English N1A

Reading & Composition: Black Radical Thought, From David Walker to Kendrick Lamar

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Summer 2017 Muhammad, Ismail
MW 12-2 Dwinelle 225 Reading and Composition

Book List

Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Dubois, W.E.B.: Souls of Black Folk; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of of a Slave Girl; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen

Other Readings and Media

Film:  Khalil Joseph, "Until the Quiet Comes" (Short film, 2012); Khalil Joseph, "m.A.A.d. City" (Short film, 2014); Kendrick Lamar, "Alright" (Music video, 2015); Beyoncé, "Lemonade" (Short film/Music video, 2016)

Music:  Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

A course reader, including short texts by David Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, LeRoi Jones/ Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Mackey, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be provided.


In this course, we'll consider the origins and concerns of a radical African American intellectual tradition. Working with a variety of texts, including slave narratives, poetry, music, and film, we'll trace the debates that structure black radical thought, with special attention to the political and social concerns that occasion such thought. What constitutes a distinctly African American tradition of political and social discourse? In what ways is this tradition central to the history of American democratic politics? How does it diverge from such politics in search of more utopian possibilities? What is this tradition's relationshop to American capitalism? How do these texts articulate "blackness" while shying away from essentialist identity politics? How and why do conceptions of race/racism intersect with gender/sexuality? What is the connection between blackness and queer or otherwise non-normative gender/sexual identities? What has changed in American life as a result of black radical thought? What issues persist despite it?

Throughout the semester, you will be working to find and improve your voice as both a critical and creative writer. Through two essays and a weekly reading journal that tracks your experience as a racial subject, we will hone skills like sentence craft, effective argumentation, and critical thinking.

This 3-unit course will be taught in Session C, from June 19 to August 9.

Back to Semester List