The Black Power Movement
This course examines the Black Power Movement as a burgeoning social movement in the post World War II period, while also placing it in the long traditions of black political thought and radicalism within American democracy. In addition to studying black radicalism in the early twentieth century, the course explores the philosophies and tactics of civil rights activism; questions of feminism and masculinity; radicalism and conservatism; violence, nonviolence, and self-defense; and community control, nationalism, and internationalism. Major sites of inquiry include education, arts and media, police brutality, welfare rights, electoral politics, and economic empowerment. By engaging the ideologies, politics, and culture of the Black Power Movement, we gain a deeper understanding of how people claim their rights and personhood against seemingly insurmountable odds.
African American History to 1865
This course provides an introduction to African American history from the Atlantic slave trade through the Civil War. Slavery and freedom define much of the historical development of the nation. The experiences of race and slavery dominate this history and it is the complexities and nuances of slavery that give this course its focus. This course examines key developments and regional differences in the making of race and slavery in North America, resistance movements among slaves and free blacks (such as slave revolts and the abolitionist movement) as they struggled for freedom and citizenship, and the multiples ways race and gender affected the meanings of slavery and freedom. This course is designed to encourage and develop skills in the interpretation of primary and secondary sources.
African American History from 1865 – Present
This course examines some of the key issues in African American history from the end of the Civil War to the present by explicating selected primary and secondary sources. Major issues and themes we will engage include: Reconstruction and the meaning of freedom, military participation and ideas of citizenship, racial segregation, migration, labor, cultural politics, and black resistance and protest movements. This course is designed to encourage and develop skills in the interpretation of primary sources, such as letters, memoirs, and similar documents. The course format, therefore, will consist of close reading and interpretation of selected texts, both the assigned readings and Moodles distributed in class. Course readings will be supplemented with music and film.
Black Business and Social Movements in the Twentieth-Century
From movies to music, bleaching cream to baseball, black entrepreneurs and consumers have historically negotiated the profits and pleasures of a “black economy” to achieve economic independence as a meaning of freedom. This seminar examines the duality of black businesses as economic and social institutions alongside black consumers’ ideas of economic freedom to offer new perspectives on social and political movements in the twentieth-century. We explore black business activity and consumer activism as historical processes of community formation and economic resistance, paying particular attention to black capitalism, consumer boycotts, and the economy of black culture in the age of segregation. Topics include the development of the black beauty industry; black urban film culture; Negro League Baseball; Motown and the protest music of the 1960s and 1970s; the underground economy; and federal legislation affecting black entrepreneurship.
U.S. Consumer Culture
This course examines the rise of consumer culture in twentieth century America. This culture has flourished, in part, because consumer capitalism has continuously transformed everyday wants into needs. We explore how the growth of mass production, advertising, department stores, shopping malls, modern technologies, and imperialism have shaped the nation’s desire for goods and pleasure. Americans’ relationships with these commodities and services reveal how people have come to understand themselves as consumers (staking claims to the ability to consume as a function of citizenship) and how consumption has shaped their lives (where they have defined themselves by what they buy). We take a chronological and thematic approach to contextualize the culture of consumption, in its many forms, across time and space.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
This course examines the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. We immediately rethink the image of King who liberals and conservatives construct as a dreamer of better race relations. We engage the complexities of an individual, who articulated a moral compass of the nation, to explore racial justice in post-World War II America. This course gives special attention to King’s post-1965 radicalism when he called for a reordering of American society, an end to the war in Vietnam, and supported sanitation workers striking for better wages and working conditions. Topics include King’s notion of the “beloved community”, the Social Gospel, liberalism, “socially conscious democracy”, militancy, the politics of martyrdom, poverty and racial justice, and compensatory treatment. Primary sources form the core of our readings.