Fredrick Douglass famously writes, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” That struggle, for African Americans, has often been managed or mitigated through the solace of music, of song, from spirituals to rhythm and blues. In this course, we will approach this topic by reading and discussing a selection of songs, poetry, prose, drama, and film to determine the targets of African American dissatisfaction, and to understand how assumptions about race can tear the social fabric among and within groups. Related themes include religion, assimilation, gender, and art; and notice how many of our literary readings use or are about music. Students should expect readings to be organized historically by song genre, taking us from the antebellum period to the contemporary period. But we will also move around within periods to see how later authors have written about the past that, in part, defined them. Students should expect to draft essays and reading responses exploring the relationship between music and texts and may read and consider work by Audre Lorde, Sam Cooke, Phyllis Wheatley, Spike Lee, and W.E.B. DuBois, among others.
- Teacher: Nathan McClain