African American Studies 140a
Introduction to African American Studies

Charles I. Nero, Ph.D
Pettigrew 303
Office Hours:
WF 9:00-11:00 a.m. W 3:00-4:00 p.m


Cathy J. Cohen, The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks (On Line)

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, Black Wealth, White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality

Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (On Line)

Additional Readings, Films, and Music on reserve and available on-line


15% Midterm Exam

20% Debate and Paper

20% Final Exam

20% Summaries

10% Attend two Bates sponsored lectures that are relevant to African American Studies

10% Attend two public debates by the Bates Brooks Quimby Debate Team

5% Class Participation

Debate/Paper Grade
Each individual student turns in a paper. In the paper you should describe your primary role in the group. You should identify the research (television/radio programs, internet, interviews, books, scholarly essays, newspaper articles, etc.) that you did. You should explain clearly the relationship between your research and 1) your portion of the debate and 2) your group's effort. Finally, you should account for your own opinion in the process. For example, what opinion did you have at the beginning of the project and at the end? Account for why your opinion changed or remained the same (e.g., none of the writings you read were persuasive, or you interviewed an incarcerated person and developed new opinions about inmates).

We are reading two (2) book length studies: Oliver and Shapiro's Black Wealth/White Wealth and Cathy Cohen's The Boundaries of Blackness. You should prepare a short summary of each chapter of no more than 100 words. The summary should identify the thesis for each chapter and the main ideas that support the thesis. These summaries are due at the beginning of the class on which the reading assignment is scheduled. Late papers will not be accepted for a grade.

Public Lectures and Debates
You must attend two public lectures and two debates. The public lectures should be relevant to African American Studies. You should turn in a typed paper about each presentation. The paper must contain the following: identify the speaker(s)/presenter(s); her or his relevant biographical data (for public lectures); the topic of the presentation; the main ideas; and your reaction to the event. If it is a debate, you should also identify the winners and state whether or not you agree with the decision.

Attendance is taken in each class. Students who miss more than 15% of the classes may, at the discretion of the professors, be dropped from the course or receive a percentage grade down from the final GPA.

Course Objectives

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of African American Studies by examining four persistent themes in African American culture: fragmentation, exclusion, resistance, and community. At the conclusion of the course, students should be able to
a) Give concrete examples of each of these four themes.
b) Explain how accommodation and direct action are consistent features of African American activism for social justice and equality.
c) Give examples about how gender, sexual orientation, and class interact with race.
d) Explain differences between consensus and cross-cutting political strategies.
e) Discuss why race still matters in determining life experiences and material outcomes in the United States.
f) Discuss indigenous strategies for achieving economic and social equality.
g) Explore the tensions produced by calls for action and fragmentation in U.S. black communities.
h) Discuss the relationship between activism and scholarship.
i) See the need for continued activism around issues of inequality and race.
j) Engage in the practical art of debate

Week 1

W 9/3 Course Introduction

For the next class view The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Some Significant Dates in Black American History

F 9/5 Booker T. Washington
View Film in Class
Begin reading Up From Slavery

Week 2

M 9.8
Up From Slavery

W 9.10
View Film: Ida B. Wells: A Passion For Justice
Please View Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

F 9.12
Ida Wells,
Southern Horrors: Lynch Law


Week 3

View in class Louis Massiah, W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices

W. E. B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk

Souls of Black Folk


Week 4
Oliver and Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth, Chs. 1&2



Week 5

Karla F. C. Holloway,
"Who's Got the Body?" from Passed On: African American Mourning Stories

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Week 6
Raisin, cont.

Raisin, cont.

Du Bois Symposium
No Scheduled Class

Week 7
Mid-Term Exam

Fall Recess-No Class

Fall Recess-No Class


Week 8
Angela Davis, "Race and Criminalization"

The Sentencing Project

Debate 1

Cathy Cohen, The Boundaries of Blackness


Weeks 9 & 10





Marlon Riggs, Black Is . . . Black Ain't


Week 11
Riggs, cont.

BlackCommunities, HIV/AIDS, and "The Down Low Phenomenon." View The Living Down Low website

Debate 2


Week 12

Debate 3

Course Wrap-Up
Reading Week 12.3 12.5

Final Exam: Thursday 10:30 a.m.