African American History Since Emancipation

An analysis of the social, political, legal, and cultural dimensions of the African American experience in the United States throughout critical historical moments such as Reconstruction, suffrage, the Great Migration, war, the Great Depression, the New Deal, the Civil Rights era, the black power movement, and contemporary racial politics.

African American Literature: Origins to 1910

This introductory course focuses on black literature and literary culture from the mid-eighteenth century to the early twentieth; it will cover the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar; the political oratory of Sojourner Truth and David Walker; slave narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; non-fiction prose by W. E. B. Du Bois and Anna Julia Cooper; and Frances Harper’s and James Weldon Johnson’s novels. In readings, assignments, and discussions, we will explore the unique cultural contexts, aesthetic debates, and socio-political forces that surround the production of an early African American literary tradition.

Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices

As the introductory course required to earn a certificate in African American Studies, this course examines the past and present, the doings and the sufferings of Americans of African descent from a multidisciplinary perspective. It highlights the ways in which serious intellectual scrutiny of the agency of black people in the United States help redefine what it means to be American, new world, modern and post modern.

Haiti: History, Literature, and Arts of the First Black Republic

This course will offer an overview of the history and culture of Haiti, the world’s first black republic. In 1804, the former slaves of French St. Domingue under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture defeated the most powerful army in the world, Napoleon’s to become the world’s first post-slavery, black republic. The course will sample the rich history, novels, Afro-caribbean religion (Vodun), plays, music, film, and visual arts of this unique postcolonial nation.

New Diasporas: Black British Literature

This is a course on the dynamic body of works produced by migrants and descendants of migrants from Africa and the Caribbean in Britain since the 1950s. How has the migrant experience transformed the British cultural landscape after the end of an empire? What does it mean to be British and Black? How have migrant writers created new aesthetic forms to respond to the meaning of postcolonial Britishness? How does writing function as a mode of imagining alternative spaces of belonging? Readings will range from the novels of migrant arrival in the 1950s and the works of Zadie Smith to “post-racial” novels by Helen Oyeyemi and Aminatta Forna.

Special Topics In Poetry: Race, Identity and Innovation

This workshop explores the link between racial identity and poetic innovation in work by contemporary poets of color. Experimental or avant-garde poetry in the American literary tradition has often defined itself as “impersonal,” “against expression” or “post-identity.” Unfortunately, this mindset has tended to exclude or downplay poems that engage issues of racial identity. This course explores works where poets of color have treated racial identity as a means to destabilize literary ideals of beauty, mastery and the autonomy of the text while at the same time engaging in poetic practices that subvert conceptions of identity or authenticity.

Race and the American Legal Process

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition.

Enter the New Negro: Black Atlantic Aesthetics

Born in the late 1800s, the New Negro movement demanded political equality, desegregation, and an end to lynching, while also launching new forms of international Black cultural expression. The visionary modernity of its artists not only reimagined the history of the black diaspora by developing new artistic languages through travel, music, religion and poetry, but also shaped modernism as a whole in the 20th century. Incorporating field trips and sessions in the Princeton University Art Museum, this course explores Afro-modern forms of artistic expression from the late 19th-century into the mid-20th century.

Masters of the 20th Century: Lorraine Hansberry

This special topics course will focus on artists and intellectuals whose corpus reflects and illuminates 20th century African American life. Lorraine Hansberry, the first African American female playwright to have a play open on Broadway, explored a series of critical themes in her work, including: race, migration, colonialism, gender and social class. In addition to having a distinguished career as a playwright, Hansberry was an activist and advocate for gender and racial justice. Students will study her published and unpublished plays, essays and poetry, as well as relevant social and cultural history and literary criticism.

Other Futures: An Introduction to Modern Caribbean Literature

This course introduces students to major theories and debates within the study of Caribbean literature and culture with a particular focus on the idea of catastrophe. Reading novels and poetry that address the historical loss and injustices that have given shape to the modern Caribbean, we will explore questions of race, gender, and sexuality and pay considerable attention to the figure of the black body caught in the crosscurrents of a catastrophic history. We will analyze how writers and artists attempted to construct alternative images of the future from the histories of slavery and colonialism that haunt the Caribbean and its Diasporas.