African American Studies

Course Descriptions

  • AFAM 110: Intro to African American Studies
    This course provides an overview of African American history and culture. Topics include major events, persons, and issues spanning the period from the African heritage to contemporary times. Students survey the evolution of African American expressive culture in music, literature, film, art, and dance. The course includes lectures, discussions, and video presentations. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: AMER 101
  • AFAM 205: Psychology of Prejudice
    In this course we will explore psychological approaches to understanding stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination?the psychology of prejudice, for short. We will examine research and theory on topics such as historical changes in the nature of intergroup attitudes; the prevalence of prejudice in the U.S. today; the impact of stereotyping and discrimination on members of stigmatized groups; likely causes of prejudice; the psychological processes underlying different forms of prejudice (e.g., based on race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, or appearance); and methods of combating prejudice, encouraging acceptance of diversity, and improving intergroup relations. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: PSYC 205, AMER 201
  • AFAM 216: African American Literature I
    A study of slave narratives and contemporary revisions. Includes works by Equiano, Douglass, Delaney, Jacobs, Morrison, Johnson, and Williams. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 216, AMER 216
  • AFAM 217: African American Literature II
    An examination of narrative attempts before, during, and after the Harlem Renaissance to move from imposed stereotypes toward more accurate representations of African American experiences. Includes works by Chesnutt, Du Bois, Hurston, Larsen, Hughes, Toomer, Baldwin, and Walker. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 217, AMER 217
  • AFAM 218: Blues Women in African Amer Lit
    An analysis of the representation of "blues women" and the music in writings by African Americans. Authors include Larsen, Hurston, Morrison, Wilson, Jones, and Walker. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 218, AMER 218, GSWS 218
  • AFAM 219: African Politics
    A survey of the geography, social and political history, and postindependent politics of Black Africa. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: POLS 217, AFAM 219
  • AFAM 221: Cultures of Modern Africa
    (Offered Less Frequently) Introduction to contemporary rural and urban society in sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on materials from all major regions of the subcontinent. Particular emphasis will be on problems of rural development, rural-urban migration, and structural changes of economic, political, and social formations in the various new nations. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: SOAN 221, IREL 271
  • AFAM 223: African American Envirnmntl Culture
    (African American Environmental Culture from Slavery to Environmental Justice). Until the environmental justice movement rose to prominence over the past few decades and invited a more critical perspective on the connection between race and the environment, popular understanding of the American environmental (and environmentalist) tradition had effectively been whitewashed. But why? This course will work to find answers to that question while unearthing the deeper roots of African American environmental culture in conversation with key moments in African American history?from slavery to sharecropping, from migration and urbanization to environmental justice. With an interdisciplinary approach that considers sources as diverse as slave narratives, fiction, poetry, songs, photographs, maps, and ethnographies, we will consider African American intellectuals, writers, visual and musical artists, and everyday citizens not always associated with environmental thought, from W.E.B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston to the Black Panthers and the victims of Flint, Michigan?s, water crisis. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ES 223
  • AFAM 227: History of Jazz
    Principal styles of representative jazz musicians; the roots (including blues and ragtime); jazz in New Orleans and Chicago; and big band, swing, bop, and fusion. No prerequisite. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: MUSC 227, AMER 227
  • AFAM 237: African American Religions
    This course is an exploration of the rich diversity of African American religions from the colonial period to the present. Attention will be given to key figures, institutional expressions as well as significant movements in North America, the Caribbean and broader Black Atlantic. Major themes include African traditions in American religions, slavery and religion, redemptive suffering, sacred music, social protest, Black Nationalism, African American women and religion, religion in hip hop and secularity in black religious literature. Students will learn about the ways these themes have often served both as unique contributions to and critiques of America?s political establishment and social landscape. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: RELG 237, AMER 230
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  • AFAM 238: Hip-Hop, Race, & Culture
    A musical examination of the roles hip-hop, the hip-hop community and mainstream popular culture have played in reinforcing, critiquing and disrupting racial identity in the United States. In 1988, after the release of their hit, "F**k tha Police", the American hip-hop group N.W.A. was considered a danger to the nation, something akin to a terrorist group. In 1970, just prior to the advent of hip-hop and when funk music, hip-hop's precursor, was coming into full bloom, anthropologist Margaret Meade and author James Baldwin sat down for an extended discussion about race. During the course of their conversation, Meade pointed out that, biologically speaking, there is no such thing as race, that the notion of race is a myth. Baldwin agreed, but noted that when they both walked outside, that very same myth could get him killed. Music and race matter. This course traces the history and significance of hip-hop music, focusing on the social forces that created the genre and the impact the genre has had on society?s notions of race. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: MUSC 237
  • AFAM 241: African American Drama and Theater
    This course surveys the work African American theater artists from the nineteenth century to the present day. Playwrights surveyed may include Richardson, Hughes, Hansberry, Childress, Bullins, Baraka, Fuller, Wilson, Cleage, Shange, and Parks. Readings are supplemented by field trips to Chicago theaters that feature African American plays. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: THTR 241, ENGL 241
  • AFAM 250: Dialogue: Race, Ethnicity, Religion
    In a culturally and socially diverse society, exploring issues of difference, conflict, and community is needed to facilitate understanding and improve relations between social/cultural groups. In this course, students will engage in meaningful discussion of controversial, challenging, and divisive issues in society related to race, ethnicity, and religion. Students will be challenged to increase personal awareness of their own cultural experience, expand knowledge of the historic and social realities of other cultural groups, and take action as agents of positive social change in their communities. This course requires a high level of participation from all students. Note: This course earns .5 credits. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ETHC 250, RELG 221
  • AFAM 254: African American History
    A survey of African American history from the sixteenth century to the present, with attention to important themes and events: the African heritage; slavery and the response to bondage; emancipation and reconstruction; African American society under Jim Crow; the northern migrations and the making of the urban ghettos; African American debates on freedom and models of Black leadership in the twentieth century; aspects of contemporary African American America. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 230
  • AFAM 258: Spike Lee and Black Aesthetics
    As one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Spike Lee is both loathed and loved. His films challenge the stereotypes and paternalistic assumptions about African Americans that have become sacrosanct in America's popular imagination. We will explore how the aesthetic representation of race, class, and gender in Spike Lee's filmography have helped create a new genre of film called African American noir. In so doing, we will watch several of Spike Lee's films, documentary projects, and television ads. Ultimately, our goal will be to appreciate Lee's cinematic technique, examine his critique of white supremacy, and consider the cultural and historical events that have shaped his artistic vision. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 258, CINE 258
  • AFAM 271: African American Philosophy
    African-American philosophy can be defined in two ways: (1) wide-ranging philosophical work done by Americans of recent black African descent and (2) philosophical work on the lived experience of Americans of recent black African descent. We will primarily read philosophers whose philosophical work emphasizes the African-American experience. Thematically, the course will be guided by one overriding question: Given the historical reality of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Three-Fifths Compromise, the anti-miscegenation laws, the Fugitive Slave Law, Lynch Law, and the Jim Crow laws, among many other inhumane practices, how does the experience of Africans in America constitute a unique combination of philosophical perspectives? Once we answer this question, we will understand how the African-American experience has created a new tradition in Western philosophy. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 271
  • AFAM 310: Equity & Social Justice in Educ
    (Equity and Social Justice in Education) This course intends to examine notions of 'equity' and 'social justice' in the context of three aspects of education: the historical founding of U.S. schools on oppressive ideals; the ways in which race, gender, and sexual orientation affect and disrupt one's experiences of schooling; and the evolution of the efforts to work against these phenomena within the field of education. The course will explore equity and social justice from a variety of perspectives and through different texts, including analytical journal articles and personal narratives. Readings and discussions will be based heavily on the local world of public education as a microcosm of these issues as they have played out nationally and internationally. Not open to first-year students. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: EDUC 310, ETHC 340
  • AFAM 312: Black Metropolis
    (Black Metropolis: A Study of Black Life in Chicago). This course is a study of race and urban life in Chicago. From the founding of Chicago by a black man to the participation of blacks in the rebuilding of the city following the Great Chicago fire, and into an exploration of Bronzeville, 'a city within a city,' this course will highlight blacks and their contributions to this great city. Study of landmark texts, documentaries, novels, and photography, along with at least one field trip to the Chicago area, will reveal the impact of the Great Migration on the city; contributions of talented musicians, writers, and photographers involved in the Chicago Renaissance; and the origins of the famous black Chicago newspaper, the Chicago Defender, including its regular column by Langston Hughes. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 312, AMER 312
  • AFAM 325: Black Literature of the 60s
    (Black Literature of the 60s and its Legacy.) A study of the literature produced by major participants in the Black Arts and Civil Rights movements, along with an examination of writings after the 60s to determine the legacy of the themes of protest and social change. Authors may include Amiri Baraka, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Assata Shakur, Eldridge Cleaver, Gil Scott-Heron, Angela Davis, Tupac Shakur, Jay Z, M.K. Asante, Jr., Common, Ice Cube, Lupe Fiasco, among others. Prerequisite: English 217 or permission of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 325, AMER 325
  • AFAM 328: Diasporan Writings
    (Diasporan Writings from Contemporary Black Writers). This course presents stories by immigrants of African descent from throughout the Caribbean as well as African writers, and significant writings by American authors of African descent. These works will illustrate the scope and variety of aesthetic, cultural, and political concerns that have motivated the authors. Course may include Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Michelle Cliff, Paule Marshall, George Lamming, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Tsitsi Dangarembga, J. Nozipo Maraire, Edward P. Jones, Suzan Lori-Parks, Natasha Tretheway, Rita Dove, Walter Mosley, M. K. Asante. Authors will vary with different semesters. Prerequisite: (Diasporan Writings from Contemporary Black Writers). This course presents stories by immigrants of African descent from throughout the Caribbean as well as African writers, and significant writings by American authors of African descent. These works will illustrate the scope and variety of aesthetic, cultural, and political concerns that have motivated the authors. Course may include Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Michelle Cliff, Paule Marshall, George Lamming, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Tsitsi Dangarembga, J. Nozipo Maraire, Edward P. Jones, Suzan Lori-Parks, Natasha Tretheway, Rita Dove, Walter Mosley, M. K. Asante. Authors will vary with different semesters. Prerequisite: ENGL/AFAM 216 or 217 or permission of Instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.) (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 328
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  • AFAM 330: History and Philosophy of Slavery
    An examination of American slavery and its aftermath from the slave ship to the Age of Neo-slavery. We will read slave narratives, historical accounts of slavery, and philosophical interpretations of slavery from the black radical tradition and contemporary philosophy. All three approaches will provide us with multiple angles from which to consider the institution of slavery and America?s supposed commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On the whole, our aim will be to wrestle with the tortured logic that is the tragic contradiction of American slavery and American freedom. Prerequisites: AFAM 110, one philosophy course, or permission of the instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 330
  • AFAM 361: Civil Rights Movement
    This course focuses on the origins, development, and accomplishments of the civil rights movement in post-World War II America. Particular emphasis will be given to the differences between the struggle for black equality in the south and its northern counterpart. Taught in a seminar format, the class will be both reading- and writing-intensive. Course readings and paper assignments are designed to help students develop a comparative analytical framework and to illuminate the following lines of inquiry: What caused and what sustained the civil rights movement? What changes took place within the movement over time, particularly at the level of leadership? What underlay the radicalization of the movement and what were the consequences? To what extent did the civil rights movement succeed and how do we measure that success today? Finally, how did the black civil rights movement inspire other groups and minorities in American society to organize? Prerequisite: History 200 or History 201. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 306, AMER 361
  • AFAM 380: Black Cinema
    Black Cinema addresses a range of periods and movements in Black Cinema: the Los Angeles School (for example Haile Gerima), Blaxploitation and its critics, Women directors (Leslie Harris, Julie Dash, Yvonne Welbon, Kasi Lemmons) critiques of Hollywood (ex: Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle) and a unit on Spike Lee. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: COMM 380