History | African American Cultural History
A379 | 14093 | K. Stanley


Above class open to undergraduates and EDUC MAs only.

“Culture,” according to Lawrence Levine, “is not a fixed condition
but a process: the product of interaction between the past and the
present.  Its toughness and resiliency are determined not by a
culture’s ability to withstand change, which indeed may be a sign of
stagnation not life, but by its ability to react creatively and
responsively to the realities of a new situation.”  From enslavement
and emancipation to the civil rights movement and beyond, African
Americans have expressed in a myriad of ways their content and
discontent with their ever-changing social, economic, and political
status in the United States.  In this course on African American
cultural history we will examine African American culture and its
products, and draw connections to not only how these forms of
expression articulated the beliefs and feelings of African Americans
at a particular moment, but also how these “expressions” served
as “responses” to the historical moment.

This course will proceed chronologically and thematically, and will
also take a gendered and class-based approach in its examination of
African American cultural history.  In this course we will examine
not only the representation/presentation of the expression but also
focus our analysis on what the representation has to say about the
historical moment it serves to represent. Questions you should
consider while examining text include:  Who is the intended
audience?  What critique or commentary does it make about mainstream
society?  How is gender represented?  What other cultural forms or
knowledge does it rely on?

We will examine cultural text in various media forms (film, images,
poetry, music, biography and autobiography) created by or about
African Americans.  Through the semester we will encounter cultural
figures (even icons) and figure out why they had such great import
in a particular historical moment. Your analysis, synthesis and
critique of these forms will contribute greatly to our class
discussion. Thus, it is imperative that you keep up with your
assignments and come prepared to discuss them in class the day that
they are due. This class, as in most history classes, has a moderate
to substantial reading load. The length of the readings in the class
will vary.

African American culture does not stay within the confines of the
black community; it impacts, just as it is impacted by, larger
society.  As we engage in different genres of cultural expression we
should remain cognizant of how “blackness” or “African Americanness”
has flowed into the national and global society. Thus, our journey
and examination of African American culture begins with a national
celebration of African American freedom.