and chronicle the intimate and animating relationship between black scientific and literary production in the nineteenth century. Using this literary-historical context as a backdrop, the course will finally examine the reanimation of racial science in contemporary science, especially in genomics, and the ways in which "fugitive science" continues to provide a means of resistance and redress in the twenty-first century.

AFROAM 690J. Passing

This course will focus on different manifestations of passing from the 19th to the 21st centuries, examining motivations, methods, and outcomes in the context of race, class, gender, sexuality, and literary aesthetic.

AFROAM 690K. Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance

This course will treat major writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance of the 1930s-1950s, setting them in the context of the White Chicago Renaissance, the New Negro Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, and other arts in Chicago in the era, and treating various aesthetics, goals, themes, symbols and images that express the zeitgeist of the movement.

AFROAM 690P. New Approaches to Early African American Literature

This course serves as an intensive introduction to early (pre-1900) African American literary studies.  In addition to surveying works and authors in the period (Wheatley, Walker, Douglass, Delany, Wilson, Wells Brown, Jacobs, Harper, Chesnutt, and others), the course will focus on recent methodological turns and emerging scholarship in the field, including the (re)turn to the archive; performance; gender, sexuality, and queer studies; race and science; the New Southern Studies; hemispheric and global approaches to early African American literature; the black print sphere and material culture. The course will also include an introduction to archival research on literary and cultural topics.

AFROAM 691A.  Black Religious Movements in America  

Some of the major religious movements and religious institutions of African Americans before and after the American Revolutionary War. African religions in the New World; conversion experiences wrought by the Great Awakenings; the development of the "invisible institution" on slave plantations; the formation of the free black church; the institutional developments in black Christianity following Emancipation; the emergence of the Holiness and Pentecostal movements; the impact of urbanization on black urban and rural religious institutions, including the birth of the "store-front" church; the impact of charismatic religious leadership during the Great Depression; the growing influence of Islam, beginning in the 1920s; the role of the church in the modern Civil Rights movement; and trends in African American religion in the post-1960s era.

AFROAM 691B. Black Workers in the U.S. Since Emancipation

This seminar will attempt to accomplish two goals; to examine some of the significant issues in the history of African American workers since Emancipation and to introduce you to some of the most recent scholarship addressing those issues. We will begin with general studies of the history of capitalism in the U.S. and Black workers then proceed to a study of 1) The role of Black labor in several industries, 2) Black woman as workers, 3)Black labor and the Black power movement and 4) Herbert Hill’s critiques of organized labor and the labor history establishment.

AFROAM 691C.  Historiographical Methods in Afro-American Studies

This course will introduce you to some of the basics of what it means to read, think, and write as an historian.  We will explore what historians do and why as well as the "objectivity question," the development of African American history as an academic discipline, and one or two current controversies.  We also will learn how to locate and use the resources of the Du Bois Library such as microforms, government documents, the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, on-line indices and collections, as well as those of such important national repositories such as the Library of Congress, the Moorland-Spingarn Collection at Howard University and the Schomburg Center of the N.Y. Public Library.

AFROAM 691D. Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement
Women initiated, organized, and sustained the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did women activists far outnumber men, but they also emerged as leaders in working-class and poor neighborhoods more often than men. This course will investigate women¹s diverse visions of and involvement in social justice using historical texts, film, television, and music. Taking the long civil rights movement approach, it will consider middle-class and working-class activism towards racial, gender, and economic justice in the early twentieth century, the labor-oriented civil rights movement of the 1930s and 1940s, and the modern Civil Rights and Women¹s Liberation Movements. Special attention will be paid to the relationships between black and white women and the impact of the movement on women¹s status and identity. Notable activists like Mary Church Terrell, Ella Baker, Florynce Kennedy, Lena Horne, and Nina Simone, as well as those who remain unnamed in the historical record, will be critical to this investigation.

AFROAM 691E.  Modern African American Women Novelists

This course will consider novels written by African American women since World War II. The principal issue the course will examine is the conception and representation of identity in these works. In other words, we will look at how these novelists pose (and sometimes answer) the basic question: is there such a thing as African American women's literature? Among the issues the we will take up in approaching this question are the manipulation of generic conventions (e.g., those of science fiction, gothic romance, historiography, and the slave narrative); the question of audience (both actual and implied); the relation of "high" culture and "popular" culture; and the impact of various political and intellectual movements (e.g., the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power/Black Arts, Second Wave Feminism, and Gay Liberation) on the formal and thematic choices of these authors. We will also use these novels to engage debates between major critical/theoretical positions (e.g., social realism, new criticism, Black aesthetic, structuralism, deconstructionism, feminism, and cultural studies) within African American literary studies since 1945.

AFROAM 691F.  Black Political Struggle and the American Political System

An historical examination of the black political struggle for equality and citizenship in America—the obstacles placed in the path of that struggle by the American political system in general and by the American state in particular—and the countless ways in which racial politics have shaped the system that is called American Democracy.

AFROAM 691G. African-American Poetry

An intensive survey of African American poetry from Lucy Terry to the present, focusing on how language, form, and content reflect the ways in which African Americans have perceived their positions in American society and their roles as reflectors and/or shapers of African American culture. Includes various works of African, American, and British literature as well as works of African American folklore, and secondary critical works dealing with African American poetic tradition.

AFROAM 691H. Race & Public Policy

An historical examination of the role of public policy in both advancing and obstructing the black struggle for civic equality in America, beginning with the first specifically institutional effort to aid black freedmen and women, the Freedmen's Bureau. The development of public policy occasioned by the Great Depression, the emergence of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in the Sixties, and the contemporary racialization of social policy that has denigrated Liberalism, fragmented the Democratic Party's traditional constituency, and elevated the conservative economic and political agenda to mainstream legitimacy. Specific issues include: welfare, affirmative action, jobs, poverty, and the criminal justice system.

AFROAM 691K. The Politics of Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War

This seminar will explore the significance of slavery in the growth of sectional politics in antebellum America. It will cover the rise of a distinctive slave society in the south and of antislavery in the north. We will look at early sectional differences over slavery such as the Missouri crisis and the nullification controversy. Finally, we will discuss the role of the slavery expansion issue and the breakdown of the second party system in causing the Civil War and the origins of secession. Recent historical literature will comprise the bulk of the readings for the course.


AFROAM 691L. The Black Arts Movement

This course will examine the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s in its many manifestations, including literature, theater, music, and the visual arts. A particular focus of the course will be the ways in which domestic and international political movements (e.g., Civil Rights, Black Power, and anti-colonial) intersected with Black Arts, deeply influencing the formal and thematic choices of African American artists. Much attention will be paid to the distinctive regional variations of the movement as well as to the ways in which Black Arts fundamentally changed how art is produced and received in the United States.

AFROAM 691M. The Life and Thought of C.L.R. James

This seminar will entail the reading of several of James’ major works as well as a substantial selection from his political writings and correspondence.  The purpose is to acquaint you with James’ own words on a variety of the political, social and cultural issues that he attempted to address during his lifetime.  We also will do some reading in the secondary literature that attempts, with varying success, to situate James in various contexts.

AFROAM 691N. Critical Race Theories (620)

Participants in this seminar, Critical Race Theories, will examine the general foundational ideas and concepts shaping today’s now proliferating scholarly enquiries that operate under the term critical race theories. While the basis for today’s critical race theories developed from Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory in legal scholarship, many scholars from a variety of disciplines have transformed for their own contexts the insights that have informed legal scholarship in this area.  An understanding of the entrenched racial structures in the United States and their basis in the social contract informing much of Western culture is especially useful for reading and analyzing a substantial portion of African American literature. Seminar participants will read early documents (The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America The Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of RightsEmancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction Amendments) together with texts by historical figures, philosophers, and others who have shaped or have responded to systems of race in the United States (Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Banneker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others) texts on theories of race (Smedley, Frederickson, Eze and others), and legal as well as literary, political, and philosophical critical race theorists (Bell, Crenshaw, Gotanda, Austin, Mills, Baldwin, Neal, Fuller, Du Bois, among others).

AFROAM 691P. Critique of the Concept of Racism

Most investigations of racism tend to equate it to race theory, persistent prejudice, institutionalized discrimination and/or consign it to the realms of biology, psychology or sociology.  This seminar will focus on racism as an historical system in the settlement of the North American continent and the organization and development of the American nation state.  For comparative purposes a brief survey will also be made of apartheid in South Africa and anti-Semitism in the Third Reich.

AFROAM 691Q.  Black Images in Antebellum Literature

The Southern Plantation, so largely dependent on “peculiar institution” of slavery for its existence, and so large a part of American history, is also largely the source of some of the most abiding literary characterizations (or images) of America Blacks.  These literary characterizations and their validity or invalidity will be the main foci of the readings, class discussions and writings for this course. 

AFROAM 691R. Topics in the Modern Civil Rights Movement

This seminar will explore the distinction between movements, organizations, and the activities of single individuals that has been obscured in recent discussions of the "long civil rights movement.” We will be examining the histories of organizations that were formed prior to the post-Brown Era and which have survived to this day. We will be exploring those groups and organizations that came into being post Brown and were defunct by the mid- 1970's. We will pay some brief attention to those groups and organizations that arose in the aftermath of the Civil Rights and Black liberation movements, i.e. since the mid- 1970's. The readings will include a selection from the latest scholarly monographs, as well as from memoirs and other primary sources available in print, microform and digital formats.  A lengthy (18-20 pages) reading paper analyzing the goals, activities, successes and failures of a group, organization or individual will be required. Regular class attendance and participation in discussions is assumed.

AFROAM 691S. Contemporary Afro-American Literature

Themes of love, war, assimilation, feminism, lesbianism, homosexuality, and more can be found in contemporary Afro-American Literature.  The objective of this class will be to identify and analyze some of these themes (the focus changing from semester to semester) in the works of such writers as Baldwin, Ellison, Morrison, Wright, Williams, and Hines.

AFROAM 691T. Great Migrations: Migration, Urbanization and Modernity in the African American Novel Since 1900

This course considers the representation of migration, urbanization, and modernity (or post-modernity) in a range of African American novels published between 1900 and the present by such authors as Lloyd Brown, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Toni Morrison, Ann Petry, Jean Toomer, John Edgar Wideman, and Richard Wright. Our focus is tracing the development of the city as a literary landscape for foundational African American narratives of freedom, empowerment, imprisonment, decay, and deracination. Particular attention will be paid to how gender and sexuality inflect these narratives. We will also examine how narratives and rhetoric of the academy (particularly the fields of history and sociology), politics, and popular culture (especially music, film, and journalism) interact formally and thematically with the literary narratives we uncover.

AFROAM 691U. Reimagining America

The conventional meta-narrative of American history has been the story of freedom.  Yet that narrative has been contested by many historical voices and by the contrary experiences of many peoples of color.  This seminar will seek to relate the histories of Blacks, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans to the hegemonic narrative to try and conceptualize a more multi-cultural perspective of American history.  It will also look at the resistance of some elements of the academy and society to these alternative viewpoints.

AFROAM 691V.  Black Brazil: Race, Politics and Culture

AFROAM 691W.  21st Century African American Literature

AFROAM 691X.  Comparative Slavery in the Americas
This graduate seminar explores the centrality of slavery to the formation of the various societies of the Americas since the 1492, by considering the political, economic, and social outcomes of  forced African labor in the region. The modern notion of race and the on-going self-liberation efforts of African-descendent women and men are some of these important outcomes.

AFROAM 692A. Literary Theory

This course will take up literary theory since 1965 and how it has influenced the study of African American literature and culture.  The idea here is not to be comprehensive, but rather, to use the term popular a few years back, to stage a series of interventions into the sometimes troubled relationship between “high” theory and its successors and African American Studies. Our task will not simply be to examine different “schools” of critical theory, but to consider how theory has informed and challenged African American literary studies and vice versa.  We will also seek to historicize various critical moments or movements rather than simply view them as pieces of an intellectual toolbox.

AFROAM 692B. The Black Power Movement

The purpose of this course is to offer an appraisal of the Black Power movement which has not been generally available to students of 1960s upheavals in American life.  In far too many academic and popular accounts today, Black Power is portrayed as the “evil twin” of the modern Civil Rights movement, as an intransigent force that brought the black freedom movement of the 1960s era to wrack and ruin.   Our aim is neither to defend no pillory the excesses of Black Power, but rather to demonstrate how this movement arose from the massive resistance of white Americans to extending those basic rights (which they themselves enjoyed) to the black population of this country; and to the inability of established Civil Rights organizations to overcome the obstacles stemming from this massive resistance.  In the end, it is our contention that the collapse and failure of the Black Power phase of the Afro-American freedom struggle represented the collapse and failure of the Civil Rights movement itself. 

AFROAM 692C. Race and Ethnicity in American Life

The purpose of this course is to examine issues of race and ethnicity in American life from the colonial period to the present, with a particular focus on changes wrought to both by the transformation of U.S. immigration laws in 1965. We shall be concerned as much with the ways in which American identity has been defined by partisans of one particular view or another, as by the actual ways in which this identity has manifested itself. How have the social constructs of ethnicity and race been variously defined, and their interrelationship conceived? Once American racial identities were rigidly fixed, how did successive immigrant groups adapt their existing ethnic identities to socially and politically imposed racial categories? In what ways have concepts of ethnicity and race tended to promote/undermine the existence of working-class consciousness? What have been the gender manifestations of these concepts? In what ways have generational differences internal to ethnic or racial groups led to transformations of their group identities? What have been the mechanisms of solidarity/strife between "peoples of color" in their struggles against the dominant racism? And just how close are we to fulfilling (Rodney?) King's dream, anyway?

AFROAM 692D. The Life and Work of Chinua Achebe

AFROAM 692E.  Du Bois and Booker T. Re-examined

There is perhaps no more contentious issue in black history than the debate over the respective visions of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.  Partisans wrangle over their ideologies and associations, their social and political philosophies, their chosen terrains of struggle, their prescriptions for racial uplift and, of course, their respective characters.  While the lives of both men do cry for psychoanalytic interpretation, for example both grew up without fathers, both of their mothers died in their sons’ teenage years, and both are, in a real sense, self-invented—we shall resist that temptation to focus on their lives where they overlap, especially the period from 1895 to 1915.  We want to locate Du Bois and Washington within the tradition of black leadership of which they were a part, situate them in the history of their times, track the development of their ideas, and reflect on the efficacy of their strategies and programs.

AFROAM 692F.  From Reconstruction to Renaissance

This course examines African American literature and culture from the rise of Reconstruction through the onset of Jim Crow and the Great Migration to the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance.  We will be particularly interested in the relationship between African American literature and culture during this period and the notions of modernity, modernism, and the artistic and social avant-garde in the United States.

AFROAM 692G. African American Women’s Narrative

Gender, race, class, slavery, the woman as artist, domesticity, and the territory of love, all are concepts that are located in the narratives of the African American women writers that have been selected for this course.  Participants in this course will interrogate these issues, among others, in the narratives of nineteenth and twentieth century African American women and will be encouraged to examine critically the challenges and the victories that these writers present in their texts.  Course participants also will be encouraged to find connections as well as any disjunctures among these writers and to develop their facility for discussing these narratives as specific instances of a writer’s literary style and as an historically, as well as politically,  marked literary texts in African American literature.

AFROAM 692H. Africa in the Americas

The effectiveness of cultural politics within the dynamics of the struggles for liberation, equality, and participation in the African diaspora.  Seminar supplemented by visual cultures.

AFROAM 692I.  Africa in Latin America

The error of slavery in the Americas was that it underestimated the resiliency of Africans over many generations of displacement, dislocation, dispossession, exploitation, and dehumanization in the New World.  Although distorted history has often depicted enslaved subjects and cultures as “passive” and “content” in their new environments and conditions, this seminar contends that while enslaved Africans were questing for freedom, they equally devised strategies of survival and subversion even when it seemed that they were merely entertaining or adapting their pain and memories.  In addition to establishing the African presence and contribution to the Americas, this seminar focuses on three main cultures as geographical case-studies: the USA, Brazil, and the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas.  Through the perspectives of history, politics, sociology, anthropology, religion, literature, and culture, the course provides a balanced interrogation of the effectiveness of politics of culture and participation as opposed to cultural politics in the African Diaspora. 


AFROAM 692J. African American Literary Movements

The New Negro Harlem Renaissance writers (1920s), the Chicago Writers (1930s and 1940s), the Black Arts and Aesthetics Movement writers (1960s and 1970s), and Black Womanist/Gender issues writers (1980s) mark four distinct periods of heightened literary production among African American writers. Participants in this course will investigate formative themes and concepts (protest/social literature, Pan-Africanism, uplift, Black aesthetic, among others.) that have shaped these movements and will examine the cross-talk—shared concepts, ideas, and ideals—that gives these movements as well as twentieth-century African American literature certain recognizable features that have been shaped and reshaped over time.

AFROAM 692K. Class & Culture: 20th Century

AFROAM 692L. Black Studies: History, Theory & Practice

This seminar begins with a discussion of antecedents to institutionalized Black Studies departments and programs that emerged on college campuses starting in 1968; explores the historical development of the field up to and including today; and concludes with informed speculation concerning challenges to its future. Readings and reflections on the origins of Black Studies on the UMass Amherst campus will specifically be covered. Topics for exploration include the interrelationship of Black Studies to traditional fields and disciplines, the transition of Black Studies from political movement to professionalized institutionalization, the changing audience involved in that transition, and interpretations of American history and culture within the Black Studies matrix that challenge standard narratives regarding these issues.

AFROAM 692M. African American Women’s Literature

AFROAM 692N.  Seminar on the NAACP

AFROAM 692Q. African Diaspora Studies: Introduction to Concepts and Historiography

*Required foundations course for Graduate Certificate in African Diaspora Studies.

This course will offer an introduction to 1) key concepts and definitions e.g. diaspora, Pan-Africanism, Afro-centrism, etc. 2) the classic works in the field. 3) major trends in contemporary scholarship. We will be reading a selection of works discussing the contours and history of the field as well as examples of recent scholarship. Two papers on major themes will be required. This course is required for the Graduate Certificate in African Diaspora Studies and is open both to students pursuing the certificate and to graduate students with a general interest in the subject.

AFROAM 692R. Afro-Latin American History
This seminar course explores the historical agency and varied social identities of African-descended women and men in Latin America and in their subsequent migration to the United States. The course reviews the political, cultural, and social activities of these groups over three important historical periods: during colonial slavery; immediately following slave emancipation and the founding of independent Latin American nations; and our contemporary transnational moment. The course offers broad coverage of black communities throughout Latin America, with some emphasis on Brazil, Colombia, and Cuba.

AFROAM 692S. Classic Figures of 20th Century Afro-American Literature 

A comprehensive and intensive examination of the work of major figures in 20th century Afro-American literature, with an examination of the major relevant criticism.

AFROAM 697A. Historical Sociology of the Black Atlantic: Afro-Latino Diasporas

This course will dig into the histories, politics, and cultures of Afro-Latinos in the Americas and the complex and shifting relationship between African-Americans and Latinas/os in the United States.  It will begin with an historical analysis of the place of Afro-Latino diasporas within the Black Atlantic since the emergence of such diasporic formation in the long sixteenth century to quickly move into a discussion of the divide of the two Americas in the contexts of the 1846-8 Mexican-American War and the 1898 Spanish-Cuban-American War.  We will then draw a general map of racial formations and black cultures in the Americas analyzing differences, patterns of similarity, and forms of interaction and exchange (e.g., political and cultural) of the African Diaspora throughout the Americas.  After this the focus will turn into the United States and particularly on the relationship between Hispanic Caribbean Latinos and African-Americans (in the sense of U.S. Blacks) and on the specificity of Afro-Latinos in the U.S. as an historical identity.  Among the topics to be covered are: Afro-Latinos and the Harlem Renaissance, Afro-diasporic musical expressions from Mambo to Hip-Hop, the relationship between the black freedom movement and the Latino power movement in the sixties, co-operation and conflict in urban political coalitions of Blacks and Latinos in New York and Chicago, how the relationship between race and class frames labor and community politics, and in which ways Afro-Latinos break the very distinction between African-Americans and Latinos.

AFROAM 697B.  Radical Thought in the 3rd World

A comprehensive and intensive examination of the work of major figures in 20th century Afro-American literature, with an examination of the major relevant criticism.

AFROAM 697D. The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois

The focus of the course this semester will be three fold: 1) W.E.B. Du Bois’ contributions to the development of sociology in the U.S. and especially that of African Americans and of race relations, 2) Du Bois’ interactions with such contemporaries as Franz Boas, Robert E. Park, and later E. Franklin Frazier, Charles Johnson, St. Clair Drake and Oliver Cox, and 3) Du Bois’ views as contrasted to other scholars of the diaspora such as Melville Herskovits, Gilberto Freyre, Frank Tannenbaum, etc.

AFROAM 697J. Cross-Disciplinary Contemporary Issues Education Before and After Brown

From an interdisciplinary investigation of how African Americans negotiated and attempted to transform the U.S. education system, this course studies schooling from before the 1954 Brown decision to present-day conditions.

AFROAM 701-702. Major Works in Afro-American Studies I and II

*Open to Afro-American Studies M.A. and Ph.D. Students Only.

AFROAM 753. Special Topics in Afro-American Literature & Culture

For graduate students only. An intensive study of the history of the blues. The nature of blues music and lyrics in an African and African American social, political, and musical context, and the use of the blues tradition in literature. No reading knowledge of music required or expected.

AFROAM 791C. Radical Perspectives

This is a proseminar which has as its purpose is to initiate you into the professional academic world of Africana Studies. The course is based upon and promotes an open, collegial atmosphere without intimidation or one-upmanship. It aims at helping you to develop your ability to produce radical, transformative scholarship about the African American experience in the very best of the Afro-American Studies scholarly tradition. The way we will do this involves three interrelated processes: (1) We will build on the scholarship you studied in the Major Works sequence and/or other previous course work; (2) We will study and discuss some key literature on black hermeneutics, epistemic formations, and knowledge revolutions; and (3) We will critique each other's scholarly work in development.

AFROAM 791Z. Toni Morrison

Participants in this seminar will focus primarily on Toni Morrison's fiction and the scholarship on it. The seminar also will include readings from her essays, lectures, and criticism.


Other Graduate Seminars

Classic Figures of 20th Century Afro-American Literature  

A comprehensive and intensive examination of the work of major figures in 20th century Afro-American literature, with an examination of the major relevant criticism.

Dynamics of Law and Race

An intensive examination of the intersection of race with American law. The focus will be on the critique of established legal theories mounted by a number of legal scholars in what has come to be known as the Critical Race Theory Movement.  Supreme Court cases and other legal materials will combine with theoretical, historical and critical works on the law and American society.  Among the topics to be covered are the law of slavery, affirmative action, voting rights, and the nature of legal education.  Weekly papers, class presentations, and final research report.

History of the South from the Colonial Period to 1900

This seminar will examine the history of the south as a distinctive region in the United Sates from the colonial period to Populism.  We will not only look at what set southern societies apart from the rest of the nation but also at those factors which divided the south internally along regional, class, race and gender lines.  Topics will include the rise and fall of slavery, southern women’s history, southern nationalism, the transition from slavery to capitalism, the underdevelopment of the postbellum southern economy, race relations, and  the agrarian  revolt of small farmers at the turn of the century.  The format of the seminar is discussion.

Topics in Black Women’s History

We will be reading some of the latest scholarship on the role of African American women in political and advancement organizations.  We also will be exploring some of the developing bodies of primary source material on the history of Black women.   Extensive reading and a research paper will be required.

Jesse Jackson & American Presidential Politics

This seminar will examine the modern efforts of Black Americans to influence electoral politics in general and the Democratic party in particular through the medium of presidential campaigns.  Beginning with the Great Depression, we will look at the movement of Blacks into the Democratic Party, the  significance of the black vote in national elections, the contradictory role of black elected officials, and the theory and practice of the “balance of power” strategy as exemplified by Jesse Jackson’s two historic campaigns for President.  Jackson’s impact upon Democratic party politics and policies will also be assessed as will the vagaries of press coverage in the 1988 campaign.


Afro-American Course Descriptions (pdf)