GOV 335M • African American Social and Political Thought
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. African American political thought has been traditionally construed as a moral discourse which at its best, correctly indentified and challenged American injustice and revivified the core principles of American democracy. At its worst however, it is also claimed, African American thought is an obselete and/or empty, political rhetoric deployed by opportunists to excuse the social and political dislocation of African Americans within American society. Both views conceive African American political thought as an essentially propagandist rhetoric rather than a sustained philosophical critique of the public philosophy (ies) of America. This course pursues a different tack: it seeks to illuminate the distinctiveness of African American political thought by interpreting African American reflections on the American body politic as a critical philosophical discourse about nature, activities, and problems of the American republic and republican politics in general.
We will ask, what is a republic? What were the dominant descriptions of American republicanism by founding intellectuals and statesmen? What were the prevailing discursive forms through which these ideas were formulated and popularized? What was the relation between these principles and American slavery; these principles and segregation, and white supremacy? How do African American critics understand the nature and possibilities of the American republic? Are African American critiques affirmations of the ideals of American republicanism or a rejections of them all together? Last, in light of the criticisms of America advanced by African American political thinkers, how ought we to understand the possibilities for republican politics in our own time?
4 Four-page Essays = 60% (each @ 15% per essay) 4 In class quizzes = 20% (each @ 5%) Class Participation (regular attendance and participation in class discussion) = 20% N. B. : It is imperative to show up prepared to discuss the readings and lectures to do well in this course. If participation is unsatisfactory, the best one can earn is a B- (assuming that all other work is of the very highest caliber). Not a good plan!
Tentative: David Walker, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Washington, Dubois, and Johnson, Three Negro Classics Ida B. Wells-Barnett, On Lynchings Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminism Toni Morrison, Beloved Additional readings are compiled in a GOV 335 course packet available for purchase at Abel's Copies, 715-D, West 23rd St. Readings from the course packet are indicated in the syllabus with an asterisk (*).