My New African-American Studies Course

I presented this course syllabus to my amazing department chair for next year. I am not shocked by her endorsement and full support. I have spent a great deal of time doing the necessary research to make this course happen. Below is a draft proposed syllabus I presented to her; I will edit and address more specifics later about the daily approaches and readings. Because this is a full-blown seminar course, students will drive each meeting. Hence, there will be assigned discussion leaders, peer sessions, and unique focus settings empowering me in ways that my AP courses do not allow. Further, with my content knowledge and expertise in designing courses, I will be able to take students to levels they have yet to journey.

African-American Studies
Course Syllabus

Instructor: Edward Carson
History Department

Contact Information
Office: (978) 725-6300 ext. 4858 (Link building 306)

My website:

Student Recommendation: 5th and 6th Formers

Course Description

The African American experience spans almost 400 years in the annals of world history. The dawn of the European arrival in Africa to the advent of forced migration across the Atlantic amidst the trepidation of the most noted middle passage is only the start of the African American journey towards political, social, and cultural emancipation. This course looks at the early stages of this journey, in which African Americans will endure slavery, Jim Crow, and full citizenship by the 1960s. In addition, the course addresses the impact this narrative had on the emergence of African American religion, literature, poetry, music, art, dance, food, and science. Works by Ralph Ellison, Countee Culleen, Toni Morrison, and “Nikki” Giovanni, Angela Davis, and Tupac Shakur are a few of the works that are studied. Conversations regarding the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the rise of “black as beautiful” during the 1960s allow students to critique the changes witnessed for African-Americans. This course is a hybrid of the study of English literature, religion, race, history, and film studies, and includes a field trip to the African-American History Museum in Boston.

Course Components
Instructional Method: African-American Studies is a seminar course in which daily discussions involving the analysis of primary and secondary readings, as well as the viewing and listening of African-American film and music. Success in the course is predicated on the student’s ability to engage in the discussions and offer independent thought to the conversation.

Exams, Papers, and Participation: There are two take-home exams per semester. Exams are intended to measure growing knowledge of historical, sociological, and anthropological themes addressed in the course. Students engage in a case study, examining an aspect of their life in which the dynamics of African-American culture is a featured construct of racism, gender, sexuality, and class.

Two 5 – 7 page papers — 15%
Independent case study — 15%
Take-home Midterm — 25%
Take-home Semester Final — 25%
Participation & — 20%
Oral Presentations

Required Readings

1. When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings
2. There is a River by Vincent Harding
3. Introduction to African-American Studies by Talmadge Anderson
4. Native Son by Richard Wright
5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Course Outline

I. African Heritage and the Slave Trade
II. The Slave Community: Oppression and Resistance
III. The Free Black Community
IV. Civil War and Reconstruction Period
V. W.E.B Du Bois
VI. The New Negro
VII. Harlem Renaissance
VIII. Great Depression to the Cold War: The Rise of the Communist Negro
IX. Black Folks and the 1950s
X. 1960s and Civil Rights
XI. The Rise of the Cosby Decade
XII. Black Culture and Political Rap
XIII. Changing Black Thought in the Age of Tupac
XIV. Obama and Post-Racial America


4 thoughts on “My New African-American Studies Course

  1. I love this list. I hope they also inquire about Angela Davis work, Ida B Wells work, and how so many of our sistahs do well rounded international black community work. This quite brilliant!

    • Thanks lewisjjackson. Yes, we will be discussing Angela Davis a great deal; we will discuss the the divergent means of her and the likes of Assata Shakur to those of a Diane Nash — who by the way, recently visited our campus for a talk. Thanks for the comment. If you have any other thoughts or things you would like to see, feel free to share. The female voice is large in this course.

  2. Hey, hopefully we will see your African American studies course on an Edx, Coursera or the Udemy MOOC platforms at some point. Now that I think of it, I have not seen any African American studies courses out there. Imagine having 100,000 students pay $5 for such a course within a 60 day window. Not a bad business model!

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