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Undergraduate Courses


AFROAM Spring 2023 Course Guide

*Note: All courses are 3 credits unless noted otherwise.

AFROAM 101. Introduction to Black Studies

Interdisciplinary introduction to the basic concepts and literature in the disciplines covered by Black Studies. Includes history, the social sciences, and humanities as well as conceptual frameworks for investigation and analysis of Black history and culture.

AFROAM 111. Survey African Art

Major traditions in African art from prehistoric times to present. Allied disciplines of history and archaeology used to recover the early history of certain art cultures. The aesthetics in African art and the contributions they have made to the development of world art in modern times.

AFROAM 113. African Diaspora Arts

Visual expression in the Black Diaspora (United States, Caribbean, and Latin America) from the early slave era to the present.

AFROAM 117. Survey of Afro-American Literature, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

The major figures and themes in Afro-American literature, analyzing specific works in detail and surveying the early history of Afro-American literature. What the slave narratives, poetry, short stories, novels, drama, and folklore of the period reveal about the social, economic, psychological, and artistic lives of the writers and their characters, both male and female. Explores the conventions of each of these genres in the period under discussion to better understand the relation of the material to the dominant traditions of the time and the writers' particular contributions to their own art. (Planned for Fall)

AFROAM 118. Survey of Afro-American Literature II, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

Introductory level survey of Afro-American literature from the Harlem Renaissance to the present, including DuBois, Hughes, Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Walker, Morrison, Baraka and Lorde. (Planned for Spring)

AFROAM 132. African-American History 1619-1860, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

This course will examine important developments and issues in African American history from the initial arrival of African slaves to Virginia until the Civil War. We will focus on the Black experience under slavery and the struggle for emancipation. Key topics to be discussed include the Atlantic slave trade, the evolution of African American communities and culture, free Black communities, the distinct experience of Black women, and Black protest traditions. (Planned for Fall)

AFROAM 133. African-American History Civil War-1954, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

Major issues and actions from the beginning of the Civil War to the 1954 Supreme Court decision. Focus on political and social history: transition from slavery to emancipation and Reconstruction; the Age of Booker T. Washington; urban migrations, rise of the ghettoes; the ideologies and movements from integrationism to black nationalism. (Planned for Spring)

AFROAM 151. Literature & Culture, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

This course explores relevant forms of Black cultural expression that have contributed to the shape and character of contemporary Blackness. Topics to be discussed will include West African cultural patterns and the Black past; the transition-slavery; the culture of survival; cultural patterns evident in literature; and Black perceptions versus white perceptions.

AFROAM 155. Revolutionary Concepts in Afro-American Music I

Introduction to history of Black music from its African origins to the end of the 19th century. (Planned for Fall)

AFROAM 156. Revolutionary Concepts in Afro-American Music II, 4 credits, (AT,DU)

This course will examine the development of African-American music during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century with a particular focus on links to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, the Post Civil Rights era, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. In particular, the class will survey the varied styles, productions, and receptions of artists including Bessie Smith, Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Mary Lou Williams, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Max Roach, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Booker T. & the MGs, Sun Ra, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, N.W.A., Public Enemy, Blackstar, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, Chance the Rapper, J Cole, among others. In addition, the course will cover some African and African Diaspora traditions of revolutionary music from artists such as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Bob Marley. (Planned for Spring)

AFROAM 161. Introduction to Afro-American Political Science, 4 credits, (SB,DU)

Survey of the politics of the Black community in the U.S. The history of Black political development, major theories which explain Black political life, social, economic, psychological and institutional environment from which Black politics flows. Attention paid to 1988 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson and its relevance to the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

AFROAM 170. The Grassroots Experience in American Life and Culture I, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

This course combines instruction in research tecnniques in a variety of Humanistic and Social Science disciplines, and hands-on experience with those techniques, with substantive materials focusing on the long struggle of minority populations for full participation in American cultural and public life.

AFROAM 171. The Grassroots Experience in American Life and Culture II

This course investigates the life and struggles of African and African American peoples. Students will be introduced to Humanistic and Social Science research methods and are required to undertake a substantial piece of individual research.

AFROAM 190G. Racism: the American Experience

Some present-day examples of racism in the workplace and criminal justice system. The roots of racism in North America. Examination of the various uses and purposes of racism as they developed over the course of the nation's history. The World War II incarceration of Japanese-Americans and the FBI's suborning of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The investigation and analysis of contemporary racism as expressed in, and revealed by, the print media of today.

AFROAM 192F. Freshman Survival Techniques, 1 credit

This course helps first-year students transition from high school to college. Students will be matched with peer mentors and academic advisors; learn effective study and time management skills; explore various topics that deal with academics and social issues; and receive assistance with securing internships, co-ops, and summer employment.

AFROAM 196D/ 196E. Drum Circle Part I and II

Although recreational drum circles are a means for having fun and reducing stress, traditional drum circles have been around for centuries and almost always occur for specific reasons (e.g. annual celebrations, festivals, ceremonies, etc.). Often times society may ignore the spirit of the drumming tradition and its various cultural origins and this has recently produced a growing void between traditional playing, recreational drumming and even ballet style performances across the world. But the fact is that West African and various other world percussion rhythms are being adopted by various people, including western countries such as the U.S. Respecting the context and background of these rhythms ensures that we are acknowledging the long, rich history of the drum. The significance of this will be explored to the best of our ability in this 1-credit course.

AFROAM 197A/197B. Taste of Honey: Black Film in the 1950s

This course is a part of the Afro-American Studies department partnership with the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS) and the Malcolm X Cultural Center (MXCC) enrichment programming initiative. The purpose of this class is to raise awareness of and exposure to different cultural backgrounds that will enhance student personal development while promoting a better understanding of our diverse community. This course will take you on an historical journey exploring the roles of African American men and women highlighting their contributions and struggles in the American movie industry. Students will learn about the ground breaking movies, roles and actors who helped pave the way for a future generation while breaking down racial barriers to tell the story of the African American experience. A selection of movies will explore a variety of topics such as, race, gender and stereotypes while reflecting on how these characteristics have been portrayed. We will introduce you to a sampling of movies made during the decades from the 1960s to the early 2000s.

AFROAM 222. Black Church in America

Survey of West African religions. The development of the Black Christian Church in its visible and "invisible" institutional forms during the colonial period, and the merging of these two branches, free and slave, following the Civil War. Also the emergence of Holiness and Pentecostal sects, the impact of urban migrations on black spiritual expression, the Black Church and civil rights, gender issues, and the recent challenge of Islam.

AFROAM 232. History of Black Nationalism

Black nationalism in the United States, beginning with voluntary associations developed by free blacks in the late 19th century up to the Afrocentric "hip-hop" expressions of the 1990s. The interrelationships between the economic, political, and cultural forms of African American nationalism analyzed along with its secular and religious expressions. The intimate connections between nationalist and assimilationist tendencies in African American life.

AFROAM 234. The Harlem Renaissance, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

Exploration of the cultural explosion also termed the New Negro movement, from W.E.B. Du Bois through the early work of Richard Wright. Essays, poetry, and fiction, and the blues, jazz, and folklore of the time examined in terms of how Harlem Renaissance artists explored their spiritual and cultural roots, dealt with gender issues, sought artistic aesthetic and style adequate to reflect such concerns. Readings supplemented by contemporary recordings, visual art, and videos.

AFROAM 235. Black Sociological Thought

Assessment of current sociological views of the African-American experience.

AFROAM 236. History of the Civil Rights Movement, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

This course examines the Civil Rights Movement from the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954 and through the rise and decline of Black Power. We will investigate the lives and influence of major movement leaders, as well as major organizations of the period including SCLC, SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP; and the collective efforts of ordinary citizens who did extraordinary things. We also will pay attention to the Civil Rights Movement in the South, as well as the North and West; the work of gender and sexuality; and different philosophical and tactical strands of the movement, including nonviolent demonstrations and black nationalism.

AFROAM 238. Arts and Cultural Identity

Explores the arts as they are used to express cultural identity. It will examine various genres of art by artists of color and their application of cultural and social issues to their work. Using the exhibits and performances presented in the Augusta Savage Art Gallery, the curator will draw on those presentations for discussions and critiques of the arts as reflective of culture and as historical record. The course will include readings by and about artists, video viewings, the creation of arts projects, and discussions about the relationship of creativity to cultural expression.

AFROAM 243 Afro-American Folklore

A close look at the origins, variety, nature, and functions of Afro-American folklore, including contexts for collecting and understanding it and its manifestations in literature and popular music.

AFROAM 244. Afro-Am Poetry: Beginning to 1900, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

This is a discussion-based course that will read black poetry as a response to both historical and contemporary contexts. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, Frances E. W. Harper, and Paul Laurence Dunbar alongside some lesser-known African American poets from the pre-1900 period. We will also read some recently published poems and collections that take up historical questions and their traces in the present (including the transatlantic slave trade, regimes of enslavement, anti-blackness, racist science and medicine, state and police violence, and sexual violence). Students will also be introduced to poetry criticism and other relevant secondary literature. The work for the class will include two shorter response papers (rooted in close reading); one creative project; and a final research paper that will incorporate secondary sources.

AFROAM 245. The Slave Narrative

An examination of the African American genre of slave narratives, from the shortest paragraph-long examinations to book-length manifestations that captured the imaginations of 19th century America and the world. The course will encompass issues of race, gender, sexuality, and historical and literacy contexts of important narratives, which may include those of Olaudah Equiano, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs, as well as modern and contemporary narratives influenced by the genre.

AFROAM 246. Afro-American Literature of the 1930s. (*previously 390C) 

An intensive look at the literature of African Americans between the Harlem Renaissance and the emergence of Richard Wright and his naturalistic vision. The historical context, the continuing influence of the Harlem Renaissance, other art of the period, the influence of the political climate on the poetry and prose of representative African American writers of the 1930s, and the directions for African American literature of the 1940s mapped out in the 1930s.

AFROAM 250. African American Short Stories, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

Students in this course will receive an introduction to the African American short story and to the major themes, issues, concepts, as well as the literary techniques and forms prevalent in African American literature.

AFROAM 252. Afro-American Image In American Writing

Examination of a representative sampling of poetry, prose and/or drama by American writers -- black and white, male and female -- depicting African-American characters and issues related directly to the lives of African Americans. Texts chosen from the works of such authors as Jefferson, Poe, Stowe, Melville, Douglass, Delany, Dunbar, Eliot, Faulkner, Hurston, Wright, Baldwin, Styron, Baraka, and Morrison. We will analyze and interpret material in light of issues of race, gender, class, politics, historical time frame, and artistic aesthetic, in order to characterize the depictions of African-Americans in the works, and to understand what those depictions reflect about individual writers, about segments of American society, and about American society as a whole.

AFROAM 253: Pre-Civil War Black Writers

A survey of African American and Black Atlantic writings in the Age of Revolution, from the late eighteenth century to the beginning of the Civil War, with particular emphasis on how writers negotiated the promises and ideals of the revolutionary period. Course considers a variety of genres (autobiography, speeches, fiction, drama, poetry, etc.) and explores how different forms of writing were mobilized in the struggle for emancipation. Other topics may include the beginnings of the African American novel; the drama of slavery; relationship between written and expressive culture; speeches and Abolitionism; the rise of black periodical and pamphlet culture; black narratives in the Atlantic World, including slave narratives, travelogues, natural histories, and other fictional and non-fictional accounts.

AFROAM 254. Introduction to African Studies, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

Introduction to Africa from an interdisciplinary perspective. The chronological sequence from pre-history to contemporary times. Political development and processes, the arts, ethnography, social structures, and economies.

AFROAM 257. Contemporary African-American Novel

Survey of the Black novel from 1940 to the present; major Black novelists of the contemporary period. Emphasis on what these novelists have to say about the black experience in the latter half of the 20th-century. Themes include alienation and identity, revolution, and existentialism. Attention to the styles of various writers and their use of the language.

AFROAM 262. Radical Traditions in American History

The rise and fall of various radical movements in the United States from the American Revolution to the 1960s. The success and limitations of ideologies and strategies adopted by American radicals to address the problems of political inequality and social injustice. Topics include abolitionism, labor movements, populism, socialism, feminism, and the civil rights movement.

AFROAM 264. Foundations of Black Education in the U.S., 4 credits, (HS,DU)

The education of blacks from Reconstruction to 1954. Includes public schools, colleges, and non-school education. The involvement of religious associations, philanthropic organizations, the Freedman’s Bureau, the Black church, and the Federal Government will also be discussed.

AFROAM 265. The Blues Came Down Like Dark Night Showers of Rain

A comprehensive exploration of the African American musical genre known as the blues, including definitions; African and African American roots; social, psychological, and spiritual uses; common and uncommon themes and images; music and lyric structures; regional and chronological stylistic variations; and employment in African American literature. Includes live performances and a wide variety of recordings, films, and videos. No prior knowledge of the blues or reading knowledge of music required.

AFROAM 290G. Introduction to Black Global Studies

This course uses the critical methodologies of the humanities and social sciences to consider some of the questions provoked by African and African diasporan experiences. Course materials will allow students to survey the lasting contributions of Africans and their descendants to the development of various world civilizations and examine historical relationships between the individual actors and larger social forces. The five major themes that we will use to comprehend the experiences of African-descended peoples are Beauty, Identity, Power, Visions of the Past, and Visions of the Future.

AFROAM 291A. Student Activism in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements

Throughout the era of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, young people were often in the vanguard impacting and affecting change, as leaders and as major participants in the struggles for social justice. Young people, including elementary, high school, college, and university students throughout the country, willingly put their lives and academic futures at risk for the purposes of a greater good. This course will cover student activism during the major turning points from the 1950s through the 70s. Topics to be covered will include: the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education decision, the Montgomery Movement, the Little Rock Nine, the Freedom Rides, the Sit-In Movement, and the Black Studies Movement. The course will look at student activism of such Civil Rights and Black Power Movement groups as the NAACP, SCLC, NAG, SNCC, CORE, and the Black Panther Party. Attention also will be given to the groups formed by the Black Feminists during the 1970s.

AFROAM 291E. The Black Seventies Through Film

This course focuses on the cinematic representations of African Americans in the 1970s, a crucial transitional era marked by the demise of racial segregation and the fulfillment of formal political and civil rights for Black Americans on the one hand, and the decline of the quality of life in urban centers and unprecedented rates of incarceration on the other. How did 1970s filmmakers engage with and refute dominant cultural and Hollywood images of African Americans while crating a cinematic language specific to African American experiences? Discussion topics include: “The Ghetto Aesthetic;” “Beyond Hollywood: African American Art Cinema;” “Interrogating Blaxploitation;” “Uses of Music;” “Gender Portrayals;” “The Black Hero.”

AFROAM 291F. Black Caribbean Literature

A variety of literary genres as well as critical essays authored by Black Caribbean writers from the Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Francophone Caribbean will be analyzed during the course of the semester. While attention will be given to historical and cultural context, emphasis will be placed on literary analysis of texts. The readings selected will cover slavery, colonialism, anti-colonialism, race/colorism, gender, Creolization, language, orality, and diaspora.

AFROAM 291G. Reading, Writing and Citizenship: African-American Educational Campaigns

Struggles for equity in education have always been central to African-American strategies for advancement. African-American ideas about how to make educational equity a reality, however, have varied greatly over time. This course seeks to examine how various issues in African-American education have evolved throughout the twentieth Century. The class will begin with the dynamic struggle of Boston’s African American community to desegregate public education during the pre-civil war decade. We will cover other critical campaigns in the Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil Rights/Black Power eras. By exploring a range of critical perspectives on black educational history, students will begin to identify specific research questions. This course will require students to become familiar with resource materials found in the library research databases and in the W.E. B. Dubois Special Collection located at UMASS. You will also have several opportunities to develop your abilities to analyze primary documents in education during classroom discussions. Reading materials will cover a wide range of areas of education, such as school building on the local level, desegregation, competing educational philosophies, Black Colleges and Universities, school boycotts, Black teachers and Civil Rights Movement and early childhood education. You will notice many gaps in the existing literature. Much of the second half of the course will be devoted to exploring new areas of research for a final paper.

AFROAM 291L. Losing Gender (*meets w/WGSS 291L)

This course will take seriously the claim that gender is anti-Black, that slavery marked an epochal rupture and that slavery is a technology for producing a kind of human. Following the work of Hortense Spillers' Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book, this course is interested in thinking through how the politics gender differentiation was and still is central to black subject making in the New World. One of the objectives for this course, is to develop a way to advocate for a politics vested in the abolition of gender in the long run and in the short-run, doing the work in thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality has been vital to subject making.

AFROAM 293A. Slavery and Diaspora in the Atlantic World

This survey of slavery's history in the Atlantic World between the late 15th and late 19th centuries examines the world created by the transatlantic slave trade, a world in which coerced black labor was at the center of European colonization projects and the rise of Western capitalism. This course employs a comparative and transnational framework; throughout the semester, students will encounter slave societies throughout the Atlantic World, ranging from West Africa to the Caribbean to North America. Subjects covered include the slave trade, the creation of diasporic cultures and communities, the labor of slavery, strategies of slave resistance, and the transatlantic struggle for slavery's abolition. Special attention is given to the lives and experiences of enslaved people themselves.

AFROAM 293B. The African Diaspora & the War on Drugs

This course explores the decades-long drug prohibition campaign popularly known as the “War on Drugs.” With the U.S. federal government regularly appropriating more than $50 million to this campaign, African Americans continue to find themselves disproportionately impacted by this regime of drug prohibition. Rather than remaining confined to the borders of the United States, this campaign, and its increasingly militarized operations, has over the past several decades spread throughout the Western hemisphere and, in doing so, directly impacted people of African descent throughout the Americas. By drawing on historical, biographical, and journalistic accounts of Black peoples' lived experiences, this course examines the elaboration of this campaign’s military, institutional, legal and policy frameworks. It will consider various activities – including, but not limited to drug production, trafficking and consumption, as well as community organizing, human rights advocacy, and social movement building – by Black people not only in the U.S., but across North, Central, and South America, as well as the Caribbean basin. The Reagan era Drug Wars and the ongoing opioid epidemic will be critical to this course, as they best highlight divergent strategies of law enforcement and public health responses to issues of drug use and addiction, as well as the roles of race, class, and gender in shaping these divergent responses. From here, this course will also explore various approaches to bringing about an end to the Drug Wars and remedying their impacts.

AFROAM 293C, Race, Sexuality, and the Law in Early America, 3 credits

What is race? What is sexuality? And how did early American history shape the legal structures that would come to define racial and sexual identities and possibilities? In this course, students will examine how African, European, and Native American ideas about race and sexuality influenced the development of colonial, early Republican, and antebellum America, with a special focus on the evolution of American legal frameworks undergirding racial and sexual hierarchies. Topics covered include initial encounters between Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans; the birth and evolution of racial slavery; interracial sex and marriage; citizenship and belonging; and legal and extra-legal violence.

AFROAM 293E. Black Workers in the U.S.

This course 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 293F. The Afro-American Press

The black press is a critical—but often ignored—aspect of African American history and culture. The black press has been central to community formation, protest and advocacy, education and literacy, and economic self-sufficiency. The black press has always been a source of black American political power and social change. Since the earliest known black-owned and published newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was founded in 1827, the black press has provided a public sphere for an aggrieved community barred from mainstream channels of discourse. This course will examine the history and the role of the press, in abolition and civil rights spanning two centuries. The course will profile early writers and journalists like David Ruggles, founder of the first African American bookstore, Fredrick Douglas, WEB DuBois, and Ida B. Wells. We will explore how the Black press exposed the horrors of slavery and lynching inspired millions to travel from southern towns migrating with promises of opportunity, and a better quality of life. The course will also trace the 21st-century challenges faced by the Black press, the contributions of Black women like Nikole Hannah Jones, and how social media has influenced a resurgence in black media content producers. The course includes guest lectures by working journalists, podcasters, and media producers and is project-based without any course prerequisites.

AFROAM 293G. From Environmental Racism to Climate Justice

This course explores the emergence of the modern environmental justice movement in the U.S. South during the 1980s and 90s and examines its impact on the more recent development of a movement for climate justice. It will note how this movement coined the term “environmental racism” and made calls for new forms of participatory democracy, while also noting some of this movement’s limitations. In doing so, this course will pay particular attention to the ways in which this movement informed the development of the demands of climate activists, both in the United States and around the world. From here, this course will examine key facets of the emerging climate movement, including the fight to block pipelines, the struggle against disaster capitalism, the conceptualization of the Anthropocene, and how growing debates around militarism, decolonization, eco-socialism, and industrial sabotage shape contemporary activism.

AFROAM 293J. Black Women, Representation, and Power in Africa and the African Diaspora

This course explores histories, cultures, and contemporary socio-political issues of relevance to women of African descent across the geographical spectrum of the Pan-African world: Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and North America.  What representations and stereotypes do others have of Black women? And how do Black women challenge misrepresentations and define themselves? The course begins by exploring ideas of feminism, black feminism, and womanism/Africana womanism as relevant ideologies for women of African descent. The course then uses novels, ethnographies, journal articles, and videos from Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the United States and other countries to examine issues of identity, cultural representation, and self-definition for Black women. Topics covered include colonialism, sex tourism, skin-bleaching and colorism, intersectionality and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, stereotypes of Black women, reproductive justice and Black maternal mortality, Black girl’s games, and women in Hip-Hop, etc. 

AFROAM 295P. Policing, Protesting and Politics: Queers, Feminists and BlackLivesMatter# (same as WGSS 295P)

Over the past year few years, a powerful social movement has emerged to affirm to the country and world that Black Lives Matter. Sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Stanford, Florida, and Zimmerman's acquittal as well as the police killings of other black men and women, including Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, and Freddie Gray, this movement challenges police violence and other policing that makes black communities unsafe as well as social constructions of black people as inherently dangerous and criminal. Police violence against black people and the interrelated criminalization of black communities have a long history, older than the US itself. There is a similarly long and important history of activism and social movements against police violence and criminalization. Today, black people are disproportionately subject to police surveillance and violence, arrest, and incarceration. So, too, are other people of color (both men and women) and queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people of all races but especially those of color. This course will examine the history of policing and criminalization of black, queer, and trans people and communities and related anti-racist, feminist, and queer/trans activism. In doing so, we will interrogate how policing and understandings of criminality - or the view that certain people or groups are inherently dangerous or criminal - in the US have long been deeply shaped by race, gender, and sexuality.

AFROAM 297A. Black Springfield: Revisited

African American urban studies is a vibrant area of intellectual inquiry. This course will acquaint you with a variety of disciplinary tools for studying African American life in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, our urban neighbor just 25 miles away. We will start with a broad survey of the city's history that began when William Pynchon and a company of Puritan men from Roxbury, founded Springfield in 1636 at the confluence of three rivers. Pynchon established a trading and fur-collecting post and enslaved Africans became a vital part of its labor force. Springfield officially became a city in May of 1852, but by then slavery had ended and the city had developed a reputation as a Underground Railroad depot thanks to antislavery freedom fighters like Thomas Thomas, Eli Baptist, and John Brown. Springfield's location at the crossroads of New England is the most significant reason for its economic progress as an industrial city. In 2010, Springfield was a city of 156,060 that was 22.3% Black or African American, and 4.7% from Two or More Races (1.5% White and Black or African American). Latin@s of any race made up 38.8% of the population (33.2% Puerto Rican). It is a multicultural community, and is the regional center for banking, finance, and courts. Field trips to important sites, interviews with Ms. LaJuana Hood, founder of Springfield's Pan African Historical Museum USA, as well as other important culture bearers, will be special facets of the course. Community engaged research will be emphasized.

AFROAM 297D. The African American Image in Film

This course focuses on the cinematic representations of African Americans in film from the 1890s to the present day. What were the dominant racial and gender images of African Americans that emerged during the slavery era? Why did such images achieve such popularity in film? How did black filmmakers engage with and refute dominant cultural and Hollywood images of African Americans while creating a cinematic language specific to African American experiences? What transformations have occurred in the images of African Americans in film since World War II, and especially since the 1960s?

AFROAM 297F. Black Women in the Americas and the Caribbean

This course will survey the historical, political, economic and socio-cultural realities that Black women in the Americas and the Caribbean have faced and continue to face. A variety of readings by and about Black women will highlight the ways in which race, class, and gender combine to operate in the lives of Black women. Special attention will be paid to Black women as laborers, Black women as political activists, and the various ways in which Black women in the Americas and the Caribbean experience race and gender.

AFROAM 297G. Contemporary Issues in Afro-American Education

This course will build upon a historical perspective in order to examine current issues affecting African-Americans in the US education system. Topics covered will include the causes and consequences of the black-white academic achievement gap, continued racial segregation across and within schools, and affirmative action among others. Designed as the second part of a two-part education sequence. (AFROAM 264 is the first part but is not required to take the course).

AFROAM 297R. Race at Work: African Americans in the Labor Movement

This course explores African American labor, reaching from slave emancipation through the late twentieth century. Engaging historical and filmic texts, this course examines various themes in African American Labor history and class formation. Beginning with an interrogation of African American labor history as a field of historical study, this course moves along chronological and thematic axes to investigate changes in wage and labor structure, agricultural and industrial production, domestic work, and service work. It will consider African American migration, community building and organizing, labor unions, policy, and legal culture. The Civil Rights Movement and the Fair Employment Movement will be critical to this course as they best highlight the strategies and patterns of black labor organizations, protests, and negotiation since emancipation. This course also will explore affirmative action and the reconsolidation of racial discrimination in the workplace in the late twentieth century.

AFROAM 297T. Strange Career of the New Jim Crow

Drawing on the legacy of C. Vann Woodward’s landmark study, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, this discussion-based class will historicize the political, economic, and social circumstances that have given rise to “the New Jim Crow.” Rather than taking this concept as a given, we will use the writings of historians, sociologists, philosophers, prisoners, and legal scholars from the Reconstruction era to the present moment to problematize contemporary accounts of mass incarceration. We will also be viewing several films and documentaries, and hosting in-class visitors from local organizations as well as taking a tour of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to properly engage a variety of issues concerning the current state of the prison system. In drawing on these various sources, we will examine how the criminalization of particular populations has helped naturalize their hyper-incarceration. And in tracing these developments historically, from racial slavery and Jim Crow segregation, through the Prison Rebellion Years and the ongoing War on Drugs, we will critically engage with these sources, particularly in terms in which they account for the ways that individuals and organizations have contested these practices, and in doings so, relied on isolated appeals or collective action, and drawn on constitutional guarantees, collective subjectivities, and/or human rights discourses.

AFROAM 297V. African American Television Studies

Media has played an important role in our society’s ever-evolving constructions of race, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries. For African Americans, media representations typically involved exaggerated and negative depictions of black femininity and masculinity. This course will analyze and critique representations of African Americans in television genres—comedy, reality shows, dramas, and documentary / news–and explore the juxtaposition of external and internal representations of race and gender. Because African Americans created and attempted to sustain an advocacy television to project positive representations and to affirm and validate the existence and collective experiences of their race, African American counter-media production will be examined in this course. Guiding questions include: What are televisual representations of African Americans and what are the political and social implications of those representations? How do black and non-black audiences internalize these representations? What is African American media and who produces it? Finally, we will analyze recent studies on Inclusion or Invisibility? Diversity in Entertainment that found just one-third of speaking characters were female (33.5%), despite the fact that women represent just over half the U.S. population. Just 28.3% of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups, though such groups are nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.

AFROAM 326. Black Women in U.S. History, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

Using historical texts, film, television, and music, this course examines the history of African American women from slavery to the present. It will pay special attention to the convergence of race, gender, and class in shaping the black female experience; African American women’s activism against racial, gender, and economic injustices; and sex and sexuality.

AFROAM 330. Songbirds, Blueswomen, Soulwomen

The focus for this course is the cultural, political, and social issues found in the music and history of African American women performers. The primary emphasis in the course will be on African American women in Jazz, Blues, and Soul/R&B, but students also will study African American women composers as well as Spiritual-Gospel and Opera performers.

AFROAM 331. Life of W.E.B. Du Bois

An examination of the life and thought of arguably America’s greatest intellectual activist and one of Massachusetts’ native sons is the focus of this course. Students will conduct microfilm research in the W.E.B. Du Bois Special Collections and University Archives.

AFROAM 332. Blacks and Jews

Our aim in this course is to share with students an understanding of the scope and diversity of the relations of African Americans and Jewish Americans in the U.S., during the past 300 years. One of our purposes is to minimize the tendency toward comparing degrees of suffering, or posing an “Us versus Them” framework that ignores the more complex interactions that have characterized Black-Jewish relations over time and in different geographical parts of the U.S.

AFROAM 344. Black Speculative Fiction

Examination of the development of black speculative fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth century, including science fiction, fantasy, gothic literature, magical realism, the detective novel, and/or related genres. Topics of discussion may include slavery and colonialism; diaspora; science, technology, and the environment; race and the paraliterary; utopianism and dystopianism; blackness and metaphysics; Afrofuturism.

AFROAM 345. Southern Literature, 4 credits, (AL,DU)

This course offers an introduction to Southern Black Literature through a sampling of classic texts and more recent prose and poetry. In addition to surveying a rich canon of literature that has its origins in the antebellum slave narrative tradition, we will also study: (1) networks, alliances, and patterns of migration connecting the U.S. South and the Global South (especially the Caribbean); (2) black queer and trans life in the South; (3) recent film and television set in the Deep South; (4) structures and experiences of dispossession and poverty. We will also look at media coverage and scholarship to explore struggles happening in the South right now, especially movements around armed self-defense/community policing; cooperative farming and economic self-determination; disaster capitalism and environmental dispossession in places like the Gulf Coast and in Puerto Rico; the toppling/removal of Confederate statues and fight against white supremacist organizations and activities.

AFROAM 350. African American Islam

A history of Islamic influences among peoples of African descent in North America: Muslim beliefs of enslaved Africans, the spread of Ahmadi and Sunni Islam in the 20th-century, and the Nation of Islam and its offshoots.

AFROAM 354. Contemporary African Novel

This course offers an introduction to Southern Black Literature through a sampling of classic texts and more recent prose and poetry. In addition to surveying a rich canon of literature that has its origins in the antebellum slave narrative tradition, we will also study: (1) networks, alliances, and patterns of migration connecting the U.S. South and the Global South (especially the Caribbean); (2) black queer and trans life in the South; (3) recent film and television set in the Deep South; (4) structures and experiences of dispossession and poverty. We will also look at media coverage and scholarship to explore struggles happening in the South right now, especially movements around armed self-defense/community policing; cooperative farming and economic self-determination; disaster capitalism and environmental dispossession in places like the Gulf Coast and in Puerto Rico; the toppling/removal of Confederate statues and fight against white supremacist organizations and activities.

AFROAM 361. Revolution in the Third World

Changing nature of revolution in the Third World, from the "classical" revolutions in Cuba, China, Algeria and Vietnam to the popular insurgencies of Grenada, Iran, the Philippines and Haiti. Internal and external factors which have contributed to the fall from grace of many of these once popularly supported struggles.

AFROAM 362. Writings of Frantz Fanon

This course will examine the life and writings of Dr. Frantz Fanon, the Martiniquean psychiatrist who cast his lot with the FLN, the National Liberation Front of the Algerian Revolution. Fanon’s analysis of colonialism and his theories of anti-colonial struggle in America. Thus Fanon’s significance lies in his contribution to the evolution of revolutionary political thought from Marx’s day to the present. Particular attention will be paid to Fanon’s search for personal and political identity through writing and struggle, as well as his views on race, his class analysis of national liberation struggle, and his prescriptions for the creation of a new, more just, world social order.

AFROAM 365. Composition: Style & Organization

Expository writing focusing primarily on argumentative and narrative essays. Discussion and practice of logic—inductive and deductive reasoning—as it relates to the argumentative essay form. Topics as thesis on main idea, organization, style, unity, supporting evidence, avoiding logical fallacies, and basic writing mechanics, including constructing sentences, paragraphing, transitions, and correct grammar. Junior year writing is required for all majors in AfroAm; secondary majors have the option to complete this requirement in their primary major.

AFROAM 390A. Jazz and Blues Literature

A representative sampling of poetry, novels, short stories, and plays by black and white, male and female writers who draw upon jazz and blues music and lyrics either formally, stylistically, thematically, or spiritually.

AFROAM 390B. Life & Work of Richard Wright

An intensive look at the life and work of Richard Wright, encompassing his poetry and fiction. We will examine the development of Wright's work from the 1930s to the 1950s, paying attention to historical and cultural developments that contributed to his vision, with particular emphasis on reflections of Afro-American culture in his work.

AFROAM 390D. Langston Hughes

An intensive look at the life and work of Langston Hughes, encompassing his poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and drama. We will examine the development of Hughes’s work from the 1920s to the 1960s, paying attention to historical and cultural developments that contributed to his vision, with particular emphasis on Hughes’s use of African American music in his works. This honors course will require additional participation and a group presentation beyond normal course requirements.

AFROAM 390E. Race, Ethnicity & Gender in U.S. History

Examination of situations which illuminate intersection of race, ethnicity, and gender in antebellum U.S.: contact and interaction between American Indians, African-Americans and European-Americans in colonial New England; relationship between white and black women, both slave and free, in the South; and the development of racist ideologies and behavior in the white working classes.

AFROAM 390G. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Novel

The course will focus on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, locating its roots in earlier publications such as slave narratives; discussing the novel in the context of the literary aesthetics of its era and its social and political impact in its times; and exploring how other writers, and Stowe herself, responded to the issues it raised and the criticism it provoked.

AFROAM 390J. Cross-Disciplinary Contemporary Issues: War and Patriotism in African American Literature and History

The course will provide students an introduction—through the context of war and patriotism—to the complex social and political literature and history of African Americans. This course also will afford students an opportunity to read and think critically about the various meanings and purposes of war and patriotism. By focusing on war and patriotism, we are able to condense over two hundred years of literature and history into specific flashpoints where definitions of nation, patriotism, war, and citizenship are questioned, defended and sometimes redefined by African Americans.

AFROAM 390K. The Life and Art of Sterling Brown

A discussion of the life and major poetry and prose works of Sterling A. Brown, placing his works in the context of American literature and culture (especially music and folklore) of his times.

AFROAM 390L. Buying and Selling Blackness, 4 credits, (HS,DU)

This course examines the deeply intertwined relationship between race and American consumer culture—the economy of buying and selling—in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Race was central to the emergence of American consumer culture and, conversely, consumer culture significantly impacted race and the experiences of diverse groups including African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, and white ethnic groups. This course engages historical and literary texts, film, advertisements, music, and even Twitter to investigate the buying and selling of blackness and whiteness, the racialized commodification of groups and cultures, efforts to create a classless, racially-exclusive consumer culture, the segmentation of the mass market, consumer activism, the process of Americanization, the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and Black Lives Matter. This course will also pay special attention to the ways consumer culture shaped interracial encounters, and racial, ethnic, and gender, and class identities.

AFROAM 390M. Race and the American Story

This course is a collaboration between the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University. Building upon the evolving discussions of race and racism in our society, this course aims to serve as a model for improving diversity education on campuses across the country and contribute to a more informed and thoughtful national culture. This course consists of readings that tell the story of the confrontation between American political principles and the practice of racial injustice throughout our history. We will trace the ways that discourse on race has morphed in the United States and we will consider the ramifications of these ideas on the endurance of racism in our society. Students will read and discuss the Declaration of Independence, the slavery clauses in the Constitution, the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, the speeches of Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. They will achieve a greater understanding of how diversity relates to humanity, and will learn to dialogue productively and civilly with others who may not share their background or opinions. The course will be taught on both campuses and students on both campuses will have an opportunity to interact and engage with each other virtually throughout the course of the semester. In April, the UMass students will be flown out to Arizona State University to interact in person at a symposium specially created for the course.

AFROAM 391A. Political Thought of Martin & Malcolm

The contrasting philosophies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. on race and racism, non-violence and self-defense, integration and separatism, Christianity and Islam; their interaction and involvement with the Civil Rights Movement; the northern and southern political and social culture that shaped their thoughts and world-views; and their changing conceptions of the appropriate tactics and strategy for the black freedom struggle in America.

AFROAM 391B. Modern Afro-American Women Novelists

Examine novels written by African American women from the Harlem Renaissance to the present. The course will engage a simple, but fundamental issue: is there such a thing as modern African American women’s literature? If so, how might we define it? Some of the ways that we come at this issue will be from the point of genre (e.g., the novel of manners, the slave narrative, the sentimental novel, the gothic romance, the historical novel, and so on.), audience reception, and the relation of the novels to popular culture. Historical contexts of the novels and the impact of various artistic, intellectual, and social movements (e.g., the Civil Rights, Black Power/Arts, First and Second Wave Feminism, and Gay Liberation) on the formal and thematic choices of the authors studied will also be considered.

AFROAM 391C. Creative Writing-Fiction

A writing workshop on the techniques, strategies, and craft of writing short fiction. Format includes class analysis of student's work, exercises in specific techniques such as narrative, description, dialogue, etc.

AFROAM 391E. Afro-American Literature of the 1940s

In this course we will examine African American literature and culture from the beginning of World War II through the onset of the Cold War. We will focus primarily on literature and film, but will also consider the visual arts, music, and theater. We will investigate the relation of black cultural production to the political and social events of the era as well as to such artistic movements and popular and high culture genres as modernism, social realism, naturalism, pulp fiction, and horror films.

AFROAM 391F. Afro-American Literature of the 1950s

This course will examine African American literature and culture from beginning of the Cold War until the black student movement of the early 1960s. It will take up a range of cultural forms, including the visual arts, music, theater, and film as well as literature. It will look at the political and social context out which these cultural forms grew. It will also consider such generic questions as the relation of black cultural production to such artistic movements as modernism, the new American poetry (e.g., the Beats), social realism, and naturalism and to popular and high culture representations of African Americans and African American culture.

AFROAM 391G. 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 in North America with particular attention to the Native American, African, and African-American experiences with a special focus on the role of racism as both economic and political capital in the development of American society.


AFROAM 392C. Civil War, Reconstruction, Black Resistance

The eras of the Civil War and Reconstruction studied from the perspective of Black Americans, highlighting Black protest and resistance. Key topics include: the Civil War are slave rebellion; the process and meaning of emancipation; family, community, and labor in the aftermath of slavery; interracial politics in the Reconstruction era; legal and extralegal violence and resistance.


AFROAM 393F. Hip Hop Feminisms: Performing Race/Gender/Sexuality on Page and Stage (Meets with WGSS 393F)

Hip-Hop Feminisms is a multidisciplinary course that investigates the theory, praxis, methodology, and impact of the multi-farious figures and genres that circulate under this umbrella. Holding critically the assumed contradictions in its title--hip-hop's assumed misogyny and feminism's assumed whiteness--Hip-Hop Feminisms intervenes fiercely in binary thinking, highlighting the ways in which examining figures like Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah and Roxanne Shante, and performance forms like twerking and voguing place us at the nexus of significant cultural debates around identity, desire, representation, the body, and liberation. Foregrounding the critiques of black and women of color feminisms, and incorporating insights of queer studies, performance studies, critical race theory, and hip-hop studies, this course lifts up these often under-explored cultural transcripts and empowers young scholars to engage critically with influential pop culture phenomena and independent-artists alike.

AFROAM 394A. African Art History

Reliable chronology for African art history of placing of the art forms of some of the ethnic cultural groups, associations or countries in Africa in historical perspective. Allied disciplines of anthropology and archaeology used to recover early history of certain cultures. Related oral sources discussed.

AFROAM 395A. The Writings of Chinua Achebe

Review of Achebe's writings, concentrating on his five novels and his writings on culture, literature, and politics. Achebe's contribution to the literature of the modern world. Works read in the context of tradition of modern African literature, of which Achebe is a seminal figure.

AFROAM 395F. Peer Leadership Development(Spring semester)

This is the 1st part of a two-semester two-course sequence that is designed to prepare second and third-year students to mentor entering first year students. This course will help older students focus on developing leadership and outreach skills which will enable them to strengthen their own academic achievement as well as prepare them to help others. This two-semester course sequence begins with upper class students in the spring semester; the course will prepare them to work with incoming new students in the subsequent fall semester. The spring semester course is divided into two segments. The first segment of this course will enable second and third year students to develop leadership skills for themselves which will enable them to have a better understanding of how to assist first year students in forming effective study groups, mediation, studying for exams, time management, and library skills. Students will also learn how to act as mentors, by working with middle and high school students. Students will interact with these young people one on one as well as within groups. The second half of the spring semester course will focus on various topics that affect the ALANAI community. Topics will include racism, sexism, STDs, drugs in our society, male and female relationships, dropping out of school, stress management, and ALANAI leaders in the past and present. Students will be assigned an office space in order to interview potential 1st year students over the phone as part of the admission outreach program and to establish initial contact with their fall semester mentees who have accepted the offer of admission to the university.

AFROAM 395G. Peer Leadership and Facilitation (Fall semester)

This second part of a two-semester course is designed to help upper-class students (juniors and seniors) develop leadership and outreach skills. Students will serve as peer leaders, working directly with newly entering first-semester students and help them transition from high school to college. Students will assist first-year students form effective study habits and effectively manage their time.

AFROAM 397A. Abolition & Anti-Slavery

The rise of the abolition movement and political antislavery in the United States in the three decades before the Civil War. How abolitionists managed to make slavery an issue in national politics; the spread of political antislavery in the north after the rise of the controversy over slavery expansion. Older debates over the nature of moral reform movements, and some of the recent material on the role of African Americans and women in the efforts to abolish slavery. Evaluation of the success and limitations of the abolition movement as a radical movement against slavery and racial discrimination. Contact instructor for suggested background readings.

AFROAM 397B. Native Americans & African Americans, Part I

Explores numerous levels and terms of the encounter between Native Americans and Blacks, including native tribal identity, Black identity, famous people of mixed ancestry, contested identities, Native Americans in jazz and pop music. Native and Black cultural traditions in intermarriage, Native Americans as slaves, slavery and freedmen, "free colored" communities, decoding historical documents, tribal legacy assertions, "triracials," and the impact of mixed ancestry on both Black and native communities.

AFROAM 397C. Black Globalization and Imperialism

This introductory seminar explores the changing content, practice, and value of "imperialism" and "globalization" as world historical forces. By focusing attention to their impact on Africans and African-descended peoples in the U.S., Latin American, and the Caribbean, the course emphasizes notions of race in the development and critical evaluation of these forces. Issues of historical agency, identity, and human rights will also be considered, as we reassess black experiences of victimization, collaboration, and resistance to European and American globalizing practices.

AFROAM 397D. The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois

AFROAM 397F. Native Americans & African Americans, Part II

Explores numerous levels and terms of the encounter between Native Americans and Blacks, including native tribal identity, Black identity, famous people of mixed ancestry, contested identities, Native Americans in jazz and pop music. Native and Black cultural traditions in intermarriage, Native Americans as slaves, slavery and freedmen, "free colored" communities, decoding historical documents, tribal legacy assertions, "triracials," and the impact of mixed ancestry on both Black and native communities.

AFROAM 491C. Cuba: Social History of Race, Class & Gender

This course is an advance undergraduate reading seminar that explores the social relations and everyday experiences of Cubans under the various political states under which they have lived - Spanish colonialism, capitalist republicanism, and revolutionary socialism. As we consider issues of social identity, the quest for social justice, and national sovereignty, we will keep the concepts of race, class, and gender centered. Two questions frame the course. What were the social conditions in which the Cuban Revolution emerged, and how have these conditions been transformed since 1959?

AFROAM 494DI. Du Bois Senior Seminar

This course is the senior capstone course required for all majors in Afro-American Studies. It also fulfills the University's Integrative Learning Experience (IE) requirement. This course has two aims: (1) to reflect on your educational journey at UMass as well as to further explore your intellectual and professional goals; and (2) to prepare you to complete your senior project in Afro-American Studies. The course will provide ample space and time to brainstorm and plan your senior project in consultation with the instructor and your peers.

Undergraduate/Graduate Courses

*Note: All undergraduate/graduate courses #500-599 are 3 credits

AFROAM 591A. Gender in Pan-African Studies, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

This course will focus on contributions to primarily Marxist African and African-descended thinkers. We will read and discuss such major figures as W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, Angela Davis and Muhammad Ahmad. We also hope to introduce you to a selection of perhaps lesser-known figures such as George Padmore, Claudia Jones, Harry Haywood and James Boggs. The course will require extensive reading, informed participation in class discussion, and a final paper.

AFROAM 591B. Black Radical Thought, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

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 591C. Digital Video Production and Research in the Black Community, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

This course aims to increase the utility and impact of research produced at UMass by creating, adapting, implementing, supporting, and sustaining innovative digital tools and publishing platforms for content delivery, discovery, analysis, data curation, and preservation. It will also engage students in extensive outreach, education, and advocacy to ensure that scholarly work in the Du Bois Department has a global reach and accelerates the pace of research across disciplines. The course will teach visual methodological research methods and digital camera usage to explore social networks, the inclusion of community partners in research, and black neighborhood and community spaces. We draw on the substantive and methodological experiences of visual researchers using photography, film, and video and the evident challenges of representing such a diversely situated experience as that of African Americans. We will discuss and learn camera use and operation, data collection and analysis, ethical concerns, community partnerships, refinement of research questions, and theoretical use and development of imagery in research regarding the African American community.

AFROAM 591D. Comparative Black Politics in the Americas, 3 credits (Undergraduate/Grad)

The current global crisis that include not only economic malaise but also a rise in political authoritarianism and policing by states, had widened social and racial inequalities and hence racial and sexual violence. In this world-historical context there has been an emergence of Black movements across the Americas. This course will study Black movements in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the United States and Venezuela, looking at their particularities and differences as well as their similarities and relationships. The class will offer a historical perspective while focusing on contemporary Black movements.

AFROAM 591E. Black Feminist and Queer Insurgencies, 3 credits (Undergraduate/Grad)

This course traces black feminist and queer theories of militancy, insurgency, and revolutionary planning from Harriet Tubman to the present day. Untethering our perspective from the domain of normative masculinities, we will instead focus on forms of organization, revolt, and defensiveness (Nash) that are equally attuned to care, healing, and the transformative force of pleasure and desire (Hartman; Musser). We will study how people take care of each other in the face of state violence and the neoliberal state’s ongoing divestment from public infrastructure and services by exploring histories and experiments in mutual aid, community and armed defense, femme expertise and care webs (Piepzna-Samarasinha), revolutionary mothering (Gumbs, Martens, Williams), radical separatism and communal living, critical solidarities, sex radicalism, and abolition as a form of both radical imagination and social transformation. We will seek to map an alternative genealogy of black revolutionary theory through the history of black feminist and queer militancy. Throughout, we will be invested in the long-term work of black study (Moten and Harney) and utopian planning at the same time as we investigate practical tactics and strategies that approach white supremacy as a racial and gendered act of war that requires immediate mobilization and response.

AFROAM 591E. Black Ecologies, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

This seminar roots ecological catastrophe in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. We will read a number of works that illuminate the specific relationship between environmental degradation and the world that slavery made. We will be also interested in tracing how race, gender, and poverty are being mobilized as weapons of dispossession and extraction on the frontiers of capitalist exploitation today. Other topics will include: ecological thought in black critical theory; alternative models of sustainability and stewardship; black eco-poetics and climate fiction; environmental justice movements; new solidarities in climate activism. Readings will draw from a range of fields, including black critical theory; feminist, queer, and trans studies; disability studies; literary studies; and diaspora studies. 

AFROAM 597A. Afro-Caribbean Studies, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

Afro-Caribbean Studies is an advanced introduction to the history, culture, and politics of people of African descent in the Caribbean basin suitable for both graduate students and upper-level undergraduates. After a broad synopsis of the region’s history, the course has a focus on the politics of select Caribbean states, from 1900 to the present; viz., Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica. It will discuss major issues that affect the Caribbean region, namely, migration, poverty, regional economic cooperation and political integration, democratic institutions, and U. S. foreign policy towards the region. Also, the course will examine the history and role of the diverse religious components of the Caribbean basin from Indigenous practices to Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and the emergence and development of African belief systems and practices such as Santeria, Espiritismo, Vodou and Rastafarianism from the 18th century to the present. Music and other expressive arts is an additional focal area of the class.

AFROAM 597B. Black Springfield Matters: An Intro to New Afrikan Urban Studies, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

This course will acquaint you with a variety of disciplinary tools for studying African American life in the imaginary community of Urban America (aka The Inner-city). Springfield, Massachusetts, our urban neighbor just 25 miles away, will provide us with a landing point starting with a broad survey of the city’s history followed by an exploration of its existence today as a multicultural community, and a regional center for banking, finance, and courts. The course partners with Springfield’s Pan African Historical Museum USA, to create a community-engaged research, service learning opportunity (on the CESL list of approved courses related to the "Civic Engagement & Public Service" (CEPS) certificate).

AFROAM 597D. The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

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 597E. Dalits and African Americans, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

The purpose of this seminar is to begin to explore similarities, differences, connections and convergences between the Dalit population of India and African Americans in the United States. We will read short histories of both peoples, studies that focus on examples of historic interactions, and studies comparing leading figures of both groups. Most of the reading will center on the 20th century (i.e. India during the periods of colonization, anti-colonization, and independence) and on African Americans from emancipation to the end of legal segregation. There is a rich and rapidly growing scholarship on these topics so view this seminar as an opening to a complex and important subject. Good books to read, discussion format, class presentation on one of the books, and final paper.

AFROAM 597M. Third World Marxism, 3 credits (Undergrad/Grad)

This seminar has two goals first, to introduce students to the views of Karl Marx on non-European societies, and second to explore how Marx's general theories have been adopted and modified to address the circumstances of non-white peoples. The primary focus will be on writings produced in the western hemisphere by African Americans such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Cedric Robinson, Angela Davis and Harold Cruse; West Indians such as C.L.R. James, Sylvia Wynter, and Walter Rodney. We also will include writings by influential Latin American marxists such as Jose Carlos Mariategui. For the sake of comparison, some attention will be given to the development of marxist traditions in China and in Africa. This will be a reading seminar with heavy emphasis on class participation, including the leading of at least one class discussion.

AFROAM 597P. Black Presence at UMass Amherst-Part II, 3 credits (undergrad/grad)

This course will provide an opportunity for students to participate in the researching and selection of materials for a website and an illustrated history documenting the presence of people of African descent at UMass since the founding in 1867. The goals for the website are two-fold 1) to develop an as comprehensive as possible database of students, staff, faculty and administrators. From that larger list we will begin the process of conducting 45 minute to one hour interviews/conversations to be presented as part of the active ongoing content of the website. Those interviews will be supplemented with audio and visual content to form standalone segments. 2) to select transcripts from the interviews, along with photos and other documentation to shape the narrative of the printed history. There also will be opportunities for online archival research until the Library reopens. Your efforts as students will be acknowledged on the website and in the book.

AFROAM 597R. Reparations for African Descendants: Theory & Practice, 3 credits (undergrad/grad)

The United Nations declared 2015 to 2024 the International Decade of People of African Descent. The International Decade is a follow up of the process from the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, where the international community designated the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a Crime against Humanity. In that spirit, this course will explore the issue of reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States. Reparations to the descendants of captive Africans has been debated in African-American political discourse for decades. This course will look at other cases for reparations internationally, engaging the history and the basis for the demand as well as proposals for reparations for African descendants.