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Black Studies



113 The African-American Playwright: A Select History of Representation and Citizenship

(Offered as THDA 223, BLST 113, and ENGL 371) What is meant by “the African-American experience” within the context of the U.S. American theater? What do the crafting and thematic concerns of plays penned by significant African-descendent writers in the United States tell us about the history of African-American theatrical performance and the larger issues of Black personhood, community, culture, and citizenship it reflects? This course is a thematic and critical survey of pivotal African-American plays from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Through practical dramaturgy and textual analysis we will study these playwrights’ deployment of their creative voice within social conditions that have evolved over the aforementioned period, from state-sanctioned exclusion to conditioned acceptance within U.S. American socio-cultural discourses. We will also examine how the civic work of these plays (and their writers) meet, intersect and coexist with that of other identity-based advocacy movements. Themes explored include slavery, segregation, nationality, class, religion, gender, sexual identity, among others. Playwrights studied may include Ira Aldridge, Angelina Grimke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, George C. Wolfe, August Wilson, Ntzoke Shange, and others.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Fall semester.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

114 The Blues Muse: African American Music in American Culture

(Offered as MUSI 128 and BLST 344). This course examines the relationship between blues music and American culture. Using Amiri Baraka's influential 1963 book of music criticism, Blues People, as a central text, we will explore ways in which the "blues impulse" has been fundamental to conceptions of African-American identity. At the same time, we will trace the development of African-American music through its connection to West African musical traditions and through its emergence during slavery and the Jim Crow South. Our investigation will survey a number of precursors to the blues, work songs, spirituals, and minstrels and see how these impacted early blues styles, including delta blues, classic blues, and early blues-oriented gospel practices. The blues played a fundamental role in the emergence of new popular musics in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably rock and roll. Embedded within these new musical practices were ideas about African American modernism, urbanity, and self-representation. Culminating in an examination of hip-hop culture, we will analyze the connection between African-American musical practices and larger debates about race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will see how the blues serves as a mode of activism, and how blues musicians engage questions about racial and ethnic identity through music making.

Limited to 18 students. Professor Robinson. Omitted 2022-23. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

121 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 181 [AF/TE/TR] and BLST 121 [A]) Africa is a continent of fifty-four countries, but in many people's minds, the continent's name conjures up a host of stereotypes—some positive and some negative—that misrepresent the continent as an undifferentiated whole. This course's primary goal is to introduce students to the historical evidence and scholarly conversations about Africa’s pasts from the 1870s to the present. The main themes will be the social, political, and economic impacts of imperial policies on African societies, and the long afterlife of these impacts. We will discuss the construction and alterations of “tribal” identities and nationalist politics, the problems caused by colonial labor policies and the denial of civil rights to Africans, the reconstruction of gender identities and roles, and the emergence of various forms of protest politics in both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Requirements include active participation in class and multiple graded and ungraded written assignments. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Redding.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

123 Survey of African Art

(Offered as ARHA 149 and BLST 123 [A]) An introduction to the ancient and traditional arts of Africa. Special attention will be given to the archaeological importance of the rock art paintings found in such disparate areas as the Sahara and South Africa, achievements in the architectural and sculptural art in clay of the early people in the area now called Zimbabwe and the aesthetic qualities of the terracotta and bronze sculptures of the Nok, Igbo-Ukwe, Ife and Benin cultures in West Africa, which date from the second century B.C.E. to the sixteenth century C.E. The study will also pursue a general socio-cultural survey of traditional arts of the major ethnic groups of Africa.

Spring semester. Professor Abiodun.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

124 Play and Performance Across “The Black Atlantic”

(Offered as THDA 224, BLST 124, and ENGL 379) What is the “African” in “African-American?” From the point of view of U.S. American theater, what is the relationship between African-American theatrical practices and those of a global African diaspora? Grounded in Paul Gilroy’s and other theorists’ positing of “The Black Atlantic,” this course will examine how notions of shared and distinct cultural heritages collide and co-mingle across the theatrical performance worlds of African and other African-descendant peoples. Our point of reference will be canonical and contemporary plays and dance-theater works by African-American artists like Adrienne Kennedy, August Wilson, Katherine Dunham, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ronald K. Brown, Marcus Gardley, Jackie Sibblies-Drury, Danai Gurira, and others. We will examine how the conflicts, solidarities and assertions of identity and heritage in these artists’ works relate to that of such African-continental, -Caribbean, -European and trans-national figures as Pearl Primus, Wole Soyinka, Germaine Acogny, Ama Ata Aidoo, Femi Osofisan, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, Trevor Rhone, Natasha Gordon and others. This comparative study will be situated against the seminal backdrop of diaspora cultures of ceremonial performance practices still evident throughout the Black world. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Jude Sandy. Spring semester. 2021-2022.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

130 Transnational American Studies

(Offered as AMST 130 and BLST 130) The hustle and flow of bodies, ideas, inequalities and solidarities is core to our increasingly globalized world. This course offers an introduction to the Americas as a transnational space. We will explore the interplay of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality from interdisciplinary perspectives. We will draw examples from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Students will learn through a variety of methods including textual analysis, feminist ethnography, archival research, and cultural studies. We will also examine multiple approaches to American Studies such as critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and queer studies, indigenous studies, as well as theories of decolonization and settler colonialism. We will grapple with the complexities of identity and difference, immigration and border control, slavery, colonization, and empire.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2022-23. Post-Doctoral Fellow Jolly and Professor Schmalzbauer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

131 Introduction to the Black Freedom Struggle

(Offered as BLST 131 [US] and HIST 131 [US/TR/TS]) This course will explore the evolution 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 an umbrella movement that encompassed ever-shifting combinations of uplift politics, black nationalism, liberalism, and leftism. It will explore 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, Angela Davis, and others. The course will also introduce students to foundational debates and issues in the field of African American history. Additionally, it will 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 "equity" within and beyond the United States.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2022-2023. Professor Bradley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2021

134 Hip Hop History and Culture

(Offered as MUSI 126 and BLST 134 [US]) This course examines the cultural origins of hip hop and how this small, minority, Bronx-based subculture expanded into one of the most influential styles of music in the world. The course will begin by analyzing the cultural conditions out of which hip hop arose in the mid-1970s; from there it will turn to examining how hip hop music, over the last thirty-five years, has sounded out the identity of its creators as they have grappled with six major questions: What musical elements are crucial components of hip hop’s sound? What does realness in hip hop sound like, and why does it matter? How have artists negotiated expressing their specific geographic origins while simultaneously embracing globalization? How does this genre fit into the music industry, and how has the music industry affected hip hop? Should hip hop be political, and how should artists express their politics? How have technological developments altered hip hop’s sound? Through answering these questions, students will gain an understanding of how hip hop has developed into the styles that we hear today, and how hip hop has radically transformed American racial politics and popular culture more broadly.

Limited to 30 students. Professor Coddington. Fall semester.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

147 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147 [US]) Understandings of and conflicts about place are of central significance to the experience and history of race and race relations in America. The shaping and reshaping of places is an important ingredient in the constitution and revision of racial identities: think of “the ghetto,” Chinatown, or “Indian Country.” Law, in its various manifestations, has been intimately involved in the processes which have shaped geographies of race from the colonial period to the present day: legally mandated racial segregation was intended to impose and maintain both spatial and social distance between members of different races.

The objective of this course is to explore the complex intersections of race, place, and law. Our aim is to gain some understanding of geographies of race “on-the-ground” in real places, and of the role of legal practices—especially legal argument—in efforts to challenge and reinforce these racial geographies. We will ask, for example, how claims about responsibility, community, rationality, equality, justice, and democracy have been used to justify or resist both racial segregation and integration, access and expulsion. In short, we will ask how moral argument and legal discourse have contributed to the formation of the geographies of race that we all inhabit. Much of our attention will be given to a legal-geographic exploration of African-American experiences. But we will also look at how race, place and the law have shaped the distinctive experiences of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2022-23. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, January 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162 [D]) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2022

193 The Postcolonial City

(Offered as ARHA 157, ARCH 157, and BLST 193 [D]) This course engages the buildings, cities, and landscapes of the former colonies of Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the non-European territories, which once comprised the lucrative possessions of modern European empires, quickly became independent states charged with developing infrastructure, erecting national monuments, and handling the influx of laborers drawn to the metropolises formed as sleepy colonial towns grew into bustling postcolonial cities. This class will examine the buildings, urban spaces, rural landscapes, and national capitals that emerged in response to these political histories. We will approach a number of issues, such as the architecture of national independence monuments, the preservation of buildings linked to the colonial past, the growth of new urban centers in Africa and India after independence, architecture and regimes of postcolonial oppression, the built environments of tourism in the independent Caribbean, and artists’ responses to all of these events. Some of the places that we will address include: Johannesburg, South Africa; Chandigarh, India; Negril, Jamaica; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Lilongwe, Malawi. Our goal will be to determine what, if any, continuities linked the buildings, landscapes, and spaces of post-independence Africa, India, and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. Over the course of the semester, students will gain skills in analyzing buildings, town plans, and other visual materials. Also, this class will aid students in developing their writing skills, particularly, their ability to write about architecture and urban space.

Omitted 2022-23. Professor Carey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

201 Power and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

(Offered as BLST 201 [D] HIST 267 [AF/LA/TEp/TR] 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.

Omitted 2022-23. 

2022-23: 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. Omitted 2022-2023. Visiting Prof. C. Bailey.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

212 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2022-23. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

220 Slavery in U.S. History & Culture

(Offered as BLST 220 [US] and HIST 220[US/TR/TS]) The impact of slavery is still with us in the United States, and it is essential that we examine this institution and look critically at the ways Americans have chosen to remember it over the years. The first part of this interdisciplinary course examines how slavery has been understood by historians, examining historical questions such as what the relationship was between slavery and racism, how gender influenced the experiences of enslaved people, and how the enslaved resisted slavery. The second part of the course examines how slavery has been depicted in American culture, using the novels Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Beloved; the films Way Down South, Django Unchained, and 12 Years a Slave; and the work of artist Kara Walker, among other sources. We will pay attention to controversies over how slavery is remembered, including the recent backlash against the 1619 Project. As we explore slavery and the memory of slavery, we will also discuss to what extent the ways we view the past are shaped by the times in which we live.

Omitted 2022-23. Limited to 20 students. Associate Professor Herbin-Triant.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

226 Theorizing the Black Queer Americas

(Offered as BLST 226[D], LLAS 226 and SWAG 226) This course focuses on Black Queer and Trans life and struggle as well as the cultural and intellectual contributions Black Queer and Trans have made to in numerous fields throughout the Americas (North and South). While for many years narratives of the lives of Black LGBTQ people have been silenced and erased due to stigma and intersectional oppression on the basis of race, gender, and sexuality, scholars and artists in the past four decades have worked to recover the stories of Black Queer and Trans communities throughout the diaspora. The Black Queer/Trans Americas will dive into works that highlight these cultural contributions, while also understanding the compounded systemic violence that Black LGBTQ communities have faced and continue to face. By the end of this course students will have a strong understanding of how systems of power work to restrict the freedoms of Black Queer and Trans communities, and how Black LGBTQ people have lived, organized, and created in spite of and in response to these oppressions. This interdisciplinary undergraduate upper level course will utilize academic texts accompanied by poetry, fiction, film, television, and visual art to understand Black Queer and Trans subjectivities. In addition to course materials, the class will also make use of presentations from local artists, activists, and community members in the local area to add to the course experience. Every week will focus on a different theme or field of study related to Black LGBTQ+ life. 

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2022-2023.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

240 Afro-Latinos

(Offered as AMST 216 and BLST 240 [CLA/US]) Who is an “Afro-Latino”? Are they Latinos or are they Black? Afro-Latinos are African-descended peoples from Latin America and the Caribbean who reside in the United States. In this course, a focus on Afro-Latinos allows us to study the history of racial ideologies and racial formation in the Americas.

We take a multi-layered approach to the study of modern Afro-Latino history (late nineteenth century to the twentieth century). First, the history of Afro-Latinos has been shaped by the historical relationship between race and nation in Latin America. Therefore, we look closely at the varied histories of African-descended peoples in Latin American countries. Second, the historical relationship between the United States and Latin America has shaped the experience of Afro-Latinos who reside in the U.S. The long history of U.S. economic dominance and military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean generated an equally long history of Latin American migration to the U.S. In the twentieth century black migrants came from nations that promoted myths of racial democracy to a nation that practiced racial segregation and violence. Afro-Latino migrants experienced racial segregation and violence in the U.S. in ways similar to but different than other Latinos and African Americans. Therefore, third, we examine the history of Afro-Latinos in relation to Latinos in the U.S. The history of Latinos is at the core of U.S. continental expansion, labor practices, and exclusionary citizenship. The category “Latino” has also been shaped by racial hierarchies. The relatively new category of “Afro-Latino” allows us to examine a history that has been silenced within the broader categories of “Latino” or “African American.”

In this course, we examine how Afro-Latinos maneuvered between different racial contexts in Latin American nations and the United States. It is a history that highlights the competing and conflicting racial ideologies that have shaped the Americas.

Limited to 18 students.  Omitted 2021-22. Professor del Moral.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

241 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(Offered as HIST 248 [US/TR/TS; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major], and BLST 241[US]) This course surveys African-American history from Emancipation through the Trump presidency, exploring topics such as Reconstruction, the age of Jim Crow, the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. Major questions to be addressed include the following: What visions for freedom did African Americans hold in the aftermath of slavery? How have black Americans fought to secure social, economic, and political rights? How has government both supported and subverted black people’s efforts to lay claim to citizenship? How have gender and capitalism shaped the lives and labors of black Americans? What have been the afterlives of slavery and segregation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in the areas of voting rights, housing, mass incarceration, policing, and health outcomes? Students will use both primary and secondary sources to investigate how—in the face of numerous challenges—African Americans created vibrant new cultures, accumulated property, built strong communities, and challenged the United States to live up to its founding ideals. Readings include foundational texts in modern African-American history, including writings by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Michelle Obama, among others. Two meetings per week. Limited to 25 students.

Fall semester. Professor Bradley.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2022, Fall 2022

245 King

(Offered as HIST 250 [US/TRTS] and BLST 245) This course will explore the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through a deep engagement with his published work and public rhetoric, relevant secondary literature, and personal papers, students will locate the civil rights leader within the broader upheavals of mid-century America. As such, the course serves as an introduction to modern US history, the black freedom struggle, and the archive of civil rights. Moving beyond mythology, this course will emphasize his connections to American liberalism, the labor movement, the black prophetic tradition and human rights. As such, this course will excavate the radical King, a man whose life and work often challenged the liberal consensus on questions of class, race, and empire, and thus questions later ahistorical characterizations of the Civil Rights Movement as either “moderate” or “conservative.” Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23.

2022-23: 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 [TR/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 2022-23. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

278 Black History of Brazil, 1500-1888

(Offered as BLST 278 [CLA], LLAS 278 and HIST 278 [LA/TS/TR/ P ])  More people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world, except Nigeria. Of the more than 12 million Africans deported as captives to the Americas, Brazil received 24 percent. In contrast, North America received less than 4 percent. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth knowledge of the experiences of Africans and their descendants, slave and free, from the time the first captives were brought to Brazil at the beginning of the sixteenth century until final abolition in 1888. Topics will include the ways in which specific regions of Western Africa contributed captives to specific regions of Brazil, the nature of Portuguese colonial institutions and their impact on the lives of Africans and their descendants, resistance and rebellion, routes to freedom, slave and free Black families, and the origins and development of vibrant Afro-Brazilian religions and cultures . Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.

Spring semester, Professor Lohse.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

296 Black Women and Reproductive Justice in the African Diaspora

(Offered as AMST 296, BLST 296 [D] and SWAG 296). This course explores the transnational politics of race, gender, sexuality, and health from interdisciplinary perspectives. It engages a range of texts and methodologies that locate the historical and contemporary experiences of Afro-diasporic women and girls in the struggle for embodied freedom, autonomy, and reproductive justice. We will draw on examples from Africa and the African diaspora (U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America) as we engage the main debates in reproductive justice around key issues: sexual and reproductive health and rights; HIV/AIDS; sexual autonomy and choice; sterilization; police brutality; the right to bear children; abortion. The course will also introduce students to theories about health and illness, embodiment and subjectivity, critical race theory, ethnography, black feminist theory, and postcolonial health science studies. Class field trips to reproductive justice organizations will also provide an experiential component that grounds our inquiries.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2022-23. Post-Doctoral Fellow Jolly.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022

307 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 206 and BLST 307) The goal of this course will be to understand some of the problems posed for legal studies in the humanities by the emergence of the system of administrative and constitutional law known as apartheid. This system, which was designed to institute “separate development for separate peoples” in South Africa, is widely and rightly regarded to be among the most inhuman régimes of the twentieth century. Yet even and especially today, more than a decade after its formal end in South Africa, apartheid’s social, economic, and epistemic conditions of possibility, as well as the place and function of lawyers, legal discourse, and legal scholars in the resistance to it, remains at best vaguely understood.

This course is designed to remedy this gap. Our inquiry will be at once specific and general. Under what economic and political conditions did apartheid come into being? What legal traditions and practices authorized its codification? What academic disciplines and intellectual formations rendered it intelligible and enabled its theorization? What specific arrangement of juridical institutions, practices, and theories together comprised the apartheid state? What was the place and function of law in the critique of and resistance to apartheid? What new and specific problems did apartheid pose for legal theory?

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2022-23. Professor Sitze.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Fall 2019

318 Rap, Reagan and the 1980s

(Offered as HIST 318 [TC/TR/TS] and BLST 318 [US]) This course will delve into the sociopolitical, economic, and cultural factors that affected the lives of Black youth in the United States during the 1980s. Using rap and hip hop as a tool to understand the decade, the course will explore the racialized implications of America’s cold war with the Soviet Union while detailing the societal impact of “Reaganomics.” In a period featuring culture wars, deindustrialization in urban areas, the arrival of crack cocaine, deep cuts to public school funding, and the invasion of HIV/AIDS, the bourgeoning genre of hip hop reflected the complexities of survival for many Black youth in marginalized American neighborhoods.  As the new artform became a business, America witnessed the realization of a conservative ascendancy that carried Ronald Reagan to the presidency, which transformed political discourse for the subsequent decades. Young scholars in this class will be required to engage book and article-length texts, access and analyze song lyrics, critique visual media, write cogent essays, and present arguments orally.

Omitted 2022-23. Professor Bradley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

321 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions in Africa during the colonial period and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances. Rebel groups and state forces roiled societies and reconstituted social identities, while legends and rumors swirled around rebellions and their leaders. We will focus on insurgencies and their origins, including spiritual and religious beliefs, disputes over land and labor, and fights against colonial and post-colonial authoritarian states. We will also discuss the problems historians face in researching revolts whose strengths often stemmed from their protean characters. The seminar will study specific revolts, including the Herero Revolt and subsequent genocides in German-controlled South-West Africa in 1904-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1979) Chimurengas (revolts) in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the Chilembwe Revolt in Malawi in 1915; the Black Consciousness Movement and the student revolt in Soweto, South Africa in 1976; the roles of child soldiers and youth in post-colonial conflicts, and the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Students will complete a 20 to 25 page research paper on individually chosen topics relating to revolts in Africa. Two class meetings per week. 

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Redding. 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

322 South African History

(Offered as HIST 283 [AF/TE/TS/P] and BLST 322) The transition from white-minority rule in South Africa in 1994 ushered in a new era of independence and democracy in a troubled country whose name had become synonymous with “apartheid.” The last bastion of white-supremacist rule in Africa had fallen. But that transition has not lived up to the high expectations of South Africans as many of the ruling structures built by the colonial and then apartheid regimes have endured. In fact, economic and social inequality has increased in the twenty-seven years since Nelson Mandela was first elected President. Questions about whether South Africans can move beyond the legacy of the past haunt the current population.

Interpretations of South African history have undergone radical shifts as new generations of historians inscribe the past. This course will explore established and emerging themes in the history of this fascinating country. We will cover a broad period from just before the beginning of white settlement in the mid-1600s to the present. The focus will be on understanding how South African populations have confronted and engaged with colonial rule, profound cultural changes, and the development of an oppressively unequal economic system. What are the roots of the current situation, and how do they shape and constrain future possibilities? How do people in contemporary South Africa confront the ideas that have shaped their understanding of their own country as they reconstruct their history?

Spring semester. Professor Redding.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

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

(Offered as MUSI 226 and BLST 334 [US]) One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. This course examines its early roots in late 19th-century American popular culture and its role as American popular music in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Using themes that connect the evolution of jazz practices to social and racial politics in American popular culture, we will look closely at the work of well-known historical figures (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and several others) as well as the vibrant communities that nurtured and prompted their innovative musical practices. As an exception for fall semester of 2020, students may petition to have the course fulfill a departmental seminar requirement for the Music major. Students wishing to do this will be required to complete an additional research project.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2022-23. Professor Robinson. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

336 The Social Construction of Whiteness

(Offered as SOCI 334 and BLST 336 [US])  Being “white” is typically treated as a default identity in the United States, yet whiteness remains relatively unexamined as a source of accumulated institutional advantages and cultural entitlements. This course will interrogate prevailing constructions of whiteness, examining its origins as a racial category, its function as group identity and source of individual meaning-making, and its role in reproducing racial hierarchy. Drawing on historical, theoretical, literary, and sociological accounts, our aim will be to contextualize whiteness as a discourse of power.  The course will focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the United States, from the pre-Civil Rights era through the contemporary passage from colorblind to nationalist constructions of whiteness.

Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

338 The Age of Jim Crow

(Offered as HIST 338 [US/TR/TS] and BLST 338 [US]) This course examines U.S. history—particularly the history of the South—during the era of Jim Crow, the period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement when African Americans were systematically denied political and social rights.  The right to vote, for example, granted after the Civil War through the Fifteenth Amendment, was limited by the southern states through policies like the poll tax and the literacy test.  African Americans were also subject to segregation and racial violence during the age of Jim Crow.  This course examines the visions white southerners held for what their region should be in this period, as well as the varied black responses—which include accommodationism (with Booker T. Washington as the most prominent advocate for this), protest, and migration out of the region.  In examining the life and death of Jim Crow—and how Jim Crow has been depicted in literature and film—the course grapples with changing ideas about race and rights, including “states’ rights” and the rights of individuals, both black and white. Two meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Herbin-Triant

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

340 Capstone in Black Studies

[D] This course will guide the capstone projects of students interested in conducting intensive research on topics in African American studies and African & African diaspora studies.  Drawing from disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodologies, theories, and concepts in the humanities and social sciences, capstone research topics will cover broadly defined themes in Black Studies such as the effects of Atlantic slavery on the United States, the Americas, Africa, and Europe; the Black freedom struggle in the United States; women, gender, and sexuality in Black America, the African diaspora, and Africa; colonialism and independence in Africa and the Caribbean. Through a collaborative learning process, the capstone experience will work with students to define clear research objectives, refine their analytical skills, effectively engage major issues in their research materials, and make critical intellectual interventions.  Students will be encouraged to critically explore research topics from courses they have taken in Black Studies and related disciplines as topics for their capstone research projects. Where appropriate, relevant films and videos will be available for critical analysis.

Omitted 2022-2023.  Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Professor Vaughan.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

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

(Offered as MUSI 227 and BLST 344 [US]) One of two courses that trace the development of jazz from its emergence in early 20th-century New Orleans to its profound impact on American culture. This course explores the emergence of bebop in the 1940s, the shift of jazz's relationship with American popular culture after World War II, and the dramatic pluralization of jazz practice after the 1950s. We will also look at the emergence of fusion and the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, and theorize the reformulation of "tradition" during the 1980s. Central to our examination will be the phenomenon of "neoclassicism" common in jazz discourse today, measuring that against the radical diversity of jazz practice around the world. Many figures central to the development of the varied post-bebop directions in jazz will be discussed: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Ornette Coleman, the New York Downtown scene, and many others. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Robinson.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

355 Race and Educational Opportunity in America

(Offered as HIST-355 [US/TR/TS] and BLST-355) This interdisciplinary seminar blends African American history; urban history; and the history of education to explore the relationship between race, schools, and inequality in American society. In 1935, W.E.B. Du Bois credited the creation and expansion of public education in the South to African Americans’ educational activism in the aftermath of slavery. And yet, race has historically delineated access to public schooling, and by extension, economic, political, and civic equality. In this course, we will ask how and why race and educational opportunity have structured and subverted civic inclusion, racial justice, and socio-economic equality.  We will focus on African Americans’ efforts to secure literacy, schooling, and higher education, with an emphasis on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In the first part of the course, we will consider why Americans created a public school system and how race influenced the formation of this critical social institution. Next, we will query how African Americans debated the relationship between education and liberation, particularly after Reconstruction and during the Long Civil Rights Movement. Here, we will focus on African Americans’ legal and grassroots efforts to advance school desegregation, and the backlash against its implementation in northern and southern cities. Along the way, we will assess the meaning and value of integration, and ask how, why, and to what extent school desegregation has promoted and subverted equal opportunity. Then, we will explore how policy makers have attempted to use education as a social welfare institution, particularly in an effort to redress segregated housing and unequal labor markets. We will trace the relationship between public schools and evolution of the welfare state, and reflect upon the power and limitations of Americans’ unique dependence on schooling to equalize opportunity. Finally, we will consider how race continues to inform contemporary reform efforts including school choice, Afro-centric education, and school discipline, among others. Course assignments will consist of weekly responses; two short papers; and one longer essay designed to allow students to delve into some aspect of the course in depth. This course can be used to complete the seminar requirement in History, upon consultation with the instructor.

Not offered in 2022-23. Limited to 18 students. Professor Moss.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2021

361 Remixing and Remaking: Adaptation in Contemporary Black Literature

(Offered as AMST 361, BLST 361, and ENGL 276) Through a close reading of texts by African American authors, we will critically examine literary form and technique alongside the representation of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Coupled with our explication of poems, short stories, novels, and literary criticism, we will explore the stakes of adaptation in visual culture. Students will analyze the film and television adaptations of twentieth-century fiction. Authors will include Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 18 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Henderson.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

363 Research Seminar in the History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

(Offered as BLST 363 [CLA], HIST 463 [AF/TC/TE/TS/TR/P] and LLAS 463) In this course students will consult, analyze, and employ a variety of sources, including the accounts of missionaries, journals of slave traders, the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, and the few available slave narratives written by Africans. Students will be presented with the tools to write original research on topics including the involvement of Western African societies in the slave trade, the logistics of the Middle Passage, characteristics of the captives transported from Africa to the Americas, and the Africans' own experiences of the Middle Passage and adaptation to the slave régimes of the Americas. Students will write a series of short assignments leading up to a major research paper of 20-25 pages.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2022-2023. Professor Lohse.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

368 Discipline and Defiance in Black Creative Expression

(Offered as AMST 368, BLST 368 and ENGL 368) History has long valorized passive, obedient, and long-suffering African American women alongside assertive male protagonists and savants. This course provides an alternative narrative to this representation by exploring the ways in which African American female characters, writers, and artists have challenged ideals of stoicism and submission. Using an interdisciplinary focus, we will critically examine transgression across time and space in diverse twentieth- and early twenty-first century literary, sonic, and visual texts. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Priority given to students who attend the first day of class. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Henderson.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

372 Afro-Latino Memoirs

(Listed as ENGL 321 and BLST 372) This course examines US Afro-Latino memoirs and their African American influences. Students will learn about the formal structures and thematic concerns that inform life writing in general and the post-1965 Afro-Latino memoir in particular. The course brings particular attention to the African American narrative strategies, cultural tropes, and political philosophies that inform the Afro-Latino memoir. Students will explore how concepts like triple-consciousness, hypo-descent, mestizaje, literary ancestry, symbolic geography, the memory of slavery, Pan-Africanism, Black nationalism, and Black and Post-Black aesthetics shape coming of age narratives in Afro-Latino memoirs. The course highlights Afro-Latino agency, resistance, and identity formation.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Masiki.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

392 Russia and the Representation of Race

(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 392 and FAMS 352) This course focuses on the modes by which race has been represented in Russian and Soviet culture. We approach this topic in two ways: first, we examine how Russian and Soviet culture grappled with questions of race, focusing on episodes in the representation of minority peoples throughout the empire and the Soviet Union; secondly, we consider how Russian and Soviet culture served as a mirror in which minorities from other countries saw their experiences partially reflected or as a source from which they found models to articulate their own experience of race. These two concerns guide us through the course as we study such works as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as it enters into dialogue with Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden Baden; the representation of Central Asia by such figures as Langston Hughes and Andrei Platonov; the appeal of the Soviet Union to Western intellectuals, in particular African-American thinkers and writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois, Hughes, and Claude McKay; Alexander Pushkin and the question of his “blackness” and universality; the cinematic representation of minorities in the films of Dziga Vertov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. We will draw our critical theoretical models from Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Patricia Hall Collins, Johannes Fabian, Stuart Hall, and Mary Louise Pratt, among others.

Fall semester. Professor Kunichika.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

416 Economics of Race and Gender

(Offered as ECON 416, BLST 416 and SWAG 416) Economics is fundamentally about both efficiency and equity.  It is about allocation, welfare, and well-being.  How, then, can we use this disciplinary perspective to understand hierarchy, power, inequity, discrimination, and injustice?  What does economics have to offer?  Applied microeconomics is a fundamentally outward-looking and interdisciplinary field that endeavors to answer this question by being both firmly grounded in economics and also deeply connected to sociology, psychology, political science, and law.  In this class, we will employ this augmented economic perspective to try to understand the hierarchies and operation of race and gender in society.  We will read theoretical and empirical work that engages with questions of personal well-being, economic achievement, and social interaction.  Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to do empirical and policy-relevant work.  Each student will build a solid foundation for the completion of an independent term paper project that engages with a specific economic question about racial or gender inequity.

Requisite: ECON 300/301 (Microeconomics) or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Reyes. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

431 The Long Civil Rights Movement

(Offered as HIST 455 [US/TR/TS] and BLST 431 [US]) This course will explore the temporal, ideological and cultural dimensions of the American Civil Rights Movement. Following 1954’s Brown vs Board of Education decision, a diverse social movement of students, preachers, working people, activists and intellectuals challenged—and eventually dismantled—Jim Crow segregation in the American South. How did this happen? To answer this question, we will examine the origins of the movement, its institutional dimensions, its key figures, and its intellectual underpinnings. In addition, this course will trace the afterlife of the movement, assessing its national and global reverberations, as well as its relationship to the Black Power movement. As a research seminar, this course will culminate in the production of a 25-page research paper based on an analysis of primary sources related to the movement. One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Bradley.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

461 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Omitted 2022-23. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020