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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Sonnet H. Retman
AFRAM 101
Seattle Campus

Introduction to African American Studies

History, culture, religion, institutions, politics, economics, arts, and psychology of peoples of African descent as developed from experience in both the old and new worlds. Multidisciplinary analysis of social life from a Black perspective as illustrated in selected historical and contemporary writings.

Class description

Since its inception in the 1970s, African American Studies has expanded rapidly as an academic discipline, focusing on an increasingly broad set of topics such as literature and film, sexuality and gender, history and political economy, popular music and performance, public health and education, art history and religion . . . the list goes on. Given the range and depth of the field, no introduction to this scholarship can be comprehensive within a ten-week quarter. Keeping this in mind, this course is arranged chronologically, with an emphasis on literature, history, music and the law. We will focus in detail on four watershed moments of African American cultural and political production: slavery in the mid-19th century; Jim Crow during the first half of the 20th century; desegregation, the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s; and our contemporary post-Civil Rights moment. In our investigation, we will explore some of the foundational ideas and themes that constitute the field of African American studies, such as the history of racial formation and regimes of power; competing conceptions of social justice; shifting ideas of "blackness" and intersectional understandings of identity (how ideas of race intersect with gender, sexuality and class).

Student learning goals

To gain familiarity with some of the different methods and perspectives at work within the interdisciplinary field of African-American studies

To investigate the concept of race and understand the ways that race functions as a flexible, social construction with real, material effects

To comprehend the ways that particular conceptions of "blackness" and African American identity have changed historically over time

To understand how gender, class, and sexuality shape issues of race in the United States.

To enlarge your sense of the multiple ways in which art can work as a tool for social change

To strengthen your critical analysis and writing skills through in-class writing assignments, papers, and exams.

General method of instruction

Lecture, discussion, informal in-class writing, and small group work designed to encourage active student participation.

Recommended preparation

Class Participation (based upon the quality of your section participation and completion of informal writing assignments, including 4 out of 5 GoPosts) 20% 2 Papers (2-3 pages), Oct. 28 and Dec. 2nd 20% Mid Term Exam, Nov. 10 30% Final Exam, Dec 15 30%

Class assignments and grading

During the quarter, you will be asked to complete occasional in-class writing assignments, which you should be ready to share with others in class. You will write two short analytical papers during the quarter. There will be an in-class mid-term exam and a final exam. You will receive separate handouts about the papers and both exams. I encourage you to meet with me and with your TA during office hours throughout the quarter to discuss the readings and assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Sonnet H. Retman
Date: 09/29/2011