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Afro-American Studies Courses

Faculty | Master's | Doctoral | Courses

All courses carry 4 credits unless otherwise specified.

601 Slavery
Seminar focusing on slavery from its rise in the United States until its destruction during the Civil War. Slavery as a political and economic institution, and as a day-to-day lived experience. Emphasis on broad themes and interpretation, including 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.

604 Black Intellectual History and Ideology
Principle currents of black intellectual history and ideology from the early 19th through the late 20th centuries. Themes of assimilation, nationalism, black feminism, civil and political rights, religion, and international perspectives. Emphasis on the structural and thematic patterns which emerge through study of diverse ideas of African Americans ranging over a century and a half.

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, black scholar and activist, with reference to his major works. Topics include Du Bois as 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 double consciousness.

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.

667 The 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.

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.

691B Black Workers in the U.S. Since Emancipation
Some of the significant issues in the history of African American workers since Emancipation, and related recent scholarship. The history of capitalism in the U.S. and Black workers; the role of Black labor in several industries; Black women as workers; Black labor and the Black power movement; and Herbert Hill’s critiques of organized labor and the labor history establishment.

691C Historiographical Methods in Afro-American Studies
Introduction to some of the basics of what it means to read, think, and write as an historian. What historians do and why, the “objectivity question,” the development of African American history as an academic discipline, and one or two current controversies. Students 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, online indices and collections, and various important national repositories including the Library of Congress.

691D Major Works in Afro-American Studies
Open only to doctoral students in Afro-American Studies.

691E African American Women Novelists Since 1945
Novels written by African American women since World War II, focusing on the conception and representation of identity in these works.

691F Black Political Struggle in America: 1776-Present
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.

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 that African Americans have perceived their positions in American society and their roles as reflectors and/or shapers of African American culture. Explores sources and influences in various works of African, American, and British literature as well as works of African American folklore. Includes secondary critical works dealing with the African American poetic tradition.

691H Race and Public Policy
Historical examination of the role of public policy in both advancing and obstructing the black struggle for civic equality in America. Topics include 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 elevated the conservative economic and political agenda to mainstream legitimacy. Specific issues include welfare, affirmative action, jobs, poverty, and the criminal justice system.

691K The Politics of Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War
The significance of slavery in the growth of sectional politics in antebellum America. The rise of a distinctive slave society in the south and of antislavery in the north. Early sectional differences over slavery such as the Missouri crisis and the nullification controversy. 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.

691L The Black Arts Movement
The Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s in its many manifestations, including literture, theater, music, and the visual arts. Focus on 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. The distinctive regional variations of the movements and the ways in which Black Arts fundamentally changed how art is produced and received in the United States.

691M The Life and Thought of C.L.R. James
The reading of several of James’s major works as well as a substantial selection from his political writings and correspondence to acquaint students with James’s own words on a variety of the political, social, and cultural issues that he attempted to address during his lifetime. Also includes reading in the secondary literature that attempts, with varying success, to situate James in various contexts.

691N Critical Race Theory
An interdisciplinary look at the critique of legal theory and practice mounted in recent years by a number of legal scholars of color. Readings from history, the social sciences, and law.

691P Critique of the Concept of Racism
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. Also includes a brief comparative survey of apartheid in South Africa and anti-Semitism in the Third Reich.

691Q Black Images in Antebellum Literature
The Southern Plantation, so largely dependent on the “peculiar institution” of slavery for its existence, as the source of some of the most abiding literary characterizations or images of American Blacks. Focus on these literary characterizations and their validity or invalidity, their purposes, and their ramifications.

691S Contemporary Afro-American Literature
Themes of love, war, assimilation, feminism, homosexuality, and more as found in contemporary Afro-American literature. The identification and analysis of 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.

691T Great Migrations: Migration, Urbanization and Modernity in the African American Novel Since 1900
The representation of migration, urbanization, and modernity (or post-modernity) in a range of African American novels published between 1900 and the present. Focus on the development of the city as a literary landscape for foundational African American narratives of freedom, empowerment, imprisonment, decay, and deracination.

691U Reimagining America
The conventional meta-narrative of American history as the story of freedom and the ways in which it has been contested by many historical voices and by the contrary experiences of many peoples of color. The histories of Blacks, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans related to the hegemonic narrative to try and conceptualize a more multicultural perspective of American history. Also examines the resistance of some elements of the academy and society to these alternative viewpoints.

692A Literary Theory
Literary theory since 1965 and how it has influenced the study of African American literature and culture, with emphasis on the sometimes troubled relationship between “high” theory and its successors and African American Studies. How theory has informed and challenged African American literary studies and vice versa. Various critical moments or movements placed in their historical contexts.

692B The Black Power Movement
Overview of the Civil Rights movement, examining the influences that came to shape the call for Black Power: remnants of the Garvey movement, the Cuban revolution, the Nation of Islam, the political decolonization of Africa, and reactions by African Americans to the violence engendered by non-violent protests for civil rights. Diverse interpretations of Black Power examined in detail, along with reasons for the movement’s decline.

692E Du Bois and Booker T. Re-examined
Du Bois and Washington within the tradition of black leadership of which they were a part, situating them in the history of their times, tracking the development of their ideas, and reflecting on the efficacy of their strategies and programs.

692F From Reconstruction to Renaissance
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.

692G African American Women’s Narrative
Gender, race, class, slavery, the woman as artist, domesticity, and the territory of love as concepts located in the narratives of selected African American women writers. Students interrogate these issues, among others, in the narratives of 19th- and 20-century African American women and examine critically the challenges and the victories that these writers present in their texts.

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.

692I Africa in Latin America
The history, expressive cultures, politics, religions, and music of Latin America, the most racially and culturally diverse continent. The intellectual history and political culture of Africans in colonial and independence eras. Focus on the influence, survival, and the resilience of African traditions on modern Afro-Latin American culture.

692J African American Literary Movements
A critical investigation of three distinct periods of literary production among African American writers: The New Negro Harlem Renaissance (1920s); Chicago Writers (1930s); and the Black Arts and Aesthetics Movement (1960s and 1970s). Examines formative themes and concepts that have shaped these important literary movements.

697A Historical Sociology of the Black Atlantic: Afro-Latino Diasporas
The histories, politics, and cultures of Afro-Latinos in the Americas and Latinas/os in the U.S. Includes historical analysis of the place of Afro-Latino diasporas within the Black Atlantic since the 16th century and the divide of the two Americas in the contexts of the 1846-48 Mexican-American War and the 1898 Spanish-Cuban-American War.

697 Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown
A discussion of the lives and major works of Hughes and Brown, placing their works in the context of American literature and culture–especially music and folklore–of their times.

697 Classic Figures in 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.

697 History of the South: Colonial Period to 1900
The history of the south as a distinctive region of the U.S. from the colonial period to Populism. Examines the southern societies apart from the rest of the nation but also those which divided the south internally along regional, class, race, and gender lines. Topics 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.

697 Topics in Black Women’s History
Some of the latest scholarship on the role of African American women in political and advancement organizations. Some of the developing bodies of primary source material on the history of Black women.

697E Jesse Jackson and American Presidential Politics
Modern efforts of Black Americans to influence electoral politics in general and the Democratic party in particular through the medium of presidential campaigns. Examines, beginning with the Great Depression, 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, and the vagaries of press coverage in the 1988 campaign.

697O Dynamics of Law and Race
An intensive examination of the intersection of race with American law. Focus 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 combine with theoretical, historical, and critical works on the law and American society. Topics include the law of slavery, affirmative action, voting rights, and the nature of legal education.

699 Master’s Thesis
Credit, 1-10.

701-702 Major Works Seminar in Afro-American Studies I and II
An intensive study of fifty major works of Afro-American Studies. Required of all first-year doctoral candidates, and open only to them.

753 Special Topics in Afro-American Literature and Culture: The Blues
An intensive study of the history of the blues, analyzing the nature of blues music and lyrics, placing them in an African and African American social, political, and musical context, and exploring the use of the blues tradition in literature. Open to graduate students only. No reading knowledge of music required or expected.

790E Ideological Critque
An intensive examination of the methodology of ideological critique, through a close study of three examples of the genre and associated texts: Edwin Wilmsen, Land Filled With Flies; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey; and Charles Mills, The Racial Contract.

797S African Americans and the Movement to Abolish Slavery
The rise of the antislavery movement in the United States from the American Revolution to the Civil War, with particular attention to the role of African Americans. Includes the ideology of black abolitionism, its contributions to the antislavery movement as a whole, the impact of slave narratives on the abolition movement, individual African American abolitionists, the rise of black nationalism and African American women activists. The nature and impact of black abolitionism on the broader movement.

899 Doctoral Dissertation
Credit, 10.