Fall 2020

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

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-162  |  English, as ENGL-162

Moodle site: Course


C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) 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.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to first-year students. Other students will be admitted on a first come, first served basis, once first-year students have been accommodated.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Research, Attention to Writing, Online Only


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