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African American History and Culture (HI2B7)

Aaron Douglass "Song of the Towers" (1934) 
Module Convenor: Dr Lydia Plath

Aaron Douglass
"Song of the Towers" (1934)



This module surveys African American history and culture from the antebellum period to the present, with an emphasis on black agency, resistance, and survival. A social and cultural history, the module focuses on both the lived experiences of African American people, and on the intellectual and cultural debates in black communities around social movements, protest, and identity. As such, the majority of the readings will be by black authors. Key questions we will consider include: How have music, clothing, art, literature, and other cultural forms contributed to the freedom struggle? How has race intersected with gender, class, and sexuality throughout African American history? While thinkers like W. E. B. Du Bois, Amiri Baraka, and Ta-Nehisi Coates have grappled with the very nature of consciousness and colour, how have ordinary African Americans challenged white supremacy on the ground, and in the streets?

This second-year undergraduate 15 CATS module runs for ten weeks in the autumn term. By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Chart the course of African American history and culture since the era of slavery;
  • Articulate the various ways in which African Americans have challenged white supremacy, and analyse the debates within black communities about how to achieve social and political change;
  • Engage with and critically evaluate different theoretical and historiographical debates around the key concepts of "agency" and "resistance" as they relate to African American lived experience;
  • Analyse the role of black culture in the development of identity and community;
  • Demonstrate their event planning, organisation, and teamwork skills.