The introduction to African American Studies, which currently satisfies a General Education Requirement, traces the African American experience, which spans four hundred years from the colonization of the US and the installation of trans-Atlantic slavery to the present day. Throughout their expansive history, African Americans have consistently created modes of self-fashioning even in the midst of institutionalized anti-black racism. African Americans developed rituals, traditions, music, art, dance, literature, and spiritual practices; kinship structures and communities; and political and social theories and practices that negotiate the contradiction at the core of the uneven experience of US democracy.
Through an examination of primary and secondary sources, this course will introduce students to the distinct epistemologies and methodologies of African American Studies. As Robin D. G. Kelley states, African American Studies “interrogate[s] the construction of race, the persistence of inequality, and the process by which the category of ‘black’ or ‘African’ came into being as a chief feature of Western thought. Students learn how slavery was central to the emergence of capitalism and modernity, presenting political and moral philosophers their most fundamental challenge.” Organized chronologically, the course begins with the historical and philosophical foundations to modern black experience from slavery to the Harlem Renaissance. The course then takes up how black thought and political action shaped the years from the Great Depression to the present.