Humanist Perspective of Afro-American Experience

AFRO 224
Painting by W. M. Pleasant Jr., January 2000

This interdisciplinary survey course explores the rich history, aesthetics, and politics of African American culture from its very genesis to the present day: in other words, from West African cultural traditions to Hip Hop.  We will examine cultural forms--literature, music, visual art, and more--to engage broad questions about the many meanings and resonances of African American culture in historical and contemporary contexts (in the U.S. and around the world).  Readings, lectures, screenings, and discussions will be used to build the necessary intellectual framework and critical vocabulary to have informed dialogue about culture's relationship to issues of race, class, gender, justice, sexuality, and geography.  In this course, we will take up the following questions (among many others): What, in fact, is "African" and what is "American" about "African American culture"?  Is there some singular "African American culture" about which we can speak, or are we really referring to a collection of African American cultures?  How has African American culture both shaped and been shaped by such realities as enslavement, migration, urbanization, ghettoization, and globalization?  How and why has African American culture traveled around the world, and what kind of impact has it had on communities beyond the United States?