Spring 2024


African American Studies UN3001 - Section 001
     Sing a Black Girl's Song: The Non Fiction Writing of Ntozake Shange
Call Number: 
14990   Points: 3
Day/Time: Monday, 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Instructor: Edwidge Danticut

This undergraduate seminar offers an in-depth exploration of the nonfiction work of the renowned African-American poet and playwright Ntozake Shange, whose archives are at Barnard College, her alma mater. Through readings, discussion, and visits to her archives, students will probe this lesser-examined aspect of Shange's oeuvre, including her essays on her life, the arts, food, and other artists and creators. This course invites participants to engage critically with Shange's essays and personal writings while delving into her archive.

Course Objectives:
Students will identify key themes and literary techniques in Shange's nonfiction and the historical and cultural context in which she wrote these works. We will examine how Shange's nonfiction contributes to her broader work and her perspectives on history, gender, feminism, and race as they intersect in her life as a Black woman artist. Students will develop critical thinking skills through close reading, analysis, and discussion of Shange's nonfiction and will improve their writing skills by composing reflections and essays on Shange's works. They will develop research skills and gain insights into Shange's creative process through firsthand engagement with Shange's archive at Barnard.

     Finding Friends
African American Studies UN3930
Call Number:
14756  Points: 4
Section 001
Day/Time: Wednesday, 2:10pm - 4:00pm

Instructor: Farah Jasmine Griffin

This course examines the role of friendship in the creative and political lives and work of black American intellectuals, artists, and activists.  To the extent that we are able, we will seek to explore the friendships of less well-known figures as well. Together we will explore friendship as a site of creating and sustaining dimensions and definitions of self  that counter the roles society has often ascribed to black people. We will be guided by the following questions: To what extent has friendship offered a site of cultivating a sense of affirmation and  vision of possibility in a world that too often denies black people both?  Have friendships provided spaces for transcending  stereotypes and invisibility? We will also be attentive to the fraught nature of friendship as well.   Through readings, explorations of archival materials and group projects we will encounter complicated, necessary, and sometimes charged space of friendship and what it reveals about the individuals involved in them, as well as what those distinct relationships have to tell us about the broader contexts in which they exist. 

Students will work on individual as well as collaborative research projects and a portion of classes will be devoted to visiting nearby archives and in class research workshops. 

African American Studies UN3940 - Section 001
     Senior Thesis Seminar
Call Number:
14755 Points: 4
Day/Time: Thursday:  4:10pm - 6:00pm

Instructor: Megan French-Marcellin
Notes: AFAM Majors and Concentrators ONLY

The Senior Seminar will afford thesis writers the chance to workshop their idea, conduct research and/or interviews, work with the IRB protocols (if necessary), learn to work with archival materials, and perform other research activities prior to writing the thesis. Students who choose to write a capstone paper or conduct a capstone project can choose an elective course the following semester. The Thesis Seminar, conducted in the spring semester, is a workshop-oriented course for Senior Thesis writers organized around honing their writing skills while providing guidance to students in their field/disciplinary-specific projects. For example, a student may choose to write a historical biography of an artist while another may pursue a sociological study of the effects of mass incarceration on voting rights. The instructor of the Thesis Seminar, working with a faculty adviser (dependent on the specific field of inquiry in the thesis), will provide feedback and supervise the writing schedule of the students.



African American Studies GU4080 - Section 001
     TOPICS IN THE BLACK EXPERIENCE:  The Haitian Revolution as a Sketch of Blackness

Call Number: 12173 Points: 4
Day/Time: Wednesday, 12:10pm -2:00pm

Instructor: Vivaldi Jean-Marie
**Open to Junior and Seniors**

The Haitian Revolution was the culmination of a series of coordinated revolts by enslaved Africans against their French colonial masters which started in August 1791 on the northern plain of Saint Domingue (colonial Haiti). The enslaved Africans’ defeat of the Napoleonic army ultimately secured the recognition of Haiti as the world’s first “Black Republic”. The Haitian revolution pioneered the legal abolition of slavery throughout the French empire and provided a revolutionary model for many enslaved colonies to engage in organized insurrections to achieve their freedom.

The scope of this course is to show that the Haitian revolution was, also, the historical event which situated the newly freed people of Haiti in the Enlightenment’s dominant principles: freedom, equality, and citizenship for all. The course will show that the Haitian revolution is the historical event via which people of African descent in the diaspora demanded to be recognized as free citizens and an equal nation to the western nations. The course expands this claim to the discourse on contemporary blackness to show that it is informed by the key notions of freedom, equality, and citizenship that the enslaved Africans of Saint Domingue set out to achieve on the northern plain of Saint Domingue in August 1791.

African American Studies GU4080 - Section 002
     TOPICS IN THE BLACK EXPERIENCE:   Ethnography in the Black Communities
Call Number: 13576  Points: 4
Day/Time: Thursday,  2:10pm - 4:00pm

Instructor: Anthony Johnson
**Open to Junior and Seniors**

African American Studies GU4080 - Section 003
 The Making of Contemporary Brazil: History, Struggles, and Protagonism of the Afro-descendant population
Call Number: 12622  Points: 4
Day/Time: Thursday, 12:10pm - 2:00pm

Instructor: Isabel Ferreira Dos Reis
**Open to Junior and Seniors**

This course aims to explore a range of contemporary and historical themes in Afro-Brazilian social, economic, political, and cultural life. We will discuss key issues from the 19th through 21st century, including:
·        transition from enslavement to free labor
·        inclusion of Black populations in the process of forming republican society
·        development of Black institutions during and after slavery in Brazil
·        organization of Black social movements
·        rapprochement and distancing of the Afro-Brazilian population from other Black communities in the African diaspora
·        Afro-Brazilian culture
·        Black community organizing in cities and rural areas
·        transformations in Afro-Brazilian historiography: the emergence of Black subjectivity
Our mode in this course is expository/interactive. Classwork is centered around prior reading and discussion of indicated articles; engagement with a range of audiovisual resources; presentations by guest speakers; and coordinated thematic projects.

African American Studies GU4080 - Section 004
Angela Davis in Conversation
Call Number: 18539  Points: 4
Day/Time: Wednesday, 4:10pm - 6:00pm

Kevin Fellezs
**Open to Junior and Seniors**

African American Studies GU4080 - Section 006
     TOPICS IN THE BLACK EXPERIENCE:  "Backdoor Rhythms: Surfing the Waves of Black Queer Poetries"

Call Number: 20557  Points: 4
Day/Time: Thursday, 2:10pm - 4:00pm

Instructor: Samiya Bashir
**Open to Junior and Seniors**

Welcome to Backdoor Rhythms, a vibrant and exploratory course that dives deep into the dynamic and oft-uncharted currents of black queer poetries, poetics, and poesis. Drawing inspiration from the metaphoric concept of the ”backdoor” action in surfing, this course invites students to explore previously hidden or less-explored aspects of black queer experiences as recreated and communicated through poetry.

This course will examine the ways Black queer poets have reclaimed, redefined, and reshaped literature, challenging conventions and fostering new avenues for self-expression. This course delves into the rich tapestry of texts, including poetry collections, essays, and spoken word performances that celebrate the diverse Black voices, perspectives, and emotions which comprise and inspire Black queer poets.

Through close examination and critical analysis, we will circumnavigate the unique ways in which black queer poets employ language, form, and aesthetics to challenge norms, subvert expectations, and articulate their lived experiences to offer a comprehensive exploration of the potentialities and intersectionalities between and amongst blackness, queerness, and poetry.

By blending critical analysis with creative responses, we will engage a range of of poetic forms, from spoken word and free verse to sonnets and experimental literary- and art-works by prominent Black queer poets from across the past century and into the present day.

Most importantly, Backdoor Rhythms will provide a platform for students to engage and develop their own creative voices in the practice of poesis. In addition to textual analysis, students will engage in vibrant discussions, participate in writing workshops, develop their own creative expression through writing assignments and collaborative engagement with fellow classmates, and have the opportunity to share and perform their poetry in a supportive and enriching environment. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we will also draw insights from art, music, and activism, bolstering our understanding of the broader cultural context surrounding black queer poetries.

Course Objectives:

  • Deepen understanding of Black queer poetries, focusing on poets at the intersection of Blackness, sexuality, and gender
  • Examine the key themes, stylistic choices, structures, and modalities employed in black queer poetries
  • Foster critical thinking and analytical skills through close readings and discussions
  • Develop creative and poetic writing skills through various writing exercises and workshops
  • Explore the socio-political and historical contexts that shape Black queer literary expression
  • Encourage a supportive and inclusive learning environment, promoting empathy and understanding

Through examining the nuances of language, form, and style, students will develop a deeper understanding of the unique poetics employed by these poets and work toward understanding how the power of voice—combined with identity and artistic exploration—can challenge societal norms, disrupt boundaries, and give birth to inspiring literary genus/genius. They will also sharpen their own poetic voice and critical lens, and deepen their own cultural sensitivities and appreciation for the power of poetry as a tool for resistance, liberation, and social change.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students with a keen interest in poetry, race, gender, sexualities, and intersectionalities. Join us as we open ourselves up to the transformative power of language, explore the complexities of black queer experiences, and discover the richness of our own poetic voices while we ride the waves of the Backdoor Rhythms of Black Queer Poetries.

This course may also include guest lectures, performance showcases, and collaborative projects, fostering a vibrant community of scholars, writers, and performers invested in the study of Black queer poetries.

African American Studies GR6999 - Section 001
Call Number:
14816 Points: 4

Instructor: Samuel K. Roberts
**AFAM Masters Students ONLY**