African-American Studies in Critical Perspective

Course Description

This interdisciplinary 19th and 20th century African-American studies course examines the role of protest and resistance, the media, and cultural and artistic expression in African-American history. Vis-a-vis readings, documentaries, and discussion, the course intends to illustrate the multiple ways in which African-Americans have protested and resisted oppression while examining how such efforts have been framed in the media during varying historical eras. It defines 'media' broadly and analyzes its role, both via its traditional forms (print, television and radio) but also vis-à-vis other forms of entertainment/infotainment that were particularly unique to 19th century U.S. society (i.e. minstrelsy [1830-1920]). The course concludes with a discussion of the role of art and culture in refashioning thinking and transforming experience. The latter discussion promises to be rich and thought provoking and unearths some of the works of the raw and revolutionary artists of the 1960s while taking a careful look at novel cultural practices that emerged during this period. The course promises to be stimulating, thoughtful, and fun!

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Course Learning Goals for SCPS Students

After completing this course, you will be able to:

Course Learning Goals for Liberal Arts & Sciences Students

After completing this course, you will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a depth and breadth of historical knowledge of specified content by:

  • Explaining historical developments in terms of continuity and change.
  • Describing the relevant political, economic, social or cultural contexts of historical events and developments.
  • Explaining how people have lived, acted and thought in one or more particular historical periods.
  • 2. Demonstrate historical skills by:

  • Analyzing and evaluate primary and secondary sources.
  • Differentiating between historical facts and historical interpretations.
  • Articulating an historical argument.
  • Supporting an interpretation with evidence from primary and secondary sources.
  • 3. Demonstrate historical thinking by:

  • Articulating how geogrpahy and regional differences affect the past.
  • Interpreting the complexity and diversity among issues, events, and ideas of the past.
  • Distinguishing among multiple perspectives that shape interpretations of the past.
  • Using the categories of race, gender, class, ethnicity, region, and religion to analyze historical events and developments.
  • For SCPS Students: Course Competencies

    In this course, you will develop the following competencies:


    Competence Statement and Criteria


    Can analyze power relationships among racial, social, cultural, or economic groups in the United States.


    Can evaluate the role and impact of mass media or information technology on society.


    Can describe and explain the roles of protest and cultural transformation in African-American history.


    Can assess the assumptions and implications of a significant thinker or tradition in the African-American experience.


    Can understand the connection between factors in society and apply them to a specific field of study.

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    Course Resources

    To buy your books, go to

    Required Reading:

    No textbooks are required for this course. Readings are on electronic reserve in the DePaul Library or available online.


    Bennett Jr., Lerone. (1999). Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, Chicago:
    Johnson Publishing Company., 3-26, 233-258, 357-387.

    Drabble, John. (2008). Fighting Black Power—New Left coalitions: Covert FBI media
    campaigns and American Cultural Discourse, 1967-1971, European Journal of American Culture, 27,  65-79.

    Eyerman, Ron. (2001). Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American
    , New York: Cambridge University Press, 89-101, 110-129, 174-199.

    Herring, Scott. (2007). Du Bois and the Minstrels, MELUS, 22, 3-17.

    Locke, Alain. (1925). Philosopher Defines the “New Negro,” Major Problems in
    African-American History, Vol. II: From Freedom to “Freedom Now,” 1865-1990s, (eds.) Thomas Holt and Elsa Barkley Brown, Boston: Cengage Learning,192-194.

    Mazama, Ama. (2002). Afrocentricity and African Spirituality,”Journal of Black Studies, 33,
    pp. 218-223.

    Peck, Elizabeth. (2001). Kwanzaa: the Making of a Black Nationalist Tradition, 1966-1990, Journal of American Ethnic History, 20, 3-28.

    Sexton, Alexander. (1975). Blackface Minstrelsy and Jacksonian Ideology, American Quarterly, 27, 3-28.

    Twain, Mark. (1959). The Autobiography of Mark Twain, New York: Harper & Brothers, pp. 58-63.

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    Course Grading Scale

    A = 95 to 100

    A- = 91 to 94

    B+ = 88 to 90

    B = 85 to 87

    B- = 81 to 84

    C+ = 77 to 80

    C = 73 to 76

    C- = 69 to 72

    D+ = 65 to 68

    D = 61 to 64

    F = 60 or below


     Please note: Grades lower than a C- do not earn credit or competence in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

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    Course Structure

    This course consists of 10 modules. The estimated time to complete each module is 1 week.

    To see course due dates, click on the Checklist link on the top navigation bar.  This page contains module-specific checklists and due dates for the work due in the course.

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    Week, Module # and Title ReadingsAssignments

    Week 1, Module 1: Thou Art African?

    Mazama, pp. 218-223

    Bennett, chapter 1, pp. 3-26

    1.1 Introduction Discussion

    1.2 African-American Values Discussion


    Week 2, Module 2: Blackface: Minstrelsy, Part I

    Sexton, pp. 3-28.

    Bennett, chapter 9, pp. 233-248

    2.1 Visualizing the Minstrel Era Discussion

    2.2 Minstrelsy's Core (Paper)

    Week 3, Module 3: The Power of Cultural Imagery: Minstrelsy, Part II

    Bennett, chap. 9, pp. 248-258

    Twain, pp. 58-63

    Herring, 3-17

    Video: Ethnic Notions

    3.1 Minstrel Discoveries: What Struck You?

    3.2 Response Paper: DuBois and Minstrelsy

    Week 4, Module 4: Minstrelsy’s Aftermath and Demise

    Boehm Urges Minstrel Ban In Schools NAACP Groups Make Protest Against Shows

    NAACP Protest Results in Danville Minstrel Change


    Birth of a Nation (2 excerpts)

    Bugs Bunny, “Southern Fried Rabbit” (1953)

    Audio: Amos and Andy radio broadcast (1930)

    4.1 Reinforcing Inferiority/Superiority Discussion

    4.2 Competence Papers

    Week 5, Module 5: The Harlem Renaissance

    Locke, pp. 192-194

    Eyerman, pp. 89-101

    Video: "Max Primus on Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston"

    5.1 The Slave Past & Hurston, Hughes, and Garvey

    5.2 Response Paper: Locke Reading

    Week 6, Module 6: Family Life and Financial Resources

    Eyerman, pp. 110-129


    Against the Odds

    "Marcus Garvey, Part 3"

    6.1 Evaluate Art from the Harlem Renaissance

    6.2 The Garvey Movement Discussion

    Week 7 Module 7: Civil Rights Movement 100 Years After Emancipation, Year One: Black Revolution

    Bennett, chapter 12, pp. 357-387


    “NO More: The Children of Birmingham 1963 and the Turning Point of the Civil Rights Movement”

    Children’s involvement in October 22 1963 Chicago Public School protest

    7.1 Media Changes & the Civil Rights Movement Discussion

    7.2 Respond to 2 Questions

    Week 8, Module 8: Civil Rights to Black Power: the Rise of the Masses

    Eyerman, chapter 6, pp. 174-199

    Video Clips:

    Nina Simone

    James Brown

    Muhhamad Ali

    Gil Scott-Heron

    8.1 Your Thoughts? Media/Protest/African-American Culture Discussion

    8.2 Historical Shifts and Collective Identity

    Week 9, Module 9: Diverse Families cont.

    Drabble, 65-79

    Elizabeth. Peck, 3-28


    Huey P. Newton

    Ama Mazama

    9.1 Connecting the Dots Discussion

    Week 10, Module 10: Final Thoughts


    10.1 Art, poem, relevant quote, musical selection, photograph or video clip and a counter discussion

    10.2 Final Paper Due

    To see course due dates, click on the Checklist link on the top navigation bar. This page contains module-specific checklists and due dates for the work due in the course.

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    Assessment of Learning

    Grading Policies and Practices

    To complete the course, you must complete each of the assignments as described in the course and submit them to your instructor by the assigned deadline. In addition, you must participate in the course discussion forum by responding to all instructor requests and by interacting with fellow classmates as necessary.

    Points are deducted for late work.

    Percentage distribution of Assessments

    Grading Category:

    % of Final Grade:



    Dropbox Assignments


    Competence Paper


    Final Paper




    All writing assignments are expected to conform to basic college-level standards of mechanics and presentation.

    Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as-needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback-by-Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

    Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email. Obviously, the tutors won't necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

    Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you'll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit

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    Discussion Forums

    Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Course Expectations" in the syllabus.

    A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask ‘process’ questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students.

    Assessment Criteria for Online Discussion Participation

    In the online discussions you clearly and consistently link what you are learning in the course to your real life experiences.

    Specifically, in order to receive credit for your participation in the online discussion parts of the course it is important that:

    Online Participation Guidelines

    The following guidelines may encourage you to be active and critical in your participation, only together we will make this course a significant and pleasant learning experience:

    Some difficulties at the beginning of an online course are quite normal; solving them is part of every distance learning experience.

    Course Policies

    College and University Policies

    This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

    Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

    Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

    Incomplete Policy

    Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

    Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

    Protection of Human Research Participants

    APA citation format (GRAD)

    Additional Course Resources

    University Center for Writing-based Learning

    SNL Writing Guide

    Dean of Students Office

    Changes to Syllabus

    This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


    This course was designed and produced by Nancy Davis, Ph.D. and staff at SCPS, School of Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University.

    ©2014 School of Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS during contractual interval with the Author.
    Printed in the USA.