Course Descriptions

Spring 2020 Course Descriptions


151 Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society

MW 11:00-12:15


This course is an introductory survey to a sociological study of US life over the past 20 years. It will:

1-introduce students to concepts used in sociological analysis in studying the dynamics of US life (e.g., social class, race, gender and institutions);

2-analyze through course material and working with local community agencies the social forces and trends that affect the quality of life for all Americans;

3-evaluate theories/assumptions used to explain life chances for all Americans; and

4-examine how race, class and gender influence what housing Americans can afford

While typically viewed as a “racial minority thing”, race actually affects the lives of all Americans. This is not a course about culture, per se. If that is what you want, take another course offered by the department. This class is about life chances and how they are linked to “racial” heritage, social class, gender and American institutions. I do not think any course on human life can be objective. Thus this class presents one varied perspective on a complex set of issues, and, as is true for any course, it=s contents reflect the instructor: I am a person of color from a working class family. The course speaks to the concerns of both groups.

This is a SERVICE-LEARNING (S-L) course. S-L is an experience in which students receive credit for serving in an organized service activity meeting needs that the community identifies. In addition, reflecting on service activities by using course concepts/discussions, gives students a deeper sense of the course material and an enhanced awareness of civic responsibility. The service is as vital as lectures, readings and papers. You are evaluated not on the work you do at the placement sites, but on how well you use course concepts to understand and interpret that work. It is a form of learning that facilitates understanding course concepts thru doing. It is commonly the MOST bracing part of the course because it links you as a person to the outside world, one that most of you only “see” as contorted visions of your own reality.

NOTE: You are required to give 25 hours of service during the course of the semester, about 2.5 hours per week.

154 Hip-Hop and Contemporary American Society

TR 1:20-2:10


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


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.

221 Introduction to Black Women’s Studies

TR 2:30-3:45


This course provides students with an overview of the field of Black Women’s Studies.

227 Masterpieces of African American Literature

MW 2:30-3:45


This is a survey course open to freshmen and sophomores only. Our readings will include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays. Our approach will be mainly thematic, but students will also be introduced to African American literary criticism and theory.

 231 Introduction to Afro-American History

TR 9:55-10:45


 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? These are some of the questions that we will explore this semester.

This course is a social history of African Americans from the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the modern civil rights movement. The following topics will receive special attention: 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. Second, how African Americans helped to create the new nation and became free people. Third, the successes and shortcomings of emancipation, reconstruction, and the long civil right movement.

 242 Introduction to Afro-American Art

TR 9:30-10:45


 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.

265 African-American Autobiography

TR 11:00-12:15


 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.

271 Selected Topics in African American Culture

Intro Race and Ethnicity

TR 2:30-3:45


 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 similar courses. 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 of the conceptual nuances and complexities of race, ethnicity, and racism.

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

TR 11:00-12:15


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

Race and Documentary Film

W 2:25-5:25


This course explores early representations of various groups from the advent of documentary film when natives of Alaska and the West were being portrayed by anthropologists and on film as populations whose cultures would die off to the post-1960s when documentarians began producing important work on their own communities. We will see work on Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinx communities and African Americans.

321 Afro-American History Since 1900

9:30-10:45 TR


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.

326 Race and Gender in Post-World War II U.S. Society

TR 11:00-12:15


This course will focus on the ways in which race and gender (as well as other social variables including socio-economic status/class, sexuality, region, religion, etc.) shaped the experiences and possibilities for African Americans, in post-W.W. II U.S. society.  Course materials will explore some of the major themes and events in African American history from World War II to the present including Black migration, racial violence and Black resistance during W. W. II; race, suburbanization and Cold War politics; the emergence of the civil rights and Black Power movements; race and masculinity; the War on Poverty; Black feminism(s); the rise of conservatism, “welfare reform,” and the re-segregation of public schools; housing insecurity,  the “war on drugs,” and mass incarceration in the “post-civil rights” neo-liberal state.  Finally, we will assess America’s still unfinished journey toward racial, gender and economic justice.

338 The Black Arts Movement

TR 1:00-2:15


This course will examine the  Black Power Movement’s cultural wing, better known as the Black Arts Movement(BAM). During the late 1960s to mid 1970s, BAM produced a diverse group of African-American artists, writers, and musicians who were committed to creating politically charged and revolutionary art. We’ll examine the work of several BAM writers, poets, visual artists, and musicians and situate their work within the political, historical, and artistic context. During this course, we will investigate key questions relevant to artistic production: what is the relationship between art and politics? What is the role of the politically conscious artist?

631 Colloquium in Afro-American History


TR 4:00-5:15


When the words “African Americans” and “social movement” are mentioned, many people, understandably, think of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet what about the actual physical movement of black Americans from one region to another? Migration has been an integral part of the lives of people of African descent in the United States since slavery. This course explores the many migrations that African Americans have undertaken. The Great Migration of the twentieth century forms our centerpiece. We will also examine the trials and triumphs associated with African Americans as they vacationed, fulfilled military duties, and pursued professional ambitions. We will study the social, cultural, political, and economic factors that have motivated African Americans to move within and beyond the borders of the U.S. We will analyze the theme of migration in African American letters. We will learn about the dynamic and reactionary responses to black migrants’ presences in new spaces, the communities and cultures that the newcomers created, and the broad impact that these intrepid individuals and groups made on the U.S. and the world.

671 Selected Topics in Afro-American History

Women and Slavery in the U.S.

TR 2:30-3:45


This course is a social history of women and slavery in colonial North America and the United States. We will explore three major themes: the origins and development of the institution slavery, the varied experiences of and finally the social, political, and economic effects of race-based slave holding on the American Republic. Special attention will be paid to enslaved and slave holding women and their contested relationships. We will wrestle with the following questions: How and why was African race-based slavery established in the colonies that would became to North America? How did enslaved people experience slavery differently over time and space? What are the structural legacies of black bondage and white mastery?

672  Selected Topics in Afro-American Literature

Critical Innovations in African American Literature

MW 11:00-12:15


This course focuses on foundational works and interventions in African American Literature shaping the directions in work today. Authors to be read move from fiction by Charles Chesnutt (1890s) to Colson Whitehead, spoken word & theater works from the black arts movement, as well as Bill Gunn,  Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, and Lydia Diamond, and major essays on literature from the Harlem Renaissance to the present.

673 Selected Topics in Afro-American Society

M 2:25-5:00


This is a comparative survey course on the phenomenon of so-called mixed racial families. It examines “multiracial” populations, their histories, experiences and identities within various sociological and social psychological frameworks, with a particular focus on unions and offspring of people of color. This discussion takes place in a larger context in which multiracial populations experience life betwixt and between other so-called monoracially-identified communities of color (e.g., blacks, Native Americans and Asian Americans) and the larger white majority. Through the sociological method this course will illuminate how we begin to see this phenomenon as part of a struggle over the meaning of race, changing racial boundaries and the multiple aspects of racial experience in the 21th century. Given the nature of this undertaking, the course pulls from an eclectic set of material, primarily secondary data sources, recent research, personal experience and historical evidence.

There are four goals for this course:

1- to review research on intermarriage and multiracial heritage;

2- to evaluate theory, methods assumptions and conceptual paradigms applicable to this phenomenon;

3- to analyze cross-racial patterns of interaction in a social and historical context;

4- and to encourage systematic study by students of self-selected, specialized aspects of this phenomenon.

675 Selected Topics in Afro-American Culture

M 4:30-7:05


 This is an advanced course in theatre history and criticism. In addition to reading plays by selected women playwrights from Africa and the diaspora, we’ll read performance reviews and critical essays about women theatre directors, designers, and producers. Students are expected to have background in theatre history and literary studies.