Thursday, January 24, 2013


Welcome to the course blog for the undergraduate seminar at George Washington University, "Righting/Writing: Contextualizing 20th Century U.S. Black Freedom Movements." 

Here is the course description:

“Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step.” Amiri Baraka From, “Black Art”

“I call upon you to be maladjusted.” Martin Luther King, Jr. From,  “On the Power of Peaceful Persuasion”

This course has several ambitious aims, but its cornerstone is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of twentieth century U.S. Black Freedom Movements and Liberation struggles in order to provide multiple contexts and pluralize the narratives generally referred to under as the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power. Though, we will primarily study the period of 1955 to 1980, our initial reading of Nikhil Pal Singh's Black Is a Country will allow us to disrupt the dominant periodization of struggles for civil rights and freedom in America. Again this periodic framework will be troubled, through a variety of texts and perspectives. Recent emphasis in scholarship of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements is on the local—grass roots organization and community activism—as well as the international and global connections of Black Americans to Africans and to the African Diaspora. Thus, we will be exploring the meaning of the local and community in specific contexts as well as thinking about the transnational and the meaning of black politics as always global but particularly in the period of rapid decolonization and anti-Imperialism of the mid- to late-twentieth century. In this course we will examine the philosophical underpinnings of black liberation as well as the artistic responses to these philosophies. We will examine the ways that literature and art can in fact produce theory, particularly in relation to the Black Arts Movement and the Black Aesthetic. We will also think in depth about questions of radicalism, activism, community engagement, and social change, particularly in the context of post-WWII American exceptionalism. The class readings sit at the nexus of radical philosophic, religious and intellectual traditions as well as popular and sub-cultures.

This course concludes with an examination of current and ongoing struggles for equality in the U.S. justice system, a movement rooted in 1970s Black radicalism and philosophies of social equality.

You can also follow additional thoughts, links, commentary from the class on Twitter by using the hashtag, #GWEngl3810.

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