Courses

Our department offers courses in the interdisciplinary study of African American, African diaspora and African history, society, and culture. View all available courses in the Course Guide. For a description of codes, please refer to the Guide to codes and abbreviations.

Fall 2024 Course Descriptions

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101 Introduction to African American Studies

TR 9:30 – 10:45 am

Instructor: Jessica Lee Stovall

Delve into the origins of African American Studies as an academic discipline and explore its early forms. Examine how African Americans have contributed to the understanding of the African American experience, both historically and in the present day. Analyze current struggles of the Black community for freedom, justice, and humanity.

 

154 Hip-Hop and Contemporary American Society

TR 1:20 – 2:10 pm

Instructor: Alexander Shashko

This course is about the world that hip-hop made and the world that made hip-hop. It tells the story of hip-hop’s origins in Jamaica and the Bronx, its evolution across North America, and its emergence as a global phenomenon. It explores the various themes, ideas and debates that emerged both within the world of hip-hop culture, and the broader historical events that contributed to hip-hop’s evolution from the 1970s to the present. Musical styles covered in this course include New York hip-hop, California gangsta rap, Southern hip-hop, the Detroit and Chicago scenes, and contemporary rhythm & blues.

156 Black Music and American Cultural History

TR 9:30 – 10:45 am

Instructor: Alexander Shashko

This course is the story of how black music became one of the world’s dominant cultural forces, and how it shaped the musical, social and political landscape of the United States from the end of World War II until the present. It considers how black music articulates survival, redemption and reinvention, how those themes reflect the African-American experience in postwar 20th and 21st-century America, and how those themes can be heard in the music we hear today. Musical styles covered in the course include the blues, gospel, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, disco, and hip-hop.

222 Introduction to Black Women Writers

MW 8 – 9:15 am

Professor: Brittney Edmonds

This introductory course introduces students to past and contemporary expressions of Black feminist thought. Through readings of works of visual culture, literature, music, and theoretical texts, we will explore how Black feminist writers, artists, scholars, and activists address and represent interlocking constructions of race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and citizenship. Our course texts range from the 19th century to the 21st century, offering students a chance to trace the evolution of the political and philosophical preoccupations that bound Black women’s writing and to note the formal innovations Black writers and artists introduce in their chosen cultural fields and objects

225 Introduction to African American Dramatic Literature

T 4 – 6:30 pm

Professor: Sandra Adell

This course is open to first semester freshmen only.

In this introduction to African American drama we will read work by playwrights who have long been committed to revealing issues of racism, inequality, police brutality and other social justice issues that have plagued this country for more than 400 years. Our analysis and discussion of the plays will take into account how some playwrights work within established dramatic traditions such as realism while others, especially those who came of age artistically during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, are seeking new modes of expression that depart radically from the realism of earlier periods to represent issues that are specific to today’s youth culture. In addition to our reading of the selected plays, we will watch video performances and film adaptations of plays by Dominique Morriseau and August Wilson.

265 African-American Autobiography

MW 8 – 9:15 am

Professor: Ethelene Whitmire

This course examines the experiences of African Americans in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries through their autobiographical writing. We will examine the sociological, historical and psychological impact of being an African American in the United States. Pay particular attention to the seven types of otherness: race/ethnicity, gender, age, ability (mental and physical), religion, and sexuality.

270 Black Political Behavior

TR 1 – 2:15 pm

Instructor: Andrene Wright

Historically and contemporarily, racial groups have fought for political power. African American politics specifically accounts for the ways Black people have gained political influence and continue to mobilize for Black interests. In this course we will grapple with the reality of Black political engagement and resistance and marry it with contemporary political processes and behavior.

In this broad introductory course, we will first explore how racial politics and anti-Blackness is present in the evolution of American institutions. After understanding this framework, we will examine how American cities provide the most fertile ground for reckoning with these realities by exploring themes of Black political mobilization, resistance, incorporation and imagination. Although we will focus on matters relating to Black Americans, where possible and appropriate, we will also make comparisons with other racial and ethnic groups.

To be successful in this class, students are expected to read carefully and engage with the critical discussions of the course.

 

271 Multiculturalism and Social Justice

W 3:30 – 6 pm

Instructor: Carl Grant

271 Afrofuturism and Popular Culture

MW 4 – 5:15 pm

Professor: Anthony Black

“Afrofuturism is a term coined by Mark Dery in the essay “Black to the Future” in 1994. However, it was born in the minds of thousands of enslaved Africans passing the horrific Middle Passage while saying prayers for their lives and that of their descendants. These people dreamt of a society completely without both physical and social bondage of oppression. These were the first Afrofuturists, and they brought to life what we know as the definition today. Afrofuturism is all about evaluating the past, present and future and imagining a world that encourages better conditions for Black people through literature, music, technology, and arts. In Afrofuturism, the world has a structure that doesn’t violently oppress Black communities” (Terril “Rell” Fields, “Blerds”).

This course will consider the Afrofuturist aesthetic through works of literature, film, music, and visual art. Our goal is to investigate African American cultural themes, symbols, and creative patterns in various Afrofuturist works. In the process, we will identify Afrofuturist critiques of racism, colonialism, and America’s racial history. Additionally, we will explore Afrofuturist themes concerning gender, sexuality, feminism, and others. We begin with theoretical essays written by foundational Afrofuturist figures. We will also read fiction, and explore Afrofuturist aesthetics in the music of Sun Ra, George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic, Janelle Monáe, and others. The films will include Sorry to Bother You and The Black Panther.

271 Black Masculinities in African American Culture

TR 11 am – 12:15 pm 

Professor: Thulani Davis

272 Race and American Politics from the New Deal to the New Right

TR 2:30 – 3:45 pm

Instructor: Alexander Shashko

The history and legacy of the African-American freedom struggle in the 20th and 21st century is the subject of this course. It surveys both African-American activism and the broader context of American history during this tumultuous period, and considers the legacy of that activism for contemporary America. Subjects covered in the course include Reconstruction and Jim Crow segregation; the Great Migration, Great Depression, and New Deal; the Long Civil Rights Movement from the 1930s through the 1960s; the Black Power movement; and race relations from the 1990s to the present.

302 Undergraduate Studies in African American History

Topic: Black in America: Engaging Race and Racism

TR 2:30-3:45 pm

Professor: Brenda Plummer

This course focuses on the ways that race and racism have helped shape society in the United States.  It uses a historical lens to examine the topic, and looks substantially but not exclusively on black-white dynamics.

525 Major Authors

MW 4 – 5:25 pm 

Professor: Sandra Adell

This is a literature course and will be conducted as a seminar. Our guiding themes will include the ways in which the novelists we’re reading experiment with form, style, space and temporality to create characters who struggle to build a sense of community and to assert their subjectivity—their sense of Being-in-the-World—in a world that refuses to see them as such—hence, Du Bois’s “Double-Consciousness.” You also will be introduced to important literary movements and genres. For example, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man can be read as a founding text of African American literary modernism. Octavia Butler helped lay the groundwork for what today is call Afro-Futurism while both Ishmael Reed and Colson Whitehead’s novels are satirical. Toni Morrison’s novel is as much a critique about the act of writing as it is the story of a love-struck couple living in Harlem. We also will take into account not only the social, cultural and historical backgrounds against which these novelists tell their stories, but also the way they ground philosophical inquiries into Blackness, Being, and Subjectivity.

671 Origins of Black Movements

T 2:25 – 5:25 pm 

Professor: Thulani Davis

621 Slavery and Capitalism

T 2:25 – 5:25 pm 

Professor: Christy Clark-Pujara

American slavery and American capitalism developed in tandem; the two systems were interdependent. Yet, only recently have scholars (economists and historians) at mainstream institutions begun studying the many intersections of slavery and capitalism in the Americas. Throughout the semester we will read and discuss the connections between modern slavery and capitalism and explore questions like: How did the growth and dominance of capitalism as an economic system affect slavery as an institution and the experiences of enslaved people? How did the labor of enslaved people affect the development and growth of wage labor? Why have slavery and capitalism only recently been studied as interdependent systems?

673 Black Women’s Political Behavior

TR 11 am – 12:15 pm 

Instructor: Andrene Wright

Black women have risen to become the most critical demographic in voting support of the Democratic Party. Across studies of Black Political Behavior, evidence suggests that Black women leaders often incorporate their political realities into political priorities once in positions of power. This course will examine the lived realities of Black Women, both citizens and leaders alike, and critically engage with the leadership approaches and behavior of Black women voters and politicians.

In this upper-level course, we will grapple with theories of Black feminist politics, intersectionality, and identity politics to address how the simultaneity of race and gender influences the lived experiences and political behavior of American Black women. For politicians, we will think critically about the radical imagination of Black women leadership and their possible shortcomings. For Black women voters, we will examine how their lived realities affect their political interests and engagement in politics.

To be successful in this class, students are expected to read carefully, think critically, and thoroughly engage with the discussions of the course.

673 Blackness in U.S. Public Schools

R 2:25 – 5:25 pm 

Instructor: Jessica Lee Stovall

 

 

677 Critical and Theoretical Perspectives in Black Women's Writing

W 2:25 – 5:25 pm 

Professor: Brittney Edmonds

Analyses and interpretations of literary works by black women writers through historical, philosophical, political, feminist, and other contemporary critical methods.

Fall 2024 Cross-listed Courses

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241 Introduction to African Art and Architecture

MWF 11AM – 11:50AM 

Examines the rich heritage of African arts and architecture as they shape and have been shaped by the histories and cultural values (social, political, religious, philosophical, and aesthetic) of African peoples, both past and present, on the continent where humanity began. It includes an historical overview of selected artistic traditions from different parts of the continent from 26,000 BCE to the 21st century and thematic/cultural case studies: artists and aesthetics; textiles, decorative, and personal/body arts; architecture; and individual artists.

277 Africa: An Introductory Survey

African society and culture, polity and economy in multidisciplinary perspectives from prehistory and ancient kingdoms through the colonial period to contemporary developments, including modern nationalism, economic development and changing social structure.

319 Afro Asian Improv: From Hip Hop to Martial Arts Fusion

MW 2:25 – 4:05PM

An Afro Asian perspective provides a lens through which intersections between Asian American and African American dance and martial arts are studied and practiced. Asian American and African American movement genres provide tools to explore dance fusion, choreography, and improvisation, to create dances informed by African American and Asian American legacies of struggle, innovation and transformation, while cognizant of historical forces of oppression and racism. Building connections through respectful communication with others are learned through dance practice, discussion and writing about concepts learned through readings, videos, and guest artist visits. Engagement with dance as a cultural vehicle for creative problem-solving and risk-taking occurs through guided class or smaller group activities.

519 African American Political Theory

T 1:20 – 3:15PM

Explores a range of theories that African Americans have drawn upon to cope with and ameliorate their political circumstances in the United States within the specific parameters of political theory.

801 Historiography, Theory and Methods in Visual Culture

TR 5 – 7PM

Focuses on the knowledge, theories, and methods that are fundamental to the transdisciplinary discipline of Visual Cultures. Develops skills in critical reading, research, analysis, writing, and oral presentation.

Summer 2024 Course Descriptions

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154 Hip-Hop and Contemporary American Society

Online | June 10 – July 7

Instructor: Alexander Shashko

This course is about the world that hip-hop made and the world that made hip-hop. It tells the story of hip-hop’s origins in Jamaica and the Bronx, its evolution across North America, and its emergence as a global phenomenon. It explores the various themes, ideas and debates that emerged both within the world of hip-hop culture, and the broader historical events that contributed to hip-hop’s evolution from the 1970s to the present. Musical styles covered in this course include New York hip-hop, California gangsta rap, Southern hip-hop, the Detroit and Chicago scenes, and contemporary rhythm & blues.

156 Black Music and American Cultural History

Online | May 20 – June 9

Instructor: Alexander Shashko

This course is the story of how Black music became one of the world’s dominant cultural forces, and how it shaped the musical, social and political landscape of the United States from the end of World War II until the present. It considers how Black music articulates survival, redemption, and reinvention, how those themes reflect the African-American experience in postwar 20th and 21st-century America, and how those themes can be heard in the music we hear today. Musical styles covered in the course include the blues, gospel, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, disco, and hip-hop.

 

 

225 Introduction to African American Dramatic Literature

Online | July 1 – July 28

Instructor: Lily Shell

In this course, we will read plays by some of this country’s most prominent Black playwrights.

  • Our analysis and discussion of the plays will take into account how these playwrights work within established dramatic traditions while dealing with issues such as racism and white supremacy, capitalism, queerness, and other aspects of identity and intersectionality.
  • We also will discuss different genres of Black theatre such as realism, absurdism, the avant-garde, melodrama, and theatre that directly involves and/or implicates its audience.
  • Our approach is historical and thematic. From classic works of the second half of the 20th century through Pulitzer Prize-winning plays of the contemporary moment, we will examine how Black theater history has progressed and evolved, and how some of the playwrights of the 21st century are seeking new modes of expression that depart radically from the realism of earlier periods to represent issues that are specific to today’s culture.

242 Introduction to Afro-American Art

Online | June 10 – June 30

Instructor: Anthony Black

Introduction to African American Art is a survey course where we will investigate the history of African American Art from the colonial era to contemporary art historical periods.  We will analyze various art forms ranging from painting, sculpture, photography, folk art, new media, conceptual, and performance art. Our goal is to understand how African American art acted, and continues to act, as both a form of self-expression as well an act of resistance against various forms of marginalization. Because of the profound intermixing of cultures (African, European, Anglo-American among others) indicative of African diaspora communities, we will also study non-African American art to illuminate the many layers of influence that characterize African American art. Finally, we will examine works developed within the theories and politics of movements such as Black Liberation, Feminism, and Postmodernism as well as various engagements focused on issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Spring 2024 Course Descriptions

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151 Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society

MW 4:00-5:15 pm

Ifatunji

Introduction to Race and Racism in the United States

Race, ethnicity, and racism are foundational to the formation of the United States. However, while most people have some familiarity with these concepts, there is surprisingly little agreement on how to define these terms and their relative importance in American society. The instructor has designed this course to provide students with an introductory understanding of these and related topics so the course will be most useful for students that have not yet taken a similar course. While the course is introductory, it goes beyond the social commentary and public opinion that we often find in newspapers and on social media and reaches toward social scientific theory and observation. After completing the course, students will have an introductory understanding of the conceptual nuances and complexities of race, ethnicity, and racism. The reading for the course is mostly from a textbook. Class meetings are focused on lectures and discussions that build on and go beyond what is presented in the textbook.

154 Hip-Hop and Contemporary American Society

TR 1:20-2:10

Shashko

This course is about the world that hip-hop made and the world that made hip-hop. It tells the story of hip-hop’s origins in Jamaica and the Bronx, its evolution across North America, and its emergence as a global phenomenon. It explores the various themes, ideas and debates that emerged both within the world of hip-hop culture, and the broader historical events that contributed to hip-hop’s evolution from the 1970s to the present. Musical styles covered in this course include New York hip-hop, California gangsta rap, Southern hip-hop, the Detroit and Chicago scenes, and contemporary rhythm & blues.

156 Black Music and American Cultural History

TR 9:30-10:45

Shashko

This course is the story of how black music became one of the world’s dominant cultural forces, and how it shaped the musical, social and political landscape of the United States from the end of World War II until the present. It considers how black music articulates survival, redemption and reinvention, how those themes reflect the African-American experience in postwar 20th and

21st-century America, and how those themes can be heard in the music we hear today. Musical styles covered in the course include the blues, gospel, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, disco, and hip-hop.

225 Introduction to Afro-American Literature

MW 4:00-5:15 pm

Introduction to the history of African American theater and major African American playwrights and actors.

231 Introduction to Afro-American History

TR 9:55-10:45

Clark-Pujara

Why does race matter? Why is there such tension, division and disparities among racial groups in the United States of America? How and why did blackness and slavery become synonymous in the Americas? How and why did a nation founded upon liberty and freedom perpetuate human bondage? What are the legacies of race-based slavery and discrimination in America? We will explore these questions throughout the semester.

This course is a social history of West Africans and African Americans from the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the modern civil rights movement. The following topics will receive special attention: the institution of slavery (1619-1865), emancipation and reconstruction (1861-1877), and the long civil rights movement (1877-1968). This course has three major themes. First, the varied experiences of slavery and the roles Black people played in maintaining and sustaining the North American mainland colonies while resisting their bondage. Second, how African Americans helped to create the new nation, became free people and fought for liberty. Third, the challenges, successes and shortcomings of emancipation, reconstruction, and the long civil rights movement.

242 Introduction to Afro-American Art

TR 9:30-10:45

Black

 Introduction to Afro-American Art is a survey course where we will investigate the history of African-American Art from the colonial era to contemporary art historical periods, with a particular focus on 20th Century art. We will analyze various art forms ranging from painting, sculpture, photography, folk art, print and new media, as well as conceptual and performance art. Our goal is to understand how African-American art acted, and continues to act, as both a form self-expression as well an act of resistance against various forms of marginalization. Because of the profound intermixing of cultures (African, European, Anglo-American among others) indicative of African diaspora communities, we will also study non-African-American art in order to illuminate the many layers of influence that characterize African-American art. Finally, we will examine works developed within the theories and politics of movements such as liberation, Feminism, Postmodernism as well as various engagements focused on issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality.

271 Afrofuturism and Popular Culture

TR 9:30-10:45

Black

“Afrofuturism is a term coined by Mark Dery in the essay “Black to the Future” in 1994. However, it was born in the minds of thousands of enslaved Africans passing the horrific Middle Passage while saying prayers for their lives and that of their descendants. These people dreamt of a society completely without both physical and social bondage of oppression. These were the first Afrofuturists, and they brought to life what we know as the definition today. Afrofuturism is all about evaluating the past, present and future and imagining a world that encourages better conditions for Black people through literature, music, technology, and arts. In Afrofuturism, the world has a structure that doesn’t violently oppress Black communities” (Terril “Rell” Fields, “Blerds”).

This course will consider the Afrofuturist aesthetic through works of literature, film, music, and visual art. Our goal is to investigate African American cultural themes, symbols, and creative patterns in various Afrofuturist works. In the process, we will identify Afrofuturist critiques of racism, colonialism, and America’s racial history. Additionally, we will explore Afrofuturist themes concerning gender, sexuality, feminism, and others. We begin with theoretical essays written by foundational Afrofuturist figures. We will also read fiction, and explore Afrofuturist aesthetics in the music of Sun Ra, George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic, Janelle Monáe, and others. The films will include Sorry to Bother You and The Black Panther.

272 Race and American Politics from the New Deal to the New Right

Shashko

The history and legacy of the African-American freedom struggle in the 20th and 21st century is the subject of this course. It surveys both African-American activism and the broader context of American history during this tumultuous period, and considers the legacy of that activism for contemporary America. Subjects covered in the course include Reconstruction and Jim Crow segregation; the Great Migration, Great Depression, and New Deal; the Long Civil Rights Movement from the 1930s through the 1960s; the Black Power movement; and race relations from the 1990s to the present.

302 Undergraduate Studies in Afro-American History

Freedom Stories

TR 11:00-12:15

Greene 

In this course, students will read works of history and other scholarly works, memoirs, historical novels, biographical studies, etc. to examine some of the ways that African Americans sustained their freedom dreams in the struggle for racial justice from enslavement to the present.

321 History Since 1900

Plummer

This course examines twentieth century African-American history, beginning with its roots in rural society at the turn of the twentieth century. The African American experience encompasses the survival strategies of black people as they moved from country to town and city. It includes the cultural innovations made in response to changing conditions. The critical events studied include world wars, the development of an urban culture, the evolution of music and art, politics and protest, and the impact of African-American life and thought on modernity in the United States. Students will become acquainted with the momentous developments of the last century, including industrial and demographic transition, agricultural change in the South, the impact of world wars and the Cold War, and key events and issues of a long era of civil rights insurgency. Black radicalism is explored, as well as the policies of the federal government, the impact of world affairs, and the role of gender. The activities and life stories of individual participants and broad historical forces are considered. Students will further develop their analytical skills as they familiarize themselves with this history, a powerful tool for understanding the totality of American life. Course requirements are two short papers, a midterm, and a final examination.

337 The Harlem Renaissance

T 4:30-7:05

Adell

This course takes a close look at the writers, artists, and intellectuals who helped define a major movement in early twentieth-century African American creative expression. The people who promoted what critics call the Harlem Renaissance believed that the arts, and especially literature, could play an important role in breaking down racial barriers and combating negative representations of black people in popular culture. It was a period of artistic experimentation. Most of the young black writers and artists who benefitted from the patronage of wealthy whites and mentoring by intellectuals like W.E.B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, Alain Locke, and James Weldon Johnson, were modernists. They participated in the modernist movement and engaged with the literary avant-garde as they practiced their craft and developed their unique styles, voices, and aesthetic standards. We will therefore take into account modernism, the avant-garde, primitivism and the important role music, especially jazz, and African sculpture played in the development of modernism in the visual, and performing arts, and in literature.

625 Gender, Race, and the Civil Rights Movement

R 2:25-5:25

Greene

This course engages some of the scholarship on the post-World War II struggle for Black freedom, more commonly known as the “civil rights movement,” and the degree to which this work considers questions of gender. We will examine the role of African American women and men, as well as white allies of the movement; and we will explore how racialized conceptions of gender and sexuality shaped activists’ participation in the movement. Course readings will also address class differences and the social construction of race, masculinity and femininity. And finally, we will consider what difference gender makes in our understanding of what is arguably the most important, if still unfinished, social justice movement in America.

672 Selected Topics in African American Literature

Traditions in African American Humor

MW 2:30-3:45

Edmonds

This seminar examines the politics of black satire as a performative medium, and it traces a genealogy of black comedic performance practices in the tradition of African-American satire and politically insurgent humor.  Course participants will explore multiple modes of satirical performance in relation to critical aesthetic movements and historical periods from the 19th century to the present day. Special emphasis will be placed on interrogating the politics of African-American blackface minstrelsy as satire.  The seminar will also emphasize an examination of post-Civil Rights black satire in theatre, films, sketch comedy programs, visual art, political cartoons, novels, and popular music culture. Course participants will place theories of humor and signifying (by Ellison, Gates, Watkins, Freud and others) in conversation with the performances of Williams and Walker, Nina Simone, Richard Pryor, Kara Walker, Paul Beatty, Suzan-Lori Parks, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and others.

675 Race, Space, and African American Music

 W 2:25-5:25 pm

 Collin Wilkins

This course examines the production and function of African American music within various racialized spaces and places in America. More specifically, course participants will explore how the cultural particulars of spaces and places come to produce Black music as well as how Black music reflects and influences these spaces and places. Course content will feature blues, jazz, rock, rhythm & blues, techno, and hip-hop among others. We’ll explore these genres in relation to spaces/places such as region, locality, the street, prison, school and more. Our interrogation of music and space will also include discussions of gender, sexuality, migration, class, violence, segregation, and incarceration.

677 Critical Issues in Black Women Writers

MW 4:00-5:15 pm

Adell