Black Studies

2019-20

111 Introduction to Black Studies

[R] This interdisciplinary introduction to Black Studies combines the teaching of foundational texts in the field with instruction in reading and writing. The first half of the course employs How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren as a guide to the careful reading of books focusing on the slave trade and its effects in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Important readings in this part of the course include Black Odyssey by Nathan Huggins, Racism: A Short History by George Frederickson, and The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James. The second half of the course addresses important themes from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Beginning with The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois, it proceeds through a range of seminal texts, including The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. This part of the course utilizes Revising Prose by Richard Lanham to extend the lesson in reading from the first half of the semester into an exploration of precision and style in writing. Computer exercises based on Revising Prose and three short essays—one on a single book, another comparing two books, and the last on a major theme in the course—provide the main opportunity to apply and reinforce skills in reading and writing learned throughout the semester. After taking this course, students at all levels of preparation should emerge not only with a good foundation for advancement in Black Studies but also with a useful set of guidelines for further achievement in the humanities and the social sciences.

Limited to 20 students per section. Fall semester: Professor Vaughan. Spring semester: Professor Polk.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

114 The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture

Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2023

115 Signifying, Sermonizing, and Storytelling: African American Rhetorical Theory

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

121 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

123 Survey of African Art

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

131 Introduction to the Black Freedom Struggle

(Offered as BLST 131 [US] and HIST 131 [US/TS]) This course will explore the rise and fall of African American social movements over the course of the twentieth century. It will survey the critical organizations, institutions, and figures of the black freedom struggle and will examine the ideological diversity of a movement that encompassed ever-shifting combinations of uplift politics, black nationalism, liberalism, and leftism. We will explore a number of critical black lives over the course of the semester, including Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Pauli Murray, Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Angela Davis. The course will also introduce students to foundational debates and issues in the field of African American history, and push students to ponder how the political, socioeconomic, and cultural endeavors of African Americans have and continue to alter conventional understandings of "freedom," "justice," "democracy," and "equality" within and beyond the United States.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

134 Hip Hop History and Culture

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

135 Introduction to African-American Philosophy

(Offered as BLST 135 [US] and PHIL 366) What is distinctive about the African-American experience? How does that distinctiveness bear on the theory and practice of philosophy and philosophical thinking? And how does the African-American philosophical tradition alter European and Anglo-American philosophical accounts of subjectivity, knowledge, time, language, history, embodiment, memory, and justice? In this course, we will read a range of African-American thinkers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to develop an appreciation of the unique, critical philosophical voice in the Black intellectual tradition. Our readings of works by David Walker, Martin Delany, Maria Stewart, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida Wells, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Cornel West and others will open up crucial issues that transform philosophy's most central problems: knowing, being, and acting. As well, we will consider the cluster of thinkers with whom those works are critically concerned, including key texts from nineteenth-century German philosophy, American pragmatism, and contemporary existentialism and postmodernism. What emerges from these texts and critical encounters is a sense of philosophy and philosophical practice as embedded in the historical experience—in all of its complexity—of African-Americans in the twentieth century.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019

144 Introduction to Dance Studies: What is Performance?

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Fall 2018

147 Race, Place, and the Law

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, January 2021, Fall 2023

193 The Postcolonial City

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

195 Black Existentialsim

(Offered as BLST 195[D] and PHIL 334) During the middle decades of the twentieth century, existentialism dominated the European philosophical and literary scene. Prominent theorists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty put the experience of history, alienation, and the body at the center of philosophical and literary life. It should be no surprise, then, that existentialism appealed to so many Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers of the same period and after. This course examines the critical transformation of European existentialist ideas through close readings of black existentialists Aime Césaire, Frantz Fanon, George Lamming, and Wilson Harris, paired with key essays from Sartre, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty. We will engage black existentialism not just as a series of claims, but also as a method, which allows us to read works by African-American writers such as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison in an existentialist frame. Last, we will consider the matter of how and why existentialism continues to function so centrally in contemporary Africana philosophy.

Fall semester. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2023

200 Critical Debates in Black Studies

[R] In this course students will focus closely on major debates that have animated the field of Black Studies, addressing a wide range of issues from the slave trade to the present. Each week will focus on specific questions such as: What came first, racism or slavery? Is African art primitive? Did Europe underdevelop Africa? Is there Caribbean History or just history in the Caribbean? Should Black Studies exist? Is there a black American culture? Is Affirmative Action necessary? Was the Civil Rights Movement a product of government action or grass-roots pressure? Is the underclass problem a matter of structure or agency? The opposing viewpoints around such questions will provide the main focus of the reading assignments, which will average two or three articles per week. In the first four weeks, students will learn a methodology for analyzing, contextualizing, and making arguments that they will apply in developing their own positions in the specific controversies that will make up the rest of the course.

Limited to 20 students. Fall Semester. Professor Hickmott.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

201 Power and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

(Offered as BLST 201 [D] HIST 267 [AF/LA/TEp] and LLAS 201) The formation of "the Black Atlantic" or "the African Diaspora" began with the earliest moments of European explorations of the West African coast in the fifteenth century and ended with the abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888. This momentous historical event irrevocably reshaped the modern world. This course will trace the history of this transformation at two levels; first, we examine large scale historical processes including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the development of plantation economies, and the birth of liberal democracy. With these sweeping stories as our backdrop, we will also explore the lives of individual Africans and African-Americans, the communities they built, and the cultures they created. We will consider the diversity of the Black Atlantic by examining the lives of a broad array of individuals, including black intellectuals, statesmen, soldiers, religious leaders, healers and rebels. Furthermore, we will pay special attention to trans-Atlantic historical formations common during this period, especially the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Atlantic cultures, societies, and ideas, ultimately understanding enslaved people as creative (rather than reactive) agents of history. So, our questions will be: What is the Black Atlantic? How can we understand both the commonalities and diversity of the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora? What kinds of communities, affinities, and identities did Africans create after being uprooted by the slave trade? What methods do scholars use to understand this history? And finally, what is the modern legacy of the Black Atlantic? Class time will be divided between lecture, small and large group discussion.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

203 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(Offered as BLST 203 [D], ENGL 216, and SWAG 203) The term “Women Writers” suggests, and perhaps assumes, a particular category. How useful is this term in describing the writers we tend to include under the frame? And further, how useful are the designations "African" and "African Diaspora"? We will begin by critically examining these central questions, and revisit them frequently as we read specific texts and the body of works included in this course. Our readings comprise a range of literary and scholarly works by canonical and more recent female writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and continental America. Framed primarily by Postcolonial Criticism, our explorations will center on how writers treat historical and contemporary issues specifically connected to women’s experiences, as well as other issues, such as globalization, modernity, and sexuality. We will consider the continuities and points of departure between writers, periods, and regions, and explore the significance of the writers’ stylistic choices. Here our emphasis will be on how writers appropriate vernacular and conventional modes of writing.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Bailey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2024

208 African Migrations and Globalization

(Offered as BLST 208 [A/D] and HIST 311 [AF]) As the crisis of the postcolonial nation-state deepens in the context of globalization and statism in African countries especially in the last three decades, African societies have experienced significant migration of skilled and unskilled workers.  These migration flows are raising new questions about the nature of politics, economics, and culture in various African national and transnational contexts.  To explore the political, social, and economic consequences of these waves of migration in African states and among countries receiving African migrants, this course will examine the following topics at the core of the transformation of African states in the global age:  colonialism and the construction of modern African states; globalization and political legitimacy in postcolonial African states; globalization and African labor migration; globalization and African popular culture; globalization and Africa's new religious movements; globalization and Africa's refugee crisis; Africa and globalization of the media; Africa and the global discourse on gender and sexuality; Africa and the global discourse on AIDS/HIV; Africa and the globalization of football (soccer).  Course readings will focus not only on the impact of globalization and state crisis on African societies, but also on how emerging national and transnational African populations are shaping the processes of globalization.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

210 Christianity and Islam in West Africa

(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220) The course will examine the transformative impact of Christianity and Islam on West African societies since the wave of Muslim reformist movements and Christian evangelical movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The central question of the course will revolve around the idea that Muslim and Christian movements are essential to the transformation of West African societies during these critical centuries in West African history. Although course lectures and discussions will examine broad religious currents throughout West Africa, the course will focus on in-depth case studies on Nigerian, Ghana, and Senegal - three countries where Islam and Christianity profoundly transformed state-society relations from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.

Fall semester. Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

211 Africa Before the European Conquest

Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2018, Spring 2025

212 Digital Africas

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

214 Master Musicians of Africa I: West Africa

(Offered as BLST 214 [A] and MUSI 106) This course concentrates on the lives and music of selected West African musicians. Departing from ethnographic approaches that mask the identity of individual musicians and treat African societies as collectives, this course emphasizes the contributions of individual West African musicians whose stature as master musicians is undisputed within their respective communities. It examines the contributions of individual musicians to the ever continuous process of negotiating the boundaries of African musical practice. Individuals covered this semester include Babatunde Olatunji (Nigerian drummer), Youssou N’Dour (Senegalese singer), Kandia Kouyate (Malian jelimuso) and Ephraim Amu (Ghanaian composer). The variety of artistic expressions of selected musicians also provides a basis for examining the interrelatedness of different African musical idioms, and the receptivity of African music to non-African styles.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted in 2019-20.  Five College Professor Omojola.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2014, Spring 2018

230 Spike Lee's Joints

(Offered as BLST 230 [D] and FAMS 358) In offering extended formal considerations of Spike Lee’s cinematic oeuvre – in particular his uses of light, sound, and color – this course is interested in how shifting through various modes of critical inquiry can enable or broaden different kinds of cultural, political, or historical engagement with a film. We will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a specific cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation. As well, Lee’s aesthetic techniques, cultural politics, and wide-ranging critique of the American racial caste system will help us think about the role of film in ongoing struggles for racial justice.

Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

231 African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction

(Offered as BLST 231 [US] and HIST 247 [US/TS/P]; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major.) This course is a survey of the history of African American men and women from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The content is a mixture of the social, cultural, and political history of blacks during two and a half centuries of slavery with the story of the black freedom struggle and its role in America’s national development. Among the major topics addressed: the slave trade in its moral and economic dimensions; African retentions in African American culture; origins of racism in colonial America; how blacks used the rhetoric and reality of the American and Haitian Revolutions to their advancement; antebellum slavery; black religion and family under slavery and freedom; the free black experience in the North and South; the crises of the 1850s; the role of race and slavery in the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War; and the meaning of emancipation and Reconstruction for blacks. Readings include historical monographs, slave narratives by men and women, and one work of fiction.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Moss.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2019, Spring 2023

232 Black Reconstruction

(Offered as HIST 249 [TS] and BLST 232 [US]) There may be no more revolutionary moment in American history than the political and social experiment of Reconstruction. Between 1865 and 1877, questions of power, citizenship, and democracy were contested as never before. And for subsequent generations, American society has been indelibly shaped by the eventual victory of Reconstruction's opponents. Simply put, how we understand the history of this often-misunderstood, if not outright-ignored, era matters. In that regard, there may be no more revolutionary contribution to the historiography of the United States than W.E.B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in America. Published in 1935, Du Bois' work rebutted dominant characterizations of the nation's "tragic era," calling attention to the democratic strivings of freedpeople and the intensity of resistance to a world--and a racial order--temporarily turned upside down. This course will use the text to explore the history of Reconstruction and the politics of historical interpretation, and to locate Du Bois' contributions to the black intellectual tradition, particularly with regard to Du Bois' development as a pioneering theorist of race and class. Over the course of the semester, we will take a broad view of Black Reconstruction, utilizing a range of archival resources to understand the book's creation, reception and the broader politics of race in the New Deal era. We will also use the book to think about Reconstruction memory, and the ways it has informed debates about the realities and possibilities of American democracy in subsequent moments of social upheaval.

Spring semester. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

236 Black Sexualities

(Offered as BLST 236 [US] and SWAG 330) From the modern era to the contemporary moment, the intersection of race, gender, and class has been especially salient for people of African descent—for men as well as for women. How might the category of sexuality act as an additional optic through which to view and reframe contemporary and historical debates concerning the construction of black identity? In what ways have traditional understandings of masculinity and femininity contributed to an understanding of African American life and culture as invariably heterosexual? How have black lesbian, gay, and transgendered persons effected political change through their theoretical articulations of identity, difference, and power? In this interdisciplinary course, we will address these questions through an examination of the complex roles gender and sexuality play in the lives of people of African descent. Remaining attentive to the ways black people have claimed social and sexual agency in spite of systemic modes of inequality, we will engage with critical race theory, black feminist thought, queer-of-color critique, literature, art, film, “new media” and erotica, as well as scholarship from anthropology, sociology, and history.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Polk.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

237 Incarcerating Blackness

(Offered as BLST 237 [US] and LJST 247) This course explores the complex relationship between race, racism, and mass incarceration. Readings from the African-American intellectual tradition, contemporary critics of the prison industrial complex, and memoirs from political prisoners will help us understand the depth and structure of the historical and cultural meaning of racialized imprisonment. In particular, we will look at how incarceration has been both a metaphor for the Black experience in the United States and a constant presence in that experience as a form of social, cultural, and political control. We will also examine how economic factors intersect with race and racism in the expansion of the prison system in the United States. Lastly, we will read a cluster of prison memoirs in light of contemporary historical and critical race analysis in order to discern the effects and affects of imprisonment on African-American life.

Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

239 Segregated America

(Offered as BLST 239 [US] and HIST 239 [US]) This course will examine the practices, cultures, and consequences of racial segregation in the modern United States. Beginning with the Jim Crow South, students will learn to interpret segregation not simply as a system of racial separation but as a critical site of political, economic, and psychological investment. Two questions will animate this course: how did segregation work and for whom, historically, did it work? In attempting to answer these questions, students will learn to see the ways in which a supposedly bygone institution has continued to profoundly shape the nature and distribution of power in the United States. Students will, for instance, ponder connections between the color line in the South and the history of red-lining in the urban North. In doing so, this course will ask students to consider the ways in which southern history might be understood as national history, and the ways in which the presence of segregation remains central to the persistence of inequality in American life. 

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018

240 Afro-Latinos

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2021, Spring 2025

245 King

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2021

248 Race and American Capitalism: From Slavery to Ferguson

(Offered as BLST 248 [US] and HIST 246 [US]) An unconventional history of capitalism, this course explores the various ways African Americans have experienced and responded to shifts in the organization of the American economy. Beginning with the middle passage and creation of plantation slavery in the New World, we will explore the commodification of African Americans' labor, and the ways in which that labor became a cornerstone of capital accumulation, both globally and in the United States. We continue through the revolutions of emancipation, the rise of Jim Crow and the making of urban America, to our present day reality of deeply rooted, and racialized, economic inequality. More than a history of exploitation, however, we will address the various ways in which African Americans chose to manage both the challenges and possibilities of American capitalist development. How, for instance, did black ownership of real estate in the segregated South shape Jim Crow governance? To what extent has black business contributed toward struggles for political and social equality? Finally, we will assess the numerous black critics, including intellectuals, activists and working African Americans, of the American political economy. How have such men and women called attention to the ways race and class have combined to shape both black lives and black political subjectivity?

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

253 The Colonial City: Global Perspectives

Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

255 Fanon and After

[D and C/LA] Who was Frantz Fanon as a theorist? How did he change our thinking about colonialism, its contestation, and what comes after? And how are we to assess his legacy after decades of critical assessment? Fanon is arguably the most important anti-colonial writer of his generation. His decade of work, beginning in 1952 with Black Skin, White Masks and ending upon his death in 1961, engaged the major trends of his day: existentialism, Négritude, surrealism, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. But Fanon makes those trends his own by infusing them with imperatives of anti-, de-, and post-colonial thinking, fundamentally revolutionizing basic philosophical and political categories, from language to dialectic to the self to a wide range of formal and informal social institutions. What is Fanonian thinking in these intersections? And what is its future? To those ends, the aim of this course is simple: read all of Fanon’s published work and assess its meaning and legacy. We will offer close readings of Fanon’s books, essays, and psychiatric case studies, and then examine how that work has been received both inside the Caribbean and Africa (Édouard Glissant, the creolist movement, Achille Mbembe, and others) and across the global South (Homi Bhabha and others). What will emerge from our studies is a deep understanding of Fanon the thinker and an appreciation of the complexity of anti-colonial, de-colonial, and post-colonial thought and practice in his wake.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017

291 African and African Diaspora Thought

(Offered as BLST 291 [A/D] and HIST 291) This course will critically examine seminal works on African and African diaspora thought since the eighteenth century and will explore the following major issues: the consolidation of Atlantic slavery in the eighteenth century, the anti-slavery struggle in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Black freedom movements in the twentieth century, and the consolidation and fall of colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Discussed in their appropriate historical context, the course will explore anti-slavery, pan-Africanist, Black feminist, and Black nationalist thinkers, notably Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Fowell Buxton, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edward Blyden, Alexander Crummell, Frantz Fanon, Claudia Jones, and Angela Davis.

Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

293 African Art and the Diaspora

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

294 Black Europe

(Offered as BLST 294 [D], SWAG 294 and EUST 294) This research-based seminar considers the enduring presence of people of African descent in Europe from the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment, a fact that both confounds and extends canonical theories of African diaspora and black internationalism.  Focusing particularly on the histories of black people in Britain, Germany, and France, this course will take an interdisciplinary approach in its study of the African diaspora in Europe. We will examine literature, history, film, art and ephemera, as well as newly available pre-1927 audio recordings from Bear Family Records (http://www.black-europe.com/) in effort to better comprehend the materiality of the black European experience. These inquiries will enable us to comment upon the influence black people continue to have upon Europe today. Reading the central texts in the emerging field of Black European Studies—including African American expatriate memoirs, Afro-German feminist poetry, and black British cultural theory—student work will culminate in an annotated bibliography and a multimedia research project.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Polk.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023

296 Black Women and Reproductive Justice in the African Diaspora

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2025

300 Research in Black Studies

[R] This seminar prepares students to conduct independent research. Although it concentrates on the field of Black Studies, it serves as a good introductory research course for all students in the humanities and social sciences regardless of major. The first part of the course will intensively introduce students to the library through a series of readings, exercises, and discussions aimed at sharpening the ability to locate information precisely and efficiently. The second part of the course will introduce research methods in three important areas of Black Studies: the arts, history, and the social sciences. Faculty members of the Black Studies Department, departmental affiliates, and visitors will join the class to present their own ongoing research, placing particular emphasis on the disciplinary methods and traditions of inquiry that guide their efforts. Also in the second part, through individual meetings with professors, students will begin developing their own research projects. The third part of the course will concentrate more fully on development of these projects through a classroom workshop. Here students will learn how to shape a topic into a research question, build a bibliography, annotate a bibliography, shape a thesis, develop an outline, and write a research proposal, or prospectus.

This course is required of Black Studies majors. It is open to non-majors with the consent of the instructor. Although BLST 111 and 200 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses. 

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Hicks and Professor Hill.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

302 Global Women's Literature

Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2023

305 The AfroPostmodern

[CLA/D] This course examines the meaning of “the postmodern” in contemporary Caribbean and African-American philosophy, cultural theory, and the arts. What is the postmodern? And how does the experience of the Americas transform the meaning of postmodernity? Four basic concepts guide our inquiry: fragmentation, nomad, rhizome, and creoleness. Short readings from European theorists will provide the backdrop for our treatment of how the experiences of the Middle Passage, colonialism, and postcolony life fundamentally transform postmodern ideas. In tracking this transformation, readings and reflections will explore the possible meanings of the AfroPostmodern in the works of Édouard Glissant, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Wilson Harris, and Patrick Chamoiseau. In addition, with such theoretical considerations in place, the class will examine the specifically AfroPostmodern significance of aesthetic practices in dub, sampling, graffiti, and anti-racist irony. Lastly, the class will consider how AfroPostmodern conceptions of mixture, counter-narrative, and syncretism offer an alternative to dominant accounts of modernity and globalization.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2019

307 Apartheid

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Fall 2019

309 ≠ (Inequality)

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017

310 Student Activism in U.S. History: Past and Present

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2023

312 Black Speculative Fictions

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

313 Visual Arts and Orature in Africa

(Offered as BLST 313 [A] and ARHA 138) In the traditionally non-literate societies of Africa, verbal and visual arts constitute two systems of communication. The performance of verbal art and the display of visual art are governed by social and cultural rules. We will examine the epistemological process of understanding cultural symbols, of visualizing narratives, or proverbs, and of verbalizing sculptures or designs. Focusing on the Yoruba people of West Africa, the course will attempt to interpret the language of their verbal and visual arts and their interrelations in terms of cultural cosmologies, artistic performances, and historical changes in perception and meaning. We will explore new perspectives in the critical analysis of African verbal and visual arts, and their interdependence as they support each other through mutual references and allusions.

Fall semester. Professor Abiodun.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

315 Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa

(Offered as BLST 315 [A] and ARHA 353) Through a contrastive analysis of the religious and artistic modes of expression in three West African societies—the Asanti of the Guinea Coast, and the Yoruba and Igbo peoples of Nigeria—the course will explore the nature and logic of symbols in an African cultural context. We shall address the problem of cultural symbols in terms of African conceptions of performance and the creative play of the imagination in ritual acts, masked festivals, music, dance, oral histories, and the visual arts as they provide the means through which cultural heritage and identity are transmitted and preserved, while, at the same time, being the means for innovative responses to changing social circumstances.

Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

316 Five Colleges Capstone Course in African Studies: African States & Societies—Culture, History, Politics, Religion

This capstone course will examine major historical, political, and cultural themes that shaped the processes of state-society formations in precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial Africa. Course lectures and discussions on a wide range of themes will draw on various texts, including primary documents, secondary scholarly works, documentary films, and digital materials. Following background lectures, scholars from the Five College Africanist community will lead seminar discussions of specific case studies drawn from their specialty on various regions across the African continent.

Requisite: At least three Five-College courses in African Studies or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Preference for juniors and seniors. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan and Five College Africanist faculty.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

317 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2018

321 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

322 South African History

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

326 Diamonds (Guns and Money): An African History of a Precious Commodity

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2023

332 Red/Black Literature: At the Crossroads of Native American and African American Literary Histories

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2017, Fall 2018

334 Jazz History to 1945: Emergence, Early Development, and Innovation

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

336 The Social Construction of Whiteness

Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2023

337 Angela Davis

(Offered as BLST 337 [US] and SWAG 337) Angela Davis’ work spans some of the most provocative and important cultural and political moments in recent U.S. history. Beginning with the Black Power and Black Panther movements of the late-1960s and 70s, through innovations in the Black feminist movement in the 1980s onward, and recently with questions of racialized mass incarceration and links between Palestinian and African-American freedom struggle, Davis has forged a militant vision of racial, sexual, and transnational liberation. Her writerly and analytic voice blends philosophy and political theory with the urgent demands of activism and direct action. In this course, we will read across her life’s work, beginning with early essays and her autobiography, up through recent reflections on mass incarceration, Palestine, and #BlackLivesMatter. As well, we will examine Davis' influences and how she transforms and extends their thought, ranging from Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse to Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, and Huey Newton, among others. What emerges from these readings is a rigorous and radical vision of liberation drawn from a powerful mixture of critical theory, vernacular culture, and political activism.

Fall semester. Professor Drabinski

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

342 The Local and Global 1970s

(Offered as BLST 342 [US] and HIST 358 [US])  Often overshadowed by the long 1960s and the conservative ascendancy in the 1980s, the 1970s provides an important transitional moment for the United States, one that arguably linked local experiences to global dynamics and social movements in unprecedented ways. It was also a decade fraught with contradictions. On the one hand, Americans experienced widespread disillusionment with the power of the federal government to promote and protect the minority from the majority. Historians seeking to understand the collapse of the welfare state or the origins of white resistance to civil rights’ initiatives most often point to the 1970s as the time when the Supreme Court abandoned school desegregation and the federal government shifted the burden of the social welfare system onto the market, state and local governments, and onto poor people themselves. And yet, the 1970s also saw an explosion of progressive social activism, as the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement, among others, all came into their own. Likewise, this was also a time of U.S. retreat and military overextension, and a time of new hegemonies of human rights regimes and multinational corporations. This course asks students to consider how connecting the local with the global can help us better understand and resolve these apparent contradictions. How does our understanding of American politics, society, and culture change depending upon our point of view? What are the possibilities and limitations of global and local methods of inquiry? How might historians more fruitfully combine sub-disciplines to understand the ways in which Americans experienced and engaged with their historical realities as members of local, national, and global communities?  One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professors Moss and Walker.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2017

345 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

346 Wright-Ellison-Baldwin

(Offered as BLST 346 [US] and ENGL 362) What is the political responsibility of the writer? Is the Black writer obligated to testify to, represent, and subject to critique the deep effects and affects of anti-Black racism? Or is the responsibility also something different, something better when committed to documenting life outside and in the cracks of an anti-Black racist world? What is art in relation to politics, politics in relation to art? What ought the artist do with the rage generated by three and a half centuries of anti-blackness? And with the pleasures of life that exist alongside that rage? This course explores the mid-century dispute between Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin concerning the meaning of the Black writer. Questions of colonialism, the uniqueness of the African-American experience, affective life (from rage to pleasure), community, and the genesis of cultural production will frame our readings and critical discussions. Beginning with exemplary novels by Wright, Ellison, and Baldwin—Native Son, Invisible Man, and Go Tell It on the Mountain—we will then consider their non-fiction, focusing on how each thinks through problems of nihilism, art, racialized subjectivity, gender, language, sexuality, class, region, and politics in a national and transnational context. As well, the questions raised in the fiction and non-fiction will help us engage with a cluster of contemporaries (Lorraine Hansberry, Norman Mailer, Kenneth Clark, others) and predecessors (Bessie Smith, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston), all of whom hold important critical positions in this argument.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Drabinski.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

347 Race, Sex, and Gender in the U.S. Military

(Offered as BLST 347 [US] and SWAG 347) From the aftermath of the Civil War to today's "global war on terror," the U.S. military has functioned as a vital arbiter of the overlapping taxonomies of race, gender, and sexuality in America and around the world. This course examines the global trek of American militarism through times of war and peace in the twentieth century. In a variety of texts and contexts, we will investigate how the U.S. military's production of new ideas about race and racialization, masculinity and femininity, and sexuality and citizenship impacted the lives of soldiers and civilians, men and women, at "home" and abroad. Our interdisciplinary focus will allow us to study the multiple intersections of difference within the military, enabling us to address a number of topics, including: How have African American soldiers functioned as both subjects and agents of American militarism? What role has the U.S. military played in the creation of contemporary gay and lesbian subjectivity? Is military sexual assault a contemporary phenomenon or can it be traced to longer practices of sexual exploitation occurring on or around U.S. bases globally?

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Polk.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

351 The Purpose and Politics of Education

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

362 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

365 Race and Relationality

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

377 Bad Black Women

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

381 Envisioning Freedom

(Offered as BLST 381 [CLA/D] and HIST 365 [LA/FA]) Did the emancipation of millions of African-descended people from the bonds of chattel slavery—beginning with the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti and ending with Brazilian abolition in 1888—mark the beginning of an irrevocable march towards Black freedom?  Or was it merely an evolution in the continuing exploitation of Black people throughout the Americas? This course scrutinizes the complex economic, political, ideological, social and cultural contexts which caused and were remade by emancipation. Students are asked to consider emancipation as a global historical process unconstrained by the boundaries of the modern nation-state, while exploring the reasons for and consequences of emancipation from a trans-national perspective that incorporates the histories of the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. By focusing on the ideological ambiguities and lived experiences of enslaved people, political actors, abolitionists, religious leaders, employers and many others, this seminar will question what constitutes equality, citizenship, and freedom. Finally the course will explore what role emancipated slaves played in shaping the historical meanings and practices of modern democracy. 

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2017

382 Black Mestizx: Gender Variance and Transgender Politics in the Borderlands

2023-24: Not offered

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

392 Russia and the Representation of Race

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

412 African Literature and Social Media

(Offered as BLST 412 [A] and ENGL 472) This advanced, digital humanities, project-based course allows students to develop individual projects that follow and critique the social media presences of selected twenty-first-century African writers for whom digital spaces have become significant sites for creating, disseminating, and theorizing their work. Alongside independent projects, students will work collaboratively to understand the social and political events that have shaped recent technological shifts in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as to locate and critique theoretical texts that attempt to account for how digital technologies shape new literary genres and publics. In collaboration with the library staff, students will develop their proficiency in using a variety of bibliographical resources and digital humanities tools. Possible projects may engage such online artifacts as the video loops created by Kenyan filmmaker Jim ChuChu, YouTube performances by the Ghanian duo, Fokn Bois, and fanzines dedicated to the work of Chinua Achebe, as well as tweets and Instagram postings of a range of writers who work in multiple hybrid forms.

Requisite: Previous coursework in or knowledge of Africa or previous work on digital humanities projects preferred. Limited to 15 students. Open to Juniors and Seniors. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

431 The Long Civil Rights Movement

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

461 The Creole Imagination

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2023

498, 498D, 499, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Music Theory & Jazz

344 Jazz History After 1945: Experimentalism, Pluralism, and Traditionalism

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Spring 2023