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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 120: BK's Finest: JAY-Z and Philosophy
    (Brooklyn's Finest: JAY-Z and Philosophy.) From growing up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to selling out concerts at Madison Square Garden, JAY-Z has become a global hip-hop icon. Besides being the first rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and holding the record for the most number one albums by a solo artist, JAY-Z's body of work stands as a monumental contribution to American culture. In this course, we explore the poetics and philosophy of JAY-Z's music. As we cultivate an artistic appreciation for JAY-Z's rap skills such as storytelling, wordplay, and delivery, we also treat his music as an opportunity to critically engage topics such as racism, sexism, and economic inequality. Finally, we watch several of JAY-Z's music videos as well as documentaries focused on his life and work. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: PHIL 120
  • 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 208: Tpcs: Africana Women's Relg Exprnce
    (Spring 2019 Topic: Africana Women's Religious Experience.) New Description: This course explores the multidimensional religious experiences of Africana women, specifically Black women throughout the Americas, Africa, and the Caribbean, as they attempt to define and realize a sacred self across diverse periods and contexts. We give attention to the voices of Africana women in history and literature, film, performance, sacred speech and music to examine the ways religion has empowered and disempowered Black women in their individual and collective lives. Prerequisite: One course in either GSWS or AFAM. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: RELG 200, GSWS 208
  • 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 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
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  • AFAM 228: History of Hip Hop
    This course examines the history of hip hop, dating back to the first hip hop party held on August 11, 1973 in the Bronx, New York to its present standing as a critical component of popular culture around the world. As the descendent of African American musical genres (like blues, jazz, soul, and funk), hip hop music and culture embodies the black experience and was born out of the black struggle of the 1960s and 1970s. Topics covered in this course include West Coast/gangsta rap, the Chicago sound, Cash Money and No Limit Records, the rise of Atlanta and the dirty South, international rap, female rappers, and more. How did this regional form of black expression become the international language of cool and controversy it is today? No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
  • AFAM 230: African American History 1500-1865
    This course will survey the history of African Americans in the New World, from the first colonial encounter through the sociopolitical changes of the burgeoning United States that led to the Civil War (1861-1865). The history of African Americans in the United States is often defined by the chattel slavery experience. However, the early years of American history that made people of African descent American are much more complex. By centering the actions and voices of the heterogeneous African American community, this course examines topics including the Middle Passage, domestic slavery expansion, free and maroon black communities, various resistance strategies, interracial coalitions, and the role of enslaved people in bringing about their own emancipation. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 230
  • AFAM 233: African American History 1865-2016
    This course examines the journey of African Americans from the end of the Civil War through Reconstruction, the New Nadir, the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, the War on Drugs and new black capitalism, and the rise of hip hop, ending with the Obama years. In 1865, the centuries-old question of where African Americans would fit into the fabric of United States society was finally answered. As newly freed people and full citizens, African Americans learned that the process of citizenship would not be seamless or easy, and that the fight was just beginning. Blacks redefined their status over and over again during this 150-year period, and this course will examine why and how these shifts occurred. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 233
  • AFAM 235: Racism and Ethnic Relations
    This course surveys of the development of the theories of race and ethnic relations at the individual, group, and cultural levels. Students will examine the impact these theories have had on social policy. The course focuses on the experience of Asians, Latinos and African Americans with special attention given to institutional expressions of oppression in American Society. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: SOAN 235, AMER 235
  • 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
  • AFAM 238: History of Rap Music
    The objective of this course is to trace the history of rap music. We?ll begin by examining rap's precursors, funk, Jamaican dub, African American "toasts," and the talking blues. Then we'll do a close reading of a significant rap tune every week, working our way from rap?s emergence in the Bronx in the early nineteen-seventies through its evolution to the artistic maturity and international success reached by 2005. Each week students will be expected to analyze the assigned rap tune and then either compose a written critique or compose and perform or record a rap in the style of the assigned song. By engaging in close readings and comparisons of the music, lyrics, and production techniques of select rap classics and lesser-known gems, we'll tease out not only how the music was constructed, but how it commented on and impacted the musical and social history of the times. 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 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 270: Race and Criminal Justice
    This course will examine the systemic racial injustices inherent in American criminal jurisprudence from police interaction to trial and sentencing, incarceration, and supervised release. Students will study how racial injustice continues to pervade the American criminal justice system despite the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. How do so many players, from police officers to judges and juries, fail to protect against racial injustice? Why do courts, when confronted with allegations or proof of racially motivated police misconduct, overwhelmingly cite "harmless error" doctrine? To attempt to answer these complicated questions, students will learn legal criminal procedure, study 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th amendment case law, and have an opportunity to listen to and speak with a variety of professionals in the criminal justice field. Prerequisite: POLS 120 or permission of instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: POLS 270, AMER 274
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  • 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 273: Cultural Ecology of Africa
    In this course, we will study the relationships between African peoples and their environments. We will consider the process of globalization and its relationship to the changing landscape of Africa in a historical context. By combining environmental studies and anthropology, we will bring a unique perspective to our study of the historical interaction of African cultures and environments, from pre-colonial times through the colonial period to the current post-colonial period. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: SOAN 273, ES 273, IREL 273
  • AFAM 275: Black Diaspora Freedom Struggles
    This course introduces students to the history of black liberation struggles across the African diaspora. These include the Haitian Revolution, the role of slaves during the American Civil War, the impact of Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association (including the role of his wife, Amy Jacques Garvey in keeping the organization active amidst his legal troubles), and the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements. This course also asks how such histories shed light on the current Black Lives Matter movement along with popular uprisings in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond. The history of black freedom struggles across the diaspora reveals that black people have always been active agents in fighting oppression. This course also encourages students to think about how these struggles were connected and have changed across time and space. No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 275
  • AFAM 283: Race, Class, Gender, and the Media
    Race, class, and gender occupy important places in the contemporary study of the media. This course explores the connections between race, class, and gender through the exploration of the intersections between these important components of social structure and ideology. The motivating goal in this course is to show students how social structure and meaning become intertwined elements in how we experience race, class, and gender. An important element in this course will be the emphasis on the identities and positions of relatively less empowered groups in contemporary society. This will be done through a focused consideration of structural and ideological elements of contemporary culture as found in: the media industry, journalism, social constructions of reality, music, film, television, radio, and the internet. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: COMM 283
  • AFAM 310: Equity & Social Justice in Educ
    (Equity and Social Justice in Education) This course examines 'equity' and 'social justice' both as concepts and in the context of three aspects of education: the historical founding of U.S. schools on oppressive ideals; the primary roles of race/ethnicity, space, and socioeconomic status, but also religion, gender, sexual orientation, language, and (dis)ability in individual and group experiences of schooling; and strategies for socially just education. The course uses documentary history, scholarly sources, and personal narratives to explore tensions between the ideals of freedom and equality and the reality of segregation and marginalization in U.S. education. Course content focuses on U.S. public education as a microcosm of equity and social justice issues 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 317: History of Black Television
    This course connects late 20th-century African American history to the development of black television, focusing on themes of activism, family, politics, economics, standards of beauty, and culture. Critics and audiences have noted that we are in a golden era of black television, with an upsurge of shows over the last few years that display the multiplicity of black life in the United States. And yet, this is not the first time this has happened. Since the 1950s, African Americans have been depicted on the small screen in both regressive and progressive ways. How have these images changed over time? How do these depictions impact the way people see African Americans and how African Americans see themselves? No prerequisites. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 317
  • AFAM 319: Protest and Police in U.S. History
    This course examines historical instances of policing, inequality, and protest, including mobs in the American Revolution, abolitionist direct actions, the terror of the Klu Klux Klan, sit-ins against Jim Crow, protest against military action, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Throughout U.S. history, Americans have been committed both to protest and disruption in order to advance their causes, and to stability, security, and the maintenance of order. Despite widespread fears about disorder and crime today, Americans in the past were far more violent. In this course, we will trace how ordinary people came together to challenge authority, and how those with power built state structures that could legitimately use violence. We will see how policing was shaped by fears of newly- arrived immigrants, the demands of a slave economy, and entrenched racism. We will study the intersecting histories of race, inequality, and state power across the American past. Students will develop a major research project on a particular historical instance of policing, inequality, and protest. Prerequisite: HIST 200 or HIST 201 or permission of instructor. (Meets the GEC Cultural Diversity Requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: HIST 319, AMER 319
  • AFAM 323: 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 a special focus on Chicago's African American environmental culture and a field study to the city's South Side, an interdisciplinary approach will examine sources as diverse as slave narratives, fiction, poetry, songs, photographs, maps, and ethnographies, and 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.
    Cross-listed as: ES 323
  • 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
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  • 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: ENGL/AFAM 216 or 217 or permission of Instructor. (Meets GEC Cultural Diversity requirement.)
    Cross-listed as: ENGL 328
  • 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