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The African Diaspora in the Americas: Constructing Identity

The syllabus is a conceptual and thematic exploration of the forces that have shaped African-Diasporic identities and communities in the Americas and parts of Western Europe after Emancipation and during the 20th century. The comparative approach that the course adopts also exposes students to common issues that descendants of enslaved Africans in various parts of the Americas and Western Europe have confronted in their attempts to construct Africa-Diasporic identities. Students will leave the course with a deeper appreciation of the commonalities and divergences between various African-Diasporic populations in the Americas and Western Europe today. Professor Linda Heywood Boston University Visit the PDF version of the African Diaspora in the Americas: Constructing Identity to access the full syllabus.

Herb Boyd, “Black Detroit”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDbBaeSf1s4 Author and activist Herb Boyd provides a history of African-Americans in Detroit; from the Great Migration to today. He’s joined in conversation by Rita Kiki Edozie, professor of international relations and African affairs at Michigan State University

On this Veteran’s Day, What to Black People is the National Anthem?

By Lisa Brock, Academic Director, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership and Senior Editor, Praxis Center

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, the prolific abolitionist, delivered his now famous 2000-word speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” His purpose was to illustrate the illogicality of US patriotism—that the values of freedom, liberty and the rights of citizenship for some Americans occurred alongside, and in dialectical relation to the obscene system of enslavement, exploitation, and torture of others. When Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the national anthem during the football preseason in August 2016, then took a knee during the anthem a few weeks later to protest police violence, he was making the same point; that there is a speciousness to a song meant to uplift some while being sinisterly imbued with a currency of inequality and state violence against others.

“What to the Slave is 4th of July?”

https://youtu.be/4Vx8cuCGhaU “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”

Passing Strange: Racial Crossings and the Construction of Identity in America.

In this class we will interrogate narratives of racial passing in a variety of forms. These narratives raise questions about the construction, reinforcement and subversion of racial categories. There is a rich trove of literature focused on passing within African American literature alongside many examples in the 20th century of narratives focused on ethnic masquerade and cultural assimilation.  In essence, if individuals can undetectably pass through social boundaries meant to keep them out, then the very act of passing calls into question the nature both of the boundaries and of the categories they delineate.  This course uses the paradigm of “passing” to examine notions of race (as well as gender, sexuality and class)to illustrate how those categories are produced. Using fiction, history and film we will endeavor to get a deeper understanding of the category we call race. Visit the PDF version of Passing Strange: Racial Crossings and the Construction…

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