Black Lives Matter demonstration event

In 2020, the confluence of a devastating global health pandemic and the grotesque killings of Black civilians catalyzed a national movement and resurgent demands to protect Black life.

Within the School of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Africana Studies has, since 1969, been devoted to close interdisciplinary analysis of black experience to support the work of social justice both nationally and internationally. Our courses examine the precise issues underpinning these inter-connected manifestations of the ways that the treatment of Black life is an indicator of the ways that inequality and oppression is structured, but they also help us understand the ways those oppressions have been challenged and dismantled.

The world stands poised to make a definitive break with the legacy of oppression, and Africana Studies stands ready to prepare a new generation to usher in that new world. As we strive together to realize the transformative potential contained within the pain of the present moment, Africana Studies is today more than ever a vital part of education for all people, not just Black people.

We encourage all students to engage with this work through the undergraduate courses offered by the Department of Africana Studies.


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01:014:132 Black Experience and Film Medium

This course analyzes African American achievement in the genre of film, from the earliest days of the silent film to the contemporary moment. We will pay close attention to the political, historical, and artistic contexts of African American representation, participation and creative agency in the motion picture industry. This course provides an opportunity to study some of the most significant films, actors, and directors in African American cultural history.

01:014:302:01 Topics in Africana Studies, section 1: Director Spike Lee

This course will survey the work of Spike Lee through screenings, lectures and group discussions. Students will expand their understanding of the narrative film genre as well as that of storytelling. This course will also examine the use of film as a medium and conduit for change, conversation and understanding. Spike Lee's films, both narrative and non-narrative will be compared and contrasted for their similarities and differences. In addition, students will gain first-hand experience with the film industry through guest lecturers including actors, filmmakers, casting directors and set designers.

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01:014:302:02 Topics in Africana Studies, section 2: Seminar in Hip Hop Culture

This course is designed to provide students with a familiarity with the political, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic concerns surrounding hip hop. Of particular interest are the ways in which hip-hop reflects ongoing historical questions about gender, race, class, violence, capitalism, sexuality, and racism within black communities.

01:014:302:07 Topics in Africana Studies, section 7: Poetics of Black Diaspora

This is an interdisciplinary course that explores the representation and discourse of blackness in Black diasporic cultural production. Specifically, the course will explore how black experiences are represented, embodied, performed, and theorized. Some authors/artists that we will analyze include: Cardi B, Solange Knowles, Elizabeth Acevedo, Warsan Shire, Arthur Jafa, Hanif Abdurraqif, among others. This course’s focus on poetry, performance, and the visual attempts to motivate students to think about the archive our bodies create, its narrations and movements. Hence, our classroom community will be an intimate space where students will share from their course journal, participate in a performance and creative writing workshop, as well as create and write from the archive their bodies create. This is a course that challenges students to question our understandings of blackness, epistemology, and the archive.

01:014:304 Afromusicology

Afromusicology explores the evolution of Black music in America beginning with the Ring Shouts and Work Songs of enslaved blacks circa 1619 to the current Hip Hop Era of the 21st Century. This course will examine Africanisms that shaped African American music, culture and oral tradition. Students will recognize the evolution of the Blues, Jazz, R&B, Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop as art forms and their impact as a vehicle and voice for social equality and protest against discrimination and oppression in American society past and present. Within this context, their relevance and impact will be viewed relative to the African American experience, and how Black music has helped to shape and define African American culture in particular and American culture in general.

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01:014:317 Black Profiles in Humor and Entertainment

This course explores the historical role that humor and comedy have played in African American political resistance, cultural history, and creative expression, from the era of Slavery to the contemporary moment. We will examine works from a wide array of genres - including folktales, essays, short stories, Spoken Word poetry, stand-up routines, sketchshows, sitcoms, and films - to understand how comedy can serve as a vehicle for social and political commentary and change. We will study the comedic profiles and works of key Black artists who have distinguished themselves in the fields of humor and entertainment, including: Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Dick Gregory, Moms Mabley, Ishmael Reed, Chester Himes, Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, Wanda Sykes, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Kevin Hart, Mo’Nique, Boots Riley, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Anthony Anderson, to name a few.

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01:014:386 African Americans and Sports

Sports touch our lives unlike almost anything else. Apart from perhaps music, nothing reaches all segments of society simultaneously to the degree that sports do. Both the custodial staff and the board of directors of America’s top companies stop their lives to watch the same Super Bowl. Countries at war order cease-fires during international sports competitions so that their nations can devote complete attention to sports. In 2006, for example, the civil war that had been waged in the Ivory Coast for four years took a hiatus as both sides of the conflict paused to celebrate and support the nation’s national soccer team in World Cup play. The widespread penetration of sports into our lives, regardless of our station, makes sports a unique tool to examine people’s racial, economic, political, and social interactions.

In this course, we will look at the role that sports have played in African Americans ’quest for freedom, equality, and full recognition as human beings in America. We will examine the notion that African Americans ’success on fields of play translates into success in the larger American society. Perhaps most importantly, we will also examine the role race plays in sports and the relationship between capital and labor within the $71 billion American sports industry.