SOCS 636
The Study of Black Folks: African American Studies Then and Now

Ashraf Rushdy                 

Course Description

In this course, we will look at a series of texts that help us define the origins of and the most recent developments in African American Studies.  In the first half of the course, we will begin by looking carefully at what is usually considered the formative text in the study of Black life and culture – DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk – and then move on to explore the ways that African American history can be differently viewed through the lenses of Black women’s experiences, working class lives, and the law.  We will then examine how institutionalized academics (at Howard University) and organic intellectuals (Black women singing the blues) expressed and interpreted the contested terrain of “Black culture” in the first half of the twentieth century.  We will conclude the course by reading a series of books in the disciplines of various social sciences, including economics, public policy studies, anthropology, Women’s Studies, and critical race theory.

Required Texts

Carnoy, Martin, Faded Dreams: The Politics and Economics of Race in America (Cambridge, UP, 1996)

Crenshaw, Kimberlé, et. al., Eds., Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Inspired the Movement (New Press, 1995)

Davis, Angela Y., Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (Vintage, 1999)

DuBois, W.E.B., Writings (Library of America, 1987)

Goldfield, Michael, The Color of Politics: Race and the Mainsprings of American Politics (The New Press, 1997)

Gordon-Reed, Annette, Ed., Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (Oxford UP, 2002)

Hine, Darlene Clark, and Kathleen Thompson, A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America (Broadway Books, 1998)

Holloway, Jonathan Scott, Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris, Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941 (U of North Carolina P, 2002)

Mullings, Leith, On Our Own Terms: Race, Class, and Gender in the Lives of African American Women (Routledge, 1997)

Scott, Daryl Michael, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996 (U of North Carolina, 1997) 

Optional Texts (almost all available at Broad Street Books)

Marable, Manning, Ed., The New Black Renaissance (Paradigm, 2005)

Grade Distribution

Your final grade will be based on several factors: a consideration of the overall achievement and degree of improvement over the course of the marked essays, attendance, and participation. I will mark and grade your papers, using the standard A-F grading mode.   


Paper # 1 - 4 typed, double-spaced pages (max. 1000 words)
                        -due October 30 @ 4:00 p.m. in CAAS

Paper # 2 - 4 typed, double-spaced pages (max. 1000 words)
                        -due November 13 @ 4:00 p.m. in CAAS

Paper # 3 - 8 typed, double-spaced pages (max. 3000 words)
                        -due December 6 @ 4:00 p.m. in CAAS

Course Schedule
September 11

Origins of Black Studies:                                               
DuBois, Souls of Black Folk in Writings, pp. 359-547

September 18

History Survey I: Women
Hine and Thompson, A Shining Thread of Hope

September 25

History Survey II: Class, Politics, Racism                                             
Goldfield, The Color of Politics

October 2

History Survey III: Legal Studies                                               
Gordon-Reed, Race on Trial

October 9

The Social Sciences and Academic Intellectuals                                               
Holloway, Confronting the Veil

October 16 Fall Break - No Class
October 23

The Blues and Organic Intellectuals                                               
Davis, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism

October 30

Economics and Politics                                               
Carnoy, Faded Dreams

November 6

Social Science and Social Policy                                               
Scott, Contempt and Pity

November 13

Critical Race Theory                                               
Crenshaw, et. al., Eds., Critical Race Theory    

November 20 Thanksgiving - No Class
November 27

Anthropology and Women’s Studies                                               
Mullings, On Our Own Terms

December 4 Conclusion