Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

AAAS 300 : Survey in African Studies Summer 2014: Home

Sankofa Bird

Sankofa Bird Image from MSU AAAS program.

Sankofa Bird Image

The Sankofa bird is an African symbol that represents remembering one’s history, ancestors, and roots.


Class instructor : Maria Martin

The utility of African and African American Studies, in my humble opinion, is to reconnect the scattered masses of African descendants throughout the “Black World” and to reconstruct their unique and distinct experiences away from the hegemonic gaze of Western and European discourses, methodologies, and ideologies.  It is about stripping away the years of erroneous information to shed light on the true depth, beauty, strength, intellectuality, and complexity of African descended populations the world over.   Source :The Emerging Black Studies Scholar : An MSU-AAAS Newsleter #4.

African American Studies Research Guide

For more information about African American Studies, visit the African American Studies Research Guide.

Module 0 : Introductions to Oral storytelling

Module 0:  Introductions to Oral storytelling (Tiffany)

“It’s only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior…” Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah


The Griot, from the Bambara of Mali, arises as one of the African storytellers, who uses music and words to spread the history, culture, and ethics of the people-known as the living archive for the people’s tradition. Listen to the journey of the African story, hear the drums of the people far and wide communicate a beat of liberation. The Mande of West Africa believed the word or Nyama could control nature through the stars and motion the sea.  A narrative told by the people, bearers of the tradition, who lived and ruled in great kingdoms, created beautiful art, fought continuously for their freedom! Where does Black or Africana Studies come from? The word...the stories...that were first kept only for the people to hear about...Oral storytelling, we are the orators and it is rooted in African traditions. But now, we will reveal to you the rich global African culture, full of diversity...and words...spoken from the people...the people...We are here to learn Race, African Antiquity, African Diaspora, Slave Trade, Pop Culture, Black Liberation Movements, Gender, and Aesthetics. You will become a bearer of the African Tradition as you partake in interviews, online discussions, and scholarly responses...You will be given the power to speak about the African experience...can you handle the word?


Remember: “Stories are important sources of information for the community researcher — they encapsulate attitudes and beliefs, wisdom and knowledge that lie at the heart of a person’s identity and experience.” Folk Life And Oral History Interview Guide

~African Music: A People’s Art ...Bebey, Bennet, Francis


Discuss the importance of oral storytelling and how it relates to this course


Resources for the description and story



Examples of Story Tellers


More resources:

The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide.

A Technique for Self-Reflection : Video Recording by Jordan Catapana from

Module 1 : What is African Studies? (Lead - Michael)

Glossery: Pan- Africanism, Scholar - Activist, Ma’at, Long Black Student Movement, National Council for Black Studies, Diaspora, Eurocentrism, Africology, Black University


Outline Flow

  • INTRODUCTION: Cornell University and SFSU Protests

Cornell Straight 5.jpgSfsu Don McAllister Bloody Tuesday.jpg


The image on the left is a part of a series of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of the Willard Straight Hall take over by members of the student ran Afro American Society at Cornell University in April 1969. The image on the right is of Don McAllister, who was beaten and arrested by police, during a protest remembered as  “Bloody Tuesday” in December 1968 at San Francisco State University. Though generally associated with activism during the Black Power Era, it was the events surrounding these images that were directly and specifically responsible for the development of the first Black Studies programs across the country.


  • Intellectual Precursors: Black Philosophers and Black Studies:

    • Black Studies was birthed out of what Maulana Karenga calls the “activist Intellectual tradition” in African culture.  Since the 19th century scholar- activists have been laying philosophical foundations for the development of Black Studies as a discipline. They include scholars such as Frederick A. Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Zora Neale Hruston, Malcolm X and Cater G. Woodson. Woodson, who was also the founder of Black History Month stated… (quote from CGW via African Mosaic : The African American Experience). Through the Universal Negro Improvement Association,  anti- lynching campaigns, published literary works and slave narratives , or The Nation of Islam, these scholars used diverse means to developed work which sought to sought to: vindicate Black people by disrupting white supremacist myths and stereotypes that were used to reinforce oppression; reposition Black people at the center of study as subjects rather than peripheral objects of inquiry; and to develop action oriented scholarship that not just intellectually liberates, but through truth and justice, economically and politically liberates Black people throughout the world. This unification of Black people can be seen in the Pan African philosophy of Dubois and Garvey, who developed the United Negro Improvement Association.

    • Learn more about the people mentioned in this section.   Visit the African Mosaic : the African American Experience.  Copy and paste the individual's name into the search box and see what you retrieve.

    • More information about Black Studies.


  • Long Black Student Movement: Pre 1960’s Campus Protest

    • This form of scholar activism crossed over into college campuses across the country in the form of what Ibram Rogers calls the “Long Black Student Movement” taking place from 1919 - 1972. Black students on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges  (HBCU’s) and Predominantly white Institutions (PWI), frequently mobilized in unique ways to voice their concerns  about the treatment of students and the overall campus environment. HBCU’s frequently ordered their students to sing negro spirituals for entertainment and to raise money from white philanthropists who, according to Rogers, “harkened back to the good old days of slavery.” Resenting this in the 1920’s civil rights leader Ella Baker, who was a student at Shaw University, refused to sing negro spirituals because it felt degrading. Due to the low retention rate at Cornell University, in 1906 the Black students mobilized to form Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated: the nation's first African American intercollegiate greek letter organization.  

    • During the early 20th century, events like the Great Migration and the New Negro movement inspired Black intellectuals, such as W.E.B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells and Carter G.Woodson, began to produce scholarship challenging many of racisms and biases found in 19th and 20th century literature. As a result, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915.   In 1926, Woodson launched Negro History Week, which became Black History month in 1976.   Campuses across the country began developing literary groups and courses on Black History, Black Sociology and Black literature and political thought which centered the Black cultural experiences. For example in 1918, Howard University developed courses titled “The Race Problem” and “The Negro in American History.”

    • While these revolutionary movements aided in the increase in black student enrollment in Black and white campuses across the country, they also sparked violent clashes between students, administration and police. As a result of racial restrictions, isolation and even acts of violence, campuses began to form Black sociocultural student groups such as the Afro American Society and the Negro Students Club. By hosting dances, reading groups and lectures, schools like UC Berkeley and San Francisco State College developed these organizations to alleviate and abolish negative campus conditions impacting black students. As we can see, Black student mobilization and activism spens back to 1920’s and can be seen as inspirational precursors to the campus movements of the 1960’s.


  • 1960’s Black Campus Movement: Black Student Organizations, the Black University and Black Studies

    • The 1960’s witnessed the height of the Black campus movement. The major events or thrusts that help the Black Campus Movement and the development of Black Studies were: The Civil Rights Movement; Free Speech Movement; Anti- War Movement; and Black Power Movement. Many of these Black Student Organizations, like Cornell's Afro American Society and San Francisco State Colleges Black Student Union, became more politicized against university and government policy, and began to actively resist  the violent racist treatment on college campus throughout the country. However, as students mobilized to assert their rights, both the campus and police responded with violence. Events like “Bloody Tuesday” did not happen solely on white campuses. For example, on May 15, 1970 police and National Guadsman responded to campus protests and riots at Jackson State College; a Historically Black College in Jackson Mississippi. Armed with carbines, submachine guns and shotguns, over 450 rounds were fired into Alexander Hall, Killing two students and injuring many more. Events like these illustrated the the Black Student Movement was more than a battle for academic and intellectual survival, they were battles for the right for Black students to live on campuses around the country.

    • The 1960’s thrust of the development of Black Studies programs is largely in part due the students at San Fransisco State College, now San Fransisco State University. In 1966, students set up the Expermimental College that was dedicated to community engagement and service in addition to petitioning for an official autonomous department on the colleges campus. Students were committed to increasing the enrollment of blacks students and faculty on campus. With the help of Black Studies Coordinator Dr. Nathan Hare, a “Black University Manifesto” was developed, that called for classes that centered the Black experiences, the training of conscious Black students were intellectually prepared to address their communities specific needs. Students not only mobilized a strike that resulted in six month shutdown of the  entire campus, on March 20, 1969 they were successful in establishing the nations frist Black Studies program and department.  


  • Naming, NCBS and objectives

    • Autonomy and self determination are key elements in the development of Black Studies and this can be seen in both the naming of Black Studies Departments and within the mission and objectives of the National Council for Black Studies. Departments vary in name from Black Studies, which some argue represents the more politicized aspects of the BSM and scholar activist discourse and tends to focus on Black experience in America. Other departments are titled Africana Studies or African and African American Studies which aligns with a diasporan approach and includes Africa in studying the Black experience. While other departments use Africology which… Regardless of the name, As Terry Kershaw the head of African and African American Studies ad the University of Cincinati states, the two connecting factors  that you always see is that all of these programs and departments are problem posing and problem solving. Problem posing by identifying issues that specifically and uniquely impact black communities, and problem solving by correcting Eurocentric and racially biased research on African peoples or developing racially conscious scholars who have both a pride and commitment to their communities development.

    • The National Council for Black Studies is the Authoritative voice  and leading professional organization for African American Studies departments across the country. Every year conventions are held where students, scholars, activists and faculty develop workshops and panels that put theory into practice and shows the disciplines commitment to academic excellence and social responsibility. Like the objectives of the student organizations during the BSM the objectives on NCBS inlcude:

      • facilitation of the recruitment of Black Scholars in all levels of teaching and research

      • create multi-cultural educational programs and materials for K - 12 schools

      • Increase and improve resourses on Pan African culture made available to the general public

      • Provide professional advice to policy makers

      • Maintain linkages among Africana Studies scholars

      • work for the empowerment of African people.

The empowerment of African people is the basis of the entire Black Student movement. Empowering both students and the community, the development of Black Studies programs showed both an intellectual and physical commitment for the advancement of social justice for Africans throughout the world. Whether through, conventions, courses, protests and campus take-overs, the scholar activist in Black Studies showed a commitment that is arguably not present in any other academic discipline. Additionally, this mobilization set the stage for the development of Latin American, Chicano and Native American Studies programs. Franz Fanon Quote on National Consciousness:


Module 2 : The Importance of Race (Lead - Michael)

As a social construction, race is defined as a classification system that categorizes or groups human populations by ethnicity, culture, geography, religion and language. However, the origin of race was based on the myth of biological determinism, giving distinct inherent physical and intellectual traits to those classified as Black/ Negro/ African or White/ Caucasian/ European.  As a biological construction it was used as justification for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Colonialism in Africa and Segregation laws in the United States. It is important to critically engage in the historical evolution of race and racism to uncover the underlying social, economic, and political conditions that disproportionately channel advantages and opportunities to certain groups, while systematically disenfranchising others. Also this analysis will allow to see how these mythical beliefs are currently maintained through popular culture which, even today, have real life consequences.


  • Objectives -

    • Compare and contrast race as both a social and biological construct through its invention and historical evolution

    • Identify and explain how race and racism was used as a means to systematically distribute power and privilege to certain groups of people through the subjugation of others.

    • Explain how popular culture and mass media currently uses stereotypes to reinforce historic beliefs of race

    • Discuss the psychological effects of racism and the different ways people internalize stereotypes

    • say something about Afrocentrism


  • Lecture - The myth of Race as a biological construction. Civilizing the primitive and using Race as justification for the Trans-Atlantic Slave and Colonialism.  Racial purity and the Eugenics movement.  Racializing law and violence in the United States through Jim Crow segregation and lynching. Stereotypes, minstrel shows and the development of racial myths in popular culture.  How people internalize racism from Eurocentrism to internalized oppression. The development of Afrocentrism as a counter narratives to Eurocentric scholarship.



Additional Resources



Does RACE still matter?


Part 1:

Imagine that you are in a conversation with someone about recent events in the news and the Black Lives Matter campaign or the protests around the nation are mentioned.  Your friend tells you that racism is a thing of the past because “we have a Black president for cryin out loud” and  “those people who were harmed by police should have simply obeyed and things would have turned out better for them.  Another thing is that if they dressed differently and looked less intimidating maybe they would not even be looked at as a potential problem. The fault is their own.

Using this week’s readings and videos write a dialogue between you and your friend where you define race for your friend and give him/her a brief summary of the origins of idea of race. Also help them to consider that notions of race are embedded in social thought and perpetuated through stereotypes displayed in various media outlets and the impact you think this phenomenon has on how people view Blacks in society today. Be sure to respond to your friend’s notion that “racism is a thing of the past” by arguing that there are social, political, and educational, etc. implications of race experienced by people of color that others do not experience. You may write your dialogue and act it out with a friend and video tape it or just turn in the written copy. IF you do the video you still need to send in the written copy.

Part 2:

Below is a video commentary on the recent Baltimore protests over the murder of Freddie Gray. What are identified as underlying factors of civil unrest by Representative Cummings? Does race play a role in the creation of these factors? Explain your answer. Look at the video and write a reflective essay on your opinion of the importance of race and whether it has had an impact or played a significant role in the recent uprisings of Black people around the US and the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Part 3:

Below are two videos about police brutality and one blog post about the portrayal of Black protesters in the media. The first video is from Malcolm X and the second is from a community organizer,Deray McKesson, in Baltimore. What are some of the similarities in these two videos? Also what is identified as a means of invalidating Black protests of injustices and justifying the use of excessive force? How are the Black victims characterized in the media according to the blog post?

Module 3 : African Antiquity (Lead - Maria)

African cultures in north and west Africa


There were African Diasporas in Greece, Asia, and arguably in America.  Africans were pivotal players in important international relations in the ancient Mediterranean.  They founded strong states and empires, contributed much to the intellectual traditions of antiquity, and were autonomous beings. It is imperative to look into antiquity to create a sense awareness about African people and identity pre-colonialis/slave trade.  Also the roles of women varied from society to society but were more diverse in Africa than some other places in the ancient world.  We will discuss the significance of a historical reference point to current day Black Studies and perceptions of Blackness.


  • Objectives - Measurable, defined, simple steps, and specific. Objectives contribute to the fulfillment of specified course goals.

    • Analyze the intellectual traditions of African Contributions to other societies through readings, artifacts, and art.  

    • Formulate examples of some different migrations of African people outside of slavery.  

    • Discuss the contributions of the pre-colonial African diasporas especially in America and Greece

    • Assess notions of womanhood in african societies.

    • Interrogate the relevance of ancient African history to Black Studies today  





  • Lecture - Interconnectivity of Africans with the ancient Mediterranean.  Their interaction with Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and the rich trade between them and cultures in Asia.  Also movements of African people throughout the Mediterranean to Europe and Asia pre-slave trade (Indian Ocean or Atlantic).  Contributions of Egypt to science, medicine, architecture, math and to Greek cultures.   Early exploration of African people in the Americas and the evidence in Latin America. Empires of Songhay, Mali, Timbuktu.  Numidia and the founding of the Roman empire.  Pre-colonial status of women in select countries.


  • The African origin of civilization: myth or reality / Cheikh Anta Diop. Translated from the French by Mercer Cook.  New York, L. Hill [1974]  317pp.  DT61 .D5613 : A book by Cheikh Anta Diop, a Senegalese Egyptologist. It makes the case that both mankind and civilization started with black people. It argues that Ancient Egypt was largely Black African in race and culture during the first 2,000 years of its civilization.     ; More information about this book.
  • Precolonial Black Africa : a comparative study of the political and social systems of Europe and Black Africa, from antiquity to the formation of modern states / Cheikh Anta Diop ; translated from the French by Harold J. Salemson.  Westport, Conn. : L. Hill, c1987.  240pp .  JQ1872 .D5613 1987  Online : A comparison of the political and social systems of Europe and black Africa from antiquity to the formation of modern states that demonstrates the black contribution to the development of Western civilization.
  • Problems in African history : the precolonial centuries / edited by Robert O. Collins and Ruth Lyob.  Princeton, New Jersey : Markus Wiener Publishers, 2014.  4th edition. ; In process. : Covering the major problems in the field, this text offers the full spectrum of emotionally charged theories, presenting conflicting arguments that illustrate the ongoing debates on what are controversial issues, such as the origins of African history & Africa's contributions to a non-Western world history.
  • The world and Africa / by W. E. B. Du Bois ; new introd. by Herbert Aptheker.  Millwood, N.Y. : Kraus-Thomson Organization, 1976.  352pp.  DT21 .D8 1976
  • Africa and Africans in antiquity / edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi  .East Lansing : Michigan State University Press, c2001.324pp.  DT24 .A38 2001 : Africa and Africans in Antiquity assesses recent historical research and archaeology under way in Egypt, North Africa, the Sudan, and the Horn of Africa. Whereas many European and American scholars of earlier generations believed that Egyptian contacts with Africa to the south were not culturally significant, research contained in this important collection rejects such notions. At the same time, the volume takes issue with Afrocentric scholars who argue that most Egyptians were 'black' and that blacks are the rightful heirs to Egypt's past grandeur. These ten thought-provoking essays demonstrate that this large region was an ethnic and cultural mosaic in antiquity, a place where Phoenicians, Berbers, Greeks, as well as Egyptians and Nubians interacted.



  • Assignment/Activity:

    • Interview Questions:  Construct interview questions that interrogates a person’s perception of Blackness.  What do they think about Africa and its people, history, contributions to the world, etc.  What types of ideas and images do they associate with Africa?  Take time to ask yourself these questions prior to the module as well.  Then after the module ask yourself those questions again.  Compare and contrast your answers and your interviewees answers to what you now know.  Are your answers the same?` If not, what has changed? Why? What, if any, types of biases do you see in both sets of answers? Are there any noticeable discrepancies or stereotypes between your previous answers and your second set of answers?  What was the most interesting thing that you learned about Africa and Africans in antiquity?


    • Discussion Group:  Take it further and look at the ways in which Africa is portrayed in the media.   What is said about political, social, or economic circumstances in Africa?   ;Is there another side to the story? (Have them find videos, stories, songs, clips, cartoons, photos that present negative images of Africa and use these to uncover the historical significance of ghettoizing Africa)

      • respond to at least two classmates


  • Sharing their Story:  Then ask them to write a 2pg. reflection essay on why you think it is important to know African history before the slave trade?  How could this impact contemporary views of Africa?  Are there any implications as to combating ideals of African/Black inferiority?   


Module 4 - Legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Diaspora (Lead - Michael)

Spanning from the 15th - 19th Century, the Transatlantic Slave Trade serves as the most traumatic event in the African historical record. By tracing the origins, development and European expansion of trading enslaved Africans, this module will highlight how Imperialism impacted the economic growth of European countries, while  serving as a foundation for Africa’s systematic underdevelopment through exploitation and dispersal of Africans throughout the world. This analysis will also provide insight to ways the transatlantic slave trade contributed to the establishment of colonization via the Berlin Conference.

  • Objectives

    • Identify and explain factors that contributed to the development of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

    • Compare and contrast Intra- African, Trans- Saharan and European Slave trading systems.

    • Analyze how the Transatlantic Slave Trade impacted development of the African continent.

    • Discuss different ways Africans throughout the Diaspora resisted Enslavement

  • Lecture - The Intra-African slave trade and how slavery was practiced on the Continent. European interest in Africa and creation of the slave economy. Discussing the notion of African collaborators and victims. Contextualizing the triangular  trade and the major countries involved. The middle passage, seasoning process and the creation of the slave community through narratives. How enslaved Africans resisted: Slave ship mutinies, revolts, escape and day  to day resistance. The price for freedom: how the slave economy and liberation impacted Africa and the diaspora from depopulation to economic underdevelopment.

  • Readings/Videos

    • Slave Narratives - Olaudah Equiano (YouTube)

    • Slave Narratives - Mary Prince (YouTube)

    • Celia, A Slave by Melton A. McLaurin.  Melton Alonza McLaurin has written a definitive account of Celia, and what happened to her (both before, and after, the murder of Robert Newsom). In 1855 Celia, a slave, is hanged for murder for accidently killing her rapist and owner, Robert Newsom, while defending herself. The Missouri laws, in the 1850s, forbid rape and allow a woman to protect herself from rape even if it means committing murder. Laws which protect white people, however, do not apply to slaves. Celia’s actions are not considered self-defense because slave owners have the right to do whatever they want with their property, including rape. Even with the end of slavery, blacks were still treated as inferior to whites. Courtesy of Awesome Stories.

    • Slave narratives are an important part of American literature. Writers like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs helped to dispel many of the misconceptions of slavery, as they revealed personal experiences. These books tell their stories...  Article by Esther Lombardi from

    • SlaveryStories.orgThese are tales of American slaves, written in their own words and spoken with their own voices.  Includes both written and audio narratives.  A new, collaborative digital project started February 3, 2014 by Rob Walsh, Scholastica. At time of posting the written narratives include:
      (1) Twelve Years a Slave : Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853 by Solomon Northup
      (2) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
      (3) Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass Written By Himself. Frederick Douglass
      (4) Fifty Years In Chains; or, The Life of an American Slave by Charles Ball
      (5) Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington
      (6) Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon or Inside Views of Southern Domestic Life by Louisa Picquet
      (7) The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth
      (8) Slave Life in Georgia : A Narrative of the Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, a Fugitive Slave by John Brown

    • North American Slave Narratives. "North American Slave Narratives" collects books and articles that document the individual and collective story of African Americans struggling for freedom and human rights in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. This collection includes all the existing autobiographical narratives of fugitive and former slaves published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920. Also included are many of the biographies of fugitive and former slaves and some significant fictionalized slave narratives published in English before 1920. Courtesy of the University of North Carolina Documenting the American South digital collection.

    • Secrets of the dead. Slave ship mutiny   DVD.  60 minutes.  T1813 .S43 2010 VideoDVD : The Meermin set sail from Madagascar en route to South Africa in 1766 with a Dutch crew and human cargo, slaves bound for hard labor building the Dutch colony, Cape Town. In a dramatic altercation, the slaves mutinied and managed to overpower the Dutch crew. The ship ended up wrecked on a wild, windswept beach 200 miles east of Cape Town. This program tracks the efforts of archaeologists, historians, and slave descendents to discover the full story of this dramatic historical event.  More information about the film from PBS.

    • Amistad Incident.  The Amistad incident set all the slavery-bound captives aboard the ship free and pushed America closer to civil war. The stories of slaves prove what the human spirit can overcome, despite the odds. Of course, not all resistors did survive but even their actions contributed to the conditions of equality that now exist. Courtesy of Awesome Stories.

    • Slavery, abolition and social justice, 1490-2007 / Matthew Bender. [Marlborough, Wiltshire, England] : Adam Matthew Publications.  HT871 .S538 Online :  This digital collection documents key aspects of the history of slavery worldwide over six centuries. Topics covered include the African Coast, the Middle Passage, the varieties of slave experience, religion, revolts, abolition, and legislation. The collection also includes case studies from America, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Cuba.

    • Slavery and Anti-Slavery : A Transnational Archive by Gale Cengage.  Part I: Debates over Slavery and Abolition, Part II: Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, Part III: The Institution of Slavery, and Part IV: The Age of Emancipation. Slavery and Anti-Slavery includes collections on the transatlantic slave trade, the global movement for the abolition of slavery, the legal, personal, and economic aspects of the slavery system, and the dynamics of emancipation in the U.S. as well as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions.

    • Reversing Sail Ch. 4 (Prefer Africana Studies Ch. 4 and Black Studies 4.3 - 4.5)

    • Haitian Revolution entry from American Mosaic: the African American Experience.

    • Slave Revolts in the Americas Timeline from American Mosaic : the African American Experience

    • 1811 Slave Revolt in Louisana.  More than a century before the first modern-day civil rights march, there was Charles Deslondes and his make-do army of more than 200 enslaved men battling with hoes, axes and cane knives for that most basic human right: freedom. They spoke different languages, came from various parts of the United States, Africa and Haiti, and lived miles apart on plantations along the German Coast of Louisiana. Yet after years of planning at clandestine meetings under the constant threat of immediate death, they staged a revolt on Jan. 8, 1811, that historians say is the largest uprising of enslaved people in this country.  For more information see Daniel Rasmussen's American Uprising:The Untold Story

    • 1811 Slave InsurrectionEntry from KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisianaof America's Largest Slave Revolt .

    • Africans in America.  America's journey through slavery is presented by PBS in four parts. For each era, you'll find a historical Narrative, a Resource Bank of images, documents, stories, biographies, and commentaries, and a Teacher's Guide for using the content of the Web site and television series in U.S. history courses.

    • The Terrible Transformation: 1450-1750
    • Revolution: 1750-1805
    • Brotherly Love: 1791-1831
    • Judgment Day: 1831-1865
    • The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas : A Visual Record.  Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr.  The approximately 1,235 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public - in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World.  Provided by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and University of Virginia. 

    • Breaking the Silence : Learning About the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  This site aims to help teachers and educators to Break the Silence that continues to surround the story of the enslavement of Africa that began over 500 years ago. It is designed to provide teachers with a variety of resources and ideas about how to teach the subject holistically, accurately and truthfully. It aims to represent the voices that are not usually heard. It hopes to highlight the involvement of Africans in their own liberation and to show that the impact of enslavement of the African continent was so far reaching that the legacies remain with us today, perhaps more powerfully than ever. The Transatlantic Slave Trade, also referred to within this site as enslavement, or the African Holocaust, was not just a part of history that can be forgotten. It forcibly changed the fabric of societies worldwide, economically, politically, socially, culturally and spiritually. Its long lasting legacies are directly relevant to people all over the world today.  a joint initiative between UNESCO, Anti-Slavery International, the British Council and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (NORAD).

    • Captive Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Making of the Americas  : Between 1441 and 1888, Europeans and their descendants in the Americas enslaved many millions of Africans. Torn from their homeland, men, women, and children were shipped to the Americas and forced into slavery. The transatlantic slave trade was a highly profitable maritime business. Without African slaves, the potential economic value of the Americas could never have been realized. Slaves made possible the taming of the wilderness, construction of cities, excavation of mines, and the establishment of powerful plantation economies. This online exhibition examines the transatlantic slave trade and seeks to increase understanding of this maritime epic and its legacies in the modern world.  Brought to you by the Mariner's Museum and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Note: Captive Passage : The Transatlantic Slave Trade the Making of the Americas, a Smithsonian Institution book compiled to accompany the exhibition, is also available in the MSU Libraries.

    • Life and Debt: Jamaica and the IMF


  • assignment/activity: Modern Day Slavery assignment


Module 5 : Politics, Power and Liberation (Lead - Maria)

The Black Liberation Movement began as a means of Black people attempting to regain their freedom and autonomy that was taken during the slave trade and colonization. In order to understand the Black Freedom Movement we must deeply investigate the ideologies, organizations, and radicalism of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  In this period we see the origins of : African nationalism and decolonization movements, the rise of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement, a transnational movement against white supremacy, Black feminism, and the emergence of women nationals in Africa and America.


  • Objectives - Measurable, defined, simple steps, and specific. Objectives contribute to the fulfillment of specified course goals.

    • Identify reasons for BLM in the US and Africa

    • Discuss similarities and differences between nationalist ideologies

    • Examine the relationship between Africans and African Americans

    • Evaluate the importance of women to both movements

    • Explain the motives and roles of the U.S. and European countries in dismantling BLM


  • Lecture - Reasons for the Black Freedom Movement which began prior to the traditional Civil Rights and Black Power eras.  Nationalism, radicalism and Malcolm’s importance to BPM, different nationalist ideologies/philosophies (Nation of Islam, BPP, US). Contributions of Black women such as Rosa Parks and Ericka Huggins in nationalist movements (Anti-rape campaign, freedom schools, and parallel programs). COINTELPRO’s role in breaking down BPM.



  • Assignment/Activity:  Music culture is an important vehicle for the transport of ideas and fueling movements. Listen to Stevie Wonder  Livin for the City, Fela Kuti Zombie, and Bob Marley Crazy Baldheads to complete this activity.  How does each song speak to colonization or nationalism?  What are the distinct issues addressed in each song? What are the common elements of oppression faced by Africans and African diaspora populations referenced in the songs? What do they cite as the causes of their unrest?


  • Write a discussion post about the common threads in the songs. What bonds connected Africans and African Americans in their fight for freedom and equality? How do the songs show connectivity in the Black World? Use the readings and media sources to evaluate the lyrics.  


  • What songs and images do you think of when you hear Black Liberation? Ask your interviewee this question and share their song choice as well as your analysis of how it speaks to the political, social, economic unrest of the period. Share it on the discussion board.  Then reply to two other posts by analyzing two songs for their Black Liberation ideology.  


  • What is the contemporary state of Black politics? What ties can be made between the current state of affairs and the legacy of colonialism in African and America? Are there any liberation leaders left?


Module 6 : Examining Gender Discourse in Black Studies (Lead - Maria)

Gender analysis is relatively nascent in Black Studies discourse.  It began with the establishment of women’s studies in the late 70s and early 80s.  It continues with the more recent appearance of masculinity studies and LGBTQ studies.  This module will concentrate on women’s studies and the arguments for and against it since women’s studies was the first exploration of gender in the discipline.  It will define Black (African and African American) feminsms and discuss major debate in Black Liberation in terms of women’s rights. Also, it will touch lightly on the new emergence of masculinity and queer studies in Black Studies.


  • Objectives - Measurable, defined, simple steps, and specific. Objectives contribute to the fulfillment of specified course goals.

    • Interrogate need for feminism in BLM

    • Articulate the difference between Black and white feminism

    • Outline the major Black feminist theories


  • Lecture - Explain effects of patriarchy on women that caused them to form movements and feminist philosophies. Distinguish between white and Black feminism and discuss different Black feminist theories (intersectionality, womanism, Africana womanism, Third World feminism, standpoint theory, and Critical Race Feminism).  Speak to the major debate in Black Liberation as to whether women’s rights issues were divisive and weakening to the movement as a whole.  Talk about women’s experiences in Africa and the US that caused them to begin a movement all their own. Also speak to the ostracizing of the LGBTQ community in the Black community and its emergence in Black studies as well as the need for masculinity studies and the myth of disposability.  

  • Readings/Videos - What readings or additional media will help support course objectives?




  • Interview with local activists


  • Is feminism relevant anymore? What are some reasons that you think women of color in America and the Third World can benefit from it?
  • How are feminsts viewed in society today?  Do people have a positive or negative image of them? Search the media for portrayals of feminists.  How are they defined in those sources?
  • Ask your interviewees about their stance on feminism.  Now compare their view to that of present day media.   Listen to Beyonce and Nikki Minaj.  Do you think they are feminists? Can you see a difference between ways that feminism was articulated by Black women in the 70s and how it has transformed today? Is there a difference between opinions of people from different generations?





Wayne State University Historian Danielle McGuire,  At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance -- A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Nicole Martin, "Women key in shaping Black Panther Party", Gender News, January 6, 2014. Historian reveals how African American women transformed gender roles in the black power movement.

Ashley Farmer, "Black Women March on Washington: the Sojourners for Truth and Justce and Black Women's Lives Matter", African American Intellectual History Societ (AAISH), April 17, 2015.

Ashley Farmer, What You've Got is a Revolution: Black Women's Movements for Black Power (forthcoming, University of North Carolina Press).  Farmer describes her  upcoming book in Left of Black S5:E29


Module 7 : Black Culture and Aesthetics (Lead - Michael)

As a means of communication, religious practice, knowledge production and resistance, aesthetics and art have always and continue to play key roles in the preservation of Black cultural systems….


  • Objectives - Measurable, defined, simple steps, and specific. Objectives contribute to the fulfillment of specified course goals.

    • Obj 1: Relate forms of Black American expression like dance, song, and orature to African cultural traditions

    • Obj 2: Trace the origins and context of Negro Spirituals and resulting musical forms

    • Obj 3:Analyze contemporary Black American poetry, music, and sculpture or painting for its social commentary, tones of resistance or protest,

    • Obj 4: Consumption of Black culture


  • Lecture - Explaining that African American culture is not a degraded form of white American culture but that it is a distinct culture born of remnants of African tradition blended with their new surroundings in a way that helped them to survive.  It is a culture of survival in essence from the food to the songs and so on.  This ingenuity they cultivated spurred many musical forms of expression famous throughout the US and the world today. Black culture is consumed throughout the world because it is inspirational, relatable, and trendsetting. The culture is expressed through art, dance, orature, etc. which are all an oral history of sorts that record the triumph of a people.      




Television and Stereotypes in the 21st Century


Many people argue television, music and popular culture as a whole continue to perpetuate historical stereotypes of African Americans. These stereotypes continue to shape public opinion on what is African American culture. Your assignment is to watch television! Select a television program or movie and identify one specific character in that program you feel reflects a historic racial stereotype discussed in this module. Within your reflection be sure to: (1) identify and define the characteristics and created beliefs of the historical stereotype; (2) explain the characteristics and role of the current television character you selected; (3) compare the characteristics of the historical stereotype to that of the character you selected and (4) explain how your character reflects and reinforces the beliefs of that stereotype. (5) Finally, identify a television program or movie that contains characters that counter or serve as alternative narratives to stereotypes discussed in this module. Using specific examples, explain how that character provides a counter narrative. Can you find a television/ movie character that encompasses Afrocentric thought? How? Assignment should be no more than 2 pages.

  • Black Stereotypes (YouTube) : The producers do not tolerate or support hatred or racism in any form. This film merely illustrates how blacks have been portrayed by filmmakers in the past....Every race, ethnicity, creed, gender, lifestyle, etc has it's stereotypes. Gay interior decorators, Chinese laundry, Hispanic gardeners, Irish cops, Italian gangsters, etc...These images are just a small sampling of how black people have been portrayed on a daily basis for many, many years....All of the clips used in this film were shown regularly on television up until the mid 1980's. Many episodes of the Little Rascals have been "ethnically cleansed" over the years. Some 20 minute episodes were edited down to a mere 8 after removing all racial images/slurs, while several episodes were removed completely from the series....All of the movie studios of the time, both big & small produced live-action films and cartoons portraying blacks in this manner. Theaters in the South would cut out any scene of a black performer that was not shown as a slave, servant or as comic relief....These films are a product of their times and provide visual documentation of how society, "kept the man down"....Has anything really changed so many years later?

Discussion - Trayvon/ Jordan Davis/ Stand Your Ground and stereotypes.

Find an image of Trayvon that reflects a historical stereotype (explain discussion post)

Discussion - The Oscars and type casting black actors/ actresses:

Following the recent Academy Awards given to Lupita Nyong’o and the film “12 Years a Slave” 2014, there has been much debate and discussion on the representation of Blacks in film, the roles available to Blacks, and the types of roles the Oscars awards to Black actors and actresses. Some argue award winning films such as Precious, The Help, The Butler, Training Day, and Monsters Ball reflect problematic historical stereotypes of Black men and women, in addition to symbolizing the limited roles made available to Black actors and actresses. Based on independent research, do you feel Black actors and actresses are type casted to play limiting and stereotypical roles?

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824