African Americans are among the most vocal minorities in the United States, with a long tradition of literary expression that had to struggle for cultural recognition. Their troubled history, which is indelibly linked to slavery and racism, is reflected in a rich and complex corpus of literature that encompasses the diasporic experience, the formation of a distinct cultural identity, and a multi-layered discourse of acceptance, activism, and protest. This course will chart the development of African American literature from the first texts in colonial times, through the slave narratives of the pre-Civil War era, the reactions to plantation literature in the 2nd half of the 19th century, the debates over racial progress around the turn of the 20th century, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights era, to the establishment in mainstream contemporary literature.

Authors to be discussed include Phyllis Wheatley, William Wells Brown, Harriett Ann Jacobs, Charles Chesnutt, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and more.