African-American History to 1877
Thomas Holt Office Hours: M 2-3:30
This course examines selected topics in the African-American experience from the slave trade through slavery emancipation, framed by an overall theme, the “making” of an African-American people out of diverse ethnic groups brought together under conditions of extreme oppression, and its corollary, the structural constraints and openings for resistance to that oppression. We will attempt to explore these issues through the lived experience of Africans and African Americans, therefore, biographical and autobiographical materials constitute a major part of course readings. The class format will include both lectures and discussions. Generally, discussions will focus on primary source readings, while lectures will examine broader historical developments and/or specific problems of interpretation in African-American history.
Requirements: Primary class requirements are attendance and active participation in class discussions (30%), including at least one oral presentation (20%), and two take-home essay examinations (20% and 30%, respectively, for midterm and final). The Chalk website will be used to organize discussions and for submission of written assignments.
Readings: (All items on reserve in Regenstein; *starred items available for purchase at Seminary Coop.)
*Major Problems in African-American History: Documents and Essays. eds., Thomas C. Holt and Elsa Barkley Brown. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2000, vol. 1.
*The Life of Olaudah Equiano. ed. Paul Edwards (Longman, 1989).
*Walter Johnson. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Harvard UP, 1999.
*William S. McFeely. Frederick Douglass. NY: W.W. Norton, 1991. E449.D75 M3740 1991
The Journals of Charlotte L. Forten Grimké, ed. Brenda Stevenson. Oxford UP, 1995.
*Ira Berlin. ed., Free at Last: A documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War. New Press, 1992. E185.2.F80 1992
Class Schedule and Assignments
1st Week—Interpreting African-American History
Readings: Holt and Barkley Brown, Major Problems, chap. 1.
Sept 30—Introductions and Preliminaries
Oct 2—Discussion: What’s at Stake: The Use(s) of Historical Memory
2nd Week—Africans and the Slave Trade: Causes and Consequences
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 2; Equiano, chaps. 1-5.
Oct7—Discussion: Assessing Historical Guilt for the Slave Trade:
Oct9--Lecture: Middle Passages and Middlemen: Europe, Africa, and America
3rd Week—From the Baroque to the Modern: The Transformation of American Slavery
Readings: Major Problems, chaps. 3&4, Equiano, chaps. 6-10.
Oct 14—Discussion: The Conceptual Triangle: Race, Culture, and Slavery
Oct 16—Lecture: Anthony Johnson’s World and Its Transformation: The Making of an African-American People
4th Week— Slavery in an Age of Revolution
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 5; Equiano, chaps. 11—12.
Oct 21—Discussion: Religion and Slavery
Oct 23—Lecture: The Dual Rebellions in Richard Allen’s World
5th Week—The Making of a Slave Power
Oct 28—No Class: Mid-Term Exam Due by 4PM.
Oct 30—Lecture: The Closing Frontier: Blacks, Indians, and the Political Economy of Slavery
6th Week—The Meaning of Slavery: Of Masters and Slaves
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 6; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 3—118.
Nov 4—Discussion: Social Death or Slave Community?
Nov 6—Lecture: Frederick Douglass’s World
7th Week—The Meaning of Slavery: Of Bodies and Souls
Readings: Johnson, Soul by Soul
Nov 11— Discussion of Walter Johnson’s Soul by Soul
Nov 13—Lecture: The Significance of the Domestic Slave Trade
8th Week—Confronting “the Slave Power”--I
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 7&8; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 118--237; Forten, Journals, tba; Berlin, Free at Last, tba.
Nov 18—Discussion: The Sources and Gender of Resistance
Nov 20—Lecture: Charlotte Forten’s World: Sources of Resistance in Free Negro Communities
9th Week—Confronting “the Slave Power”--II
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 9.
Nov 25—Lecture: “The General Strike”: The Strange Death of Slavery
(Final Exam Questions Distributed.)
10th Week—Freedoms Won, Freedoms Lost
Readings: Major Problems, chap. 10; McFeely, Frederick Douglass, 238—386; Berlin, Free at Last, tba; Forten, Journals, tba.
Dec 2—Lecture: Echoes of Edisto: The Work of Reconstruction
Final Exam Due by 4PM December 4th.