This course is an introduction to the discipline of Africana Studies—a discipline which constitutes the contemporary arc of an extensive tradition of Africans Studying. This means intellectual work approached under this umbrage denotes the active, living, genealogy of African deep thought. Here we study, trace, and enliven the certain “ideals of life” that African people have contributed to the world in order to illuminate not only where humanity has been, but where it might go. Clearly, such a discussion must include African and African descended people, but it must also be approached on their own cultural terms. The latter is what separates Africana Studies as a discrete knowledge complex, by emphatically employing and recognizing its distinct intellectual genealogy, its organizing logic, and its unique methodologies for extracting meaning from existence. Such techniques recognize the cultural unity of Africa, while understanding its improvisational nature, with an eye toward (re)establishing African ideas as a point of departure for understanding all phenomena. From this orientation, this course will examine the lives of a number of recognizable thinkers of African descent involved in the reclamation of African humanity in the face of the hegemony of European modernity—or the contemporary the tradition of Africans Studying. We will explore the explosion of this conversation in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States (though it was neither begun at this point nor not limited to the US) leading to the birth of Black Studies departments in 1968.
Ground Rules of African Intellectual Work:
Our intellectual space will be governed largely by a set of guidelines that seek to recreate safe spaces to engage Africana thought and relevant discourse and scholarly productions that are enlivened by its centrality. These rules were developed by educators associated with the Freedom Schools in 2003, and are in use in a number of courses/programs throughout the world. They are:
BIONDI, MARTHA. The Black Revolution on Campus. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.
HOLLOWAY, JONATHAN SCOTT. Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris, Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph J. Bunche, 1919-1941. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2002.
KELLEY, ROBIN D.G. AND EARL LEWIS, eds. To Make Our World Anew: Volume Two: A History of African Americans since 1880. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
NORMENT, JR., NATHANIEL, ed. The African American Studies Reader. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007.
Instructional Methods and Tools:
Course Requirements and Evaluation:
Mbongi Forms (20) (20 pts.)
The term “mbongi” is from the Kongo group of West Central Africa and means literally, “house without rooms.” In traditional Bantu societies, the mbongi (or boko, lusanga, yemba, and/or kioto) is the center for the study of cultural and social issues. Our meetings every week will constitute such a space, where engagement with Africana is open and free. Our “house without rooms” will for our time together be our encounter with the course materials. Students will be required to complete weekly Mbongi forms in order to gauge their engagement with the reading material and classroom experience. These forms will also serve as a way to provide feedback to the instructor in terms of course content, questions, etc. They essentially serve the purpose of gauging your classroom participation, and should be completed during or immediately after our class period. These must be turned in at the end of class each session. Please see the appendix for the sample form.
Review Essays (2) (30 pts. total)
For this assignment you will produce two original reviews of the required texts (i.e. Biondi’s and Holloway’s books) for this class. The objective of your essay will be to develop an analysis around the impact, relevance, and continued importance of one or more ideas (concepts) advanced in each text. This review should consist of an 1) introduction of your essay, inclusive of a coherent thesis statement, followed by 2) a summary and reconstruction of the author’s use of the concept you are reviewing and analyzing, 3) a series of paragraphs that discuss its impact and relevance within the context of outside scholarship and world events, and 4) a conclusion which outlines implications for further research. You will be judged on your ability to construct a thesis and your ability to support that argument. For example, you may want to argue that one of the texts, in that it shows that racial oppression was a factor in academia in the 1940s, helps us better understand the impact of race today. Whatever idea you choose to focus upon, you must first show that it is garnered from the text, by reconstructing the author’s presentation of it, and then using outside sources, provide support for your contentions. I expect no less than five additional sources (books, scholarly articles, and magazine/newspaper articles will be given the highest weight) for these essays. The essays should be 8-10 pages in length. If you are unsure about a topic idea or want to discuss your essays with me, you are welcome to do so. I also encourage utilizing the resources of the Writing Center (Locke Hall, first floor). Please see the Writing Rubric below for more details on how you will be evaluated and for formatting guidelines.
Confronting the Veil Essay – October 22, 2014
The Black Revolution on Campus Essay- December 4, 2014
E-185 Library Project (20 pts.)
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and American Studies at Duke University, recently wrote a short blog piece about his experiences of being immersed in the collected resources of “The Black Section.” E-185 is the Library of Congress catalog section for sources related to the African American experience. Neal’s blog post showed that before there were search engines, e-resources, and other technological advances, one had to spend considerable time in the stacks. For him and many others of earlier generations, one’s consciousness and awareness of an extended intellectual tradition began in these sorts of spaces. Here at Howard, we are blessed to house a major repository of the important conversations that have been had around the broad Africana experience in both the world-renowned Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and among the stacks in Founders Library, as well as other libraries, not to mention the walking libraries (elders). This project will introduce you to the wide array of ideas, experiences, and wisdom found within the stacks of E-185 (as well as other sections) of the library. It is aimed at orienting you to the world of library research. It may be completed in groups.
The first option requires you to complete the following activities: