Black Studies

Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Course Catalog

The information below is taken from the printed catalog the college produces each year. For more up to date information, including links to course websites, faculty homepages, reserve readings, and more, use the 'courses' or semester specific link to your left.

10. Conceptualizing White Identity in the United States. (Also Sociology 31.) See Sociology 31.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Basler.

11. 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 Franz 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. Second semester. Professors Cobham-Sander and Ferguson.

 

12. 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 25 students. First semester. Professor Ferguson.

 

16. Poverty and Inequality. (US) (Also Economics 23.) See Economics 23.

First semester. Professor Rivkin.

 

18. The Changing Images of Blacks in Film. (US) (Also Theater and Dance 27 and English 93.) See Theater and Dance 27.

Second semester. Professor Mukasa.

 

20. African Cultures and Societies. (A) (Also Anthropology 26.) See Anthropology 26.

Limited to 50 students. Second semester. Professor Goheen.

 

21. Black Diaspora from Africa to the La Escalera Conspiracy. (CLA/D) (Also History 11.) See History 11.

First semester. Professor Castro Alves.

 

22. Literature in French Outside Europe: Introduction to Francophone Literature. (D) (Also French 53.) See French 53.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Hewitt.

 

23. Short Stories from the Black World. (D) This course which includes presentations by African, Caribbean, and African-American story-tellers, studies the oral origins of written stories and the thematic and stylistic continuities between orature and written literature. Among the authors to be read are Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Toni Cade Bambara, Jan Carew, Charles Chesnutt, J. California Cooper, Bessie Head, Jamaica Kincaid, Earl Lovelace, Paule Marshall, James Alan McPherson, Grace Ogot, and Opal Adisa Palmer.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.

 

24. Representations of Black Women in Black Literature. (D) This cross-cultural course examines similarities and differences in portrayals of girls and women in Africa and its New World diaspora with special emphasis on the interaction of gender, race, class, and culture. Texts are drawn from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Topics include motherhood, work, and sexual politics. Authors vary from year to year and include: Toni Cade Bambara, Maryse Condé, Nuruddin Farah, Bessie Head, Merle Hodge, Paule Marshall, Ama Ata Aidoo, and T. Obinkaram Echewa.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.

 

25. Women and Politics in Africa. (A) (Also Political Science 29 and Women’s and Gender Studies 61.) See Political Science 29.

Second semester. Five College Professor Newbury.

 

26. African American Autobiographies: A Survey. (US) (Also English 70.) Autobiographies are the core of a written African-American literature that began with slave narratives. We will read works by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, including such later classics as Richard Wright’s Black Boy, The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. We will also study more recent works such as John Edgar Wideman’s Fatheralong and Audre Lorde’s Zami. Independent projects will focus on changing modes of autobiographical writing and critical perspectives on the genre.

Recommended requisite: A first course in English and/or Black Studies 11. Omitted 2007-08.

 

27. Creating a Self: Black Women’s Testimonies, Memoirs and Autobiographies. (D) Pioneering feminist critic Barbara Smith says, “All the men are Black, all the women are White, but some of us are brave.” This cross-cultural course focuses on “brave” women from Africa and its New World diaspora who dare to tell their own stories and, in doing so, invent themselves. We will begin with a discussion of the problematics of writing and reading autobiographical works by those usually defined as “other,” and proceed to a careful study of such varied voices as escaped slave Linda Brent/Harriet Jacobs, political activist Ida B. Wells, and feminist, lesbian poet Audre Lorde—all from the U.S.; Lucille Clifton, the Sistren Collective (Jamaica); Carolina Maria deJesus (Brazil); Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria); and Nafissatou Diallo (Senegal).

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.

 

28. Religion in the Atlantic World, 1441-1600. (D) (Also Religion 58.) See Religion 58.

Second semester. Professor Wills.

 

29. Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature. (A/CLA) (Also English 55.) See English 55.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. First semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

 

31. African Popular Music. (A) (Also Music 05.) See Music 05.

First semester. Five College Professor Omojola.

 

32. Issues in African Education. (A) The course is designed for those interested in understanding the current educational landscape in sub-Saharan Africa. It will examine the nature and organization of education from a historical context and from particular economic and social factors that shape educational decisions in sub-Saharan Africa. The course will examine: colonial education in Anglophone and Francophone Africa, access to education by children in rural and marginalized areas, school quality, student retention and achievement, school health and HIV/AIDS, population growth and its impact on educational outcomes, poverty, gender inequality, children in emergency and crisis situations, child labor, Millennium Development Goals and Education for all.

First semester. Mellon Visiting Professor Moyi.

 

33. Black Diaspora from Emancipation to the Present. (CLA/D) (Also History 12.) See History 12.

Second semester. Professor Castro Alves.

 

34. Child Labor and Education in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. (D)

What is child labor? What is the relationship between child labor and education? Until recently, most debates on national welfare policies and international legal codes treated education and child labor as separate topics. But, over the last several years, there has been increased attention to children’s labor as a dimension in their education, and to education as a dimension in their labor. This integration has implications on the ways in which we teach and learn about at-risk children in poor countries. Should education policymakers be interested or informed about children who do not go to school? Should they care what students do in addition to attending school? This seminar seeks to explore child labor in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Topics to be explored include: the complex definitions of childhood and child labor, children’s rights, gender and child labor, globalization, intolerable forms of child labor, academic impact of work on children among others.

Limited to 15 students. Second semester. Mellon Visiting Professor Moyi.

 

36. African American Oral Traditions. (US) In sub-Saharan Africa and many places in its American diaspora, the spoken, rather than the written, is the word of power. This course examines the continuing connections between African American oral forms—like children’s games, folk tales, work songs, ballads, spirituals, sermons, proverbs, the blues, signifying, scatting, storytelling and “lyin”—and written literature which incorporates and builds on them. We will read such texts as Gayl Jones’s The Healing, James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones, James Alan McPherson’s Elbow Room, Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers, Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, and Brenda Marie Osbey’s All Saints: New and Selected Poems.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.

 

37. Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition. (CLA) (Also English 52.) See English 52.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Cobham-Sander.

 

38. Foundations of African American Literature. (US) (Also English 01-04). See English 01-04.

Limited to 20 students. Second semester. Professor Parham.

 

39. Studies in African American Literature. (US) (Also English 66.) See English 66. The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2007 the topic will be “The Weary Blues: Mourning in African American Literature and Culture.”

Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Parham.

 

40. Contemporary African Fiction. (A) (Also English 67.) See English 67.

Second semester. Professor Rushing.

 

41. Latin America and the Caribbean in the Age of Revolution. (CLA) (Also History 88.) See History 88.

Limited to 15 students. First semester. Professor Castro Alves.

 

42. Myth, Ritual and Iconography in West Africa. (A) 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.

Second semester. Professor Abiodun.

 

43. Visual Arts and Orature in Africa. (A) (Also Fine Arts 38.) 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.

First semester. Professor Abiodun.

 

44. Issues of Gender in African Literature. (A) This course explores the ways in which issues of gender are presented by African writers and perceived by readers and critics of African writing. We will examine the insights and limitations of selected feminist, post-structural and post-colonial theories when they are applied to African texts. We will also look at the difference over time in the ways that female and male African writers have manipulated socially acceptable ideas about gender in their work. Texts will be selected from the oeuvres of established writers like Soyinka, Achebe, Ngugi and Head, as well as from more recent works by writers like Farah, Aidoo, and Dangaremba. Preference will be given to students who have completed a previous course on African literature, history, or society.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Cobham-Sander.

 

45. African Art and the Diaspora. (D) (Also Fine Arts 70.) See Fine Arts 70.

First semester. Professor Abiodun.

 

46. Survey of African Art. (A) (Also Fine Arts 49.) See Fine Arts 49.

Second semester. Professor Abiodun.

 

47. Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa. (A) (Also History 22.) See History 22.

Second semester. Professor Redding.

 

48. State and Society in Africa Before the European Conquest. (A) (Also History 63.) See History 63.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Redding.

 

49. Introduction to South African History. (A) (Also History 64.) See History 64.

Second semester. Professor Redding.

 

50. Topics in African History: Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa. (A) (Also History 92.) See History 92.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Redding.

 

52. The Social Psychology of Race. (US) (Also Psychology 44.) See Psychology 44.

Requisite: Psychology 11. Limited to 15 students. Second semester. Professor Hart.

 

54. Black Music and Black Poetry. (US) (Also English 15.) Music is the central art form in African American cultures. This beginning, survey course considers the relationship between poetry and music from the oral and written poetry of slavery to contemporary hip-hop. We will pay special attention to the ways poetry uses musicians as subjects and builds on such musical forms as spirituals, the blues, rhythm and blues, reggae, and jazz. The course will begin with the importance of music in the Western African cultures from which most enslaved Africans came and pay careful attention to lexicon, rhythm, refrain, pitch, tone, timbre, cadence, and call-and-response. Students will be expected to read poetry, hear it read by its creators, and listen to its musical inspirations and manifestations. We will pay special attention to such periods as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and today’s hip-hop music. We will read such poets as Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Michael Harper, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Brenda Marie Osbey; and hear music by classic musicians like Billie Holiday and John Coltrane and newer voices like Mos’ Def, John Legend, and india.arie. Throughout the course we will focus on the relationship between artists and their audiences and the unique role of cities such as New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Preference given to students who have taken Black Studies 11 or a first course in English. Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Rushing.

 

57. African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction. (US) (Also History 41.) 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.

Combined enrollment limited to 50 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Moss.

 

58. African American History from Reconstruction to the Present. (US) (Also History 42.) This course is a survey of the social, cultural, and political history of African American men and women since the 1870s. Among the major topics addressed: the legacies of Reconstruction; the political and economic origins of Jim Crow; the new racism of the 1890s; black leadership and organizational strategies; the Great Migration of the World War I era; the Harlem Renaissance; the urbanization of black life and culture; the impact of the Great Depression and the New Deal; the social and military experience of World War II; the causes, course and consequences of the modern civil rights movement; the experience of blacks in the Vietnam War; and issues of race and class in the 1970s and 1980s. Readings and materials include historical monographs, fiction, and documentary films.

Combined enrollment limited to 50 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Moss.

 

59.  Race, Radicalism, and African American Culture from the Depression to the Civil Rights Movement.  (US)  (Also History 23.)  This course explores the connections between African American culture and radical politics from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Leading African American cultural figures, such as Paul Robeson and Richard Wright, had complex relationships with the ideologies and movements of the radical left (i.e., communism and socialism) in the decades before and after World War II.  In this course, students will examine how African American artists and intellectuals balanced adherence to class-based ideologies with a commitment to challenging racism in American society.  They will also evaluate the effectiveness of the radical left in confronting racial issues in the twentieth century.  Readings will include: Michael Denning, The Cultural Front; Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson; Andre Gide, Richard Wright, et. al., The God that Failed; Bill V. Mullen, Popular Fronts:  Chicago and African-American Cultural Politics, 1935-46; Elijah Wald, Josh White: Society Blues; Richard Wright, Native Son.

  First semester.  Visiting Lecturer Walker.

 

60. Four African American Poets Haunted by History. (US) (Also English 56.) See English 56.

Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.

 

62. Exploring Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. (US) Ralph Waldo Ellison wrote Invisible Man to confirm the existence of the universal in the particulars of the black American experience. The same can be said of the larger aim of this course. It will provide students with the opportunity to explore the broadest themes of Black Studies through the careful reading of a particular text. Due to its broad range of influence and reference, Invisible Man is one of the most appropriate books in the black tradition for this kind of attention. The course will proceed through a series of comparisons with works that influenced the literary style and the philosophical content of the novel. The first part of the course will focus on comparisons to world literature. Readings will include James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo; and H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man. The second part of the course will focus on comparisons to American literature. The readings in this part of the course will include Herman Melville, The Confidence Man; William Faulkner, “The Bear”; and some of Emerson’s essays. The last part of the course will focus on comparisons with books in the black tradition. Some of the readings in this part of the course will include W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk and Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery. Requires 20-25 page research paper.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Preference given to Black Studies majors. First semester. Professor Ferguson.

 

63.  Alan Lomax and the Politics of African American Tradition.  (US)  (Also History 89.) Alan Lomax was the twentieth-century’s most famous white collector of African American music.  Lomax “discovered” such legendary performers as Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) and McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) and played a crucial role in popularizing African American music. Working under the auspices of the Library of Congress, Lomax traversed the back roads of the South with a recording machine and accumulated an invaluable record of African American folksongs.  His legacy is complex.  Lomax was a collector, a promoter, a scholar, and an activist.  Through the lens of the life and work of this “songcatcher,” students will explore the relationship between folk music and radical politics, the construction of racial identities in popular culture, the commodification of tradition, the uses and abuses of concepts of authenticity, the romanticization of folk culture, the dynamics of fieldwork, and the tension between tradition and modernity in twentieth-century American thought and culture.  In addition, students will be encouraged to view the musicians Lomax recorded in the broader context of African American folk traditions.  Readings will include: Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music; Robert Gordon, Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters; Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness; Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997; Alan Lomax, The Land Where the Blues Began; Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend; Nolan Porterfield, Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax; Shane White and Graham White, The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons, and Speech; Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly. 

Limited to 20 students.  Second semester.  Visiting Lecturer Walker.

 

64. Black Studies Seminar. (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 class is required of Black Studies majors. It is open to non-majors with the consent of the instructor. Although Black Studies 11 and 12 are not required for admission, preference will go to those who have taken one or both of these courses. Second semester. Professors Castro Alves and Ferguson.

 

67. Topics in African-American History: Slavery and the American Imagination. (US) (Also History 82.) See History 82.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Moss.

 

67. Topics in African-American History: Race and Educational Opportunity in America. (US) (Also History 82.) See History 82.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Moss.

 

71. Race, Place and the Law. (US) (Also Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought 05.) See Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought 05.

First semester. Visiting Professor Delaney.

 

77, 77D, 78, 78D. Senior Departmental Honors.

First and second semesters. Members of the Department.

 

97, 97H, 98, 98H. Special Topics.

First and second semesters. Members of the Department.

Related Course

Apartheid. See Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought 06.

Limited to 50 students. First semester. Professor Sitze.

 

Cooper House