Introduction: When and where did black history begin? In Africa? During slavery? During the Harlem Renaissance? What should the central focus of the study of black people be? Should it be the black freedom struggle in America? Should it be the world-wide struggle of oppressed peoples? Should it be the special qualities of a distinct black American culture? Is or has there been something we can call a black “mentality”? Do women of African descent have what we can call a distinct historical experience? Is their art different? These are some of the questions you will encounter in this course. It may have already crossed your mind that questions such as these have a certain inexhaustible quality. They do not have final answers. Yet there have been many attempts to resolve them. It is these attempts that we will read and discuss carefully in an effort to discern their limitations and their possibilities.
As the course title indicates, this is an introduction. As such it should spark your sense of wonder about Black Studies. The sense of wonder is probably the most important prerequisite for doing meaningful research. The field of Black Studies is relatively young and still under construction. This fact is both exciting and intellectually daunting. While the study of a single group appears to grant the field a certain natural coherence, the necessity of carrying out this project across disciplines such as History, Sociology, English, and Political Science creates a challenge for student and teacher alike. We attempt in this introduction not only to place before you some of the most important questions relating to the study of race, but to get you to think about them across such traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Course Requirements: Each student will hand in three reading forms, a set of writing exercises, two 2-3 page papers, and a 5-7 page final paper.
Each class will be broken into two groups (Groups A and B). You will be notified of what group you are in by in the second week of the course. Those in Group A will hand in reading forms on weeks three, five, and seven and short papers in weeks ten, twelve, and fourteen. Group B will hand in reading forms on weeks four, six, and nine and short papers in weeks eleven, thirteen, and fifteen.
Students in Prof. Ferguson’s section should submit assignments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. They should also bring a hard copy to class. A copy of the reading form will be sent to you via e-mail. The paper topics for the short papers appear later in the syllabus under the date they are assigned. Students in Professor Cobham-Sanders’ section should submit hard copies of their assignments by noon on Monday BEFORE the Tuesday class in which the book will be discussed. Assignments will be handed back and discussed the following day Class Participation:
Note that the expectation for substantive class participation in BS 11 is very high. Bringing the completed reading forms and papers to class and volunteering answers is central to the meaning of participation in the course. Students who consistently hide from the discussion will lose credit.
Consistent attendance is also an important part of what it means to participate. Students must receive permission from the professor to miss a class. Failure to get permission will result in a 25% reduction of the class participation grade. Permission will be granted only in legitimate cases of illness, family emergency, or other matters of grave importance. No student will be given permission to miss more than three classes except in the most serious circumstances, which the professor will expect to discuss with the student's class dean.
Students should also make every effort to get to class on time. If you are late, you should tell the professor why after class. Consistent lateness (two or more instances) will be noted by the professor, and will result in a reduction of the class participation grade according to the professor’s discretion.
Grades: Final grades will be calculated in the following manner: Reading forms 30%; Short papers 30%; Final paper 30%; Class participation: 10%.
Reading List: The readings for the course are as follows. (All books are available at the Jeffrey Amherst Bookstore and on reserve at the library.)
Mortimer Adler& Charles Van Doren How to Read a Book
Richard Lanham Revising Prose
Nathan Huggins Black Odyssey
George Frederickson Racism: A Short History
Sidney Mintz & Richard Price The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective
John Thornton Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World
Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book
Week 3, February 12:
Nathan Huggins, Black Odyssey
Week 4, February 19:
George Frederickson, Racism: A Short History
Week 5, February 26:
Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective
Week 6, March 4:
John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World
Week 7, March 11:
C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins
Week 8, March 18:
W. E. B. Du Bois, TheSouls of Black Folk
Note that this is the last week for reading forms. Next week both Groups A and B will turn in the exercises that accompany Revising Prose by Richard Lanham, which have been sent to you via e-mail. As with the reading forms, you should print your answers out and bring them to class.
Week 9, March 25:
SPRING BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!! Week 10, April 1:
Revising Prose by Richard Lanham.
Next week, Group A should submit a 2-3 page paper stating the central meaning of The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.Remember to use the text carefully in making your argument. Remember to bring a copy of the paper to class and to follow closely the writing instructions in Revising Prose.
Week 11, April 8:
Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
Next week, Group B should submit a 2-3 page paper stating the central meaning of The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon. Remember to use the text carefully in making your argument. Remember to bring a copy of the paper to class and to follow closely the writing instructions in Revising Prose.
Week 12, April 15:
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Next week, Group A should submit a 2-3 page paper comparing any aspect of The Fire Next Timeby James Baldwinto any aspect of another book in the course. Remember that you should stretch to make this comparison. Try to inform or surprise your reader. Remember to bring a copy of the paper to class and to follow closely the writing instructions in Revising Prose.
Week 13, April 22:
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Next week, Group B should submit a 2-3 page paper comparing any aspect of Black Identities by Mary Watersto any aspect of another book in the course. Remember that you should stretch to make this comparison. Try to inform or surprise your reader. Remember to bring a copy of the paper to class and to follow closely the writing instructions in Revising Prose.
Week 14, April 29:
Mary Waters, Black Identities
Week 15, May 5:
Edwidge Danticat, Brother I’m Dying
Final Paper: Write a 5-7-page paper relatingBrother I’m Dyingby Edwidge Danticatto any major theme in the course. Be sure to think broadly, employ research, analyze closely, select your comparison texts carefully, and build your paper around a strong thesis. This paper is due on May 12 at 5:00 p.m.