About the course

This course is an interdisciplinary look at the Black Arts Movement from approximately 1960-1975 and covers literature, visual culture, politics, and music taught by Hank Williams. The big questions we ask are what is the role of the politically committed artist? What is the relationship between art and politics? Is there a “Black Aesthetic” and how did artists of that generation approach the topic? It’s interdisciplinary in nature and we’ll look at people as diverse as Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Emory Douglas, Faith Ringgold, Sun Ra, and more.

No formal knowledge of music or visual art is required — just a commitment to reading, listening, and viewing carefully and being open to drawing lots of connections. As we’re in New York, we’ll likely have a few guest speakers and possibly even a field trip if something interesting is going on and we can figure out logistics. Interested community members are also welcome to “virtually” take the course and follow along here with us.

This course was offered at SUNY Purchase in Spring 2012 and was run at Hunter in Fall semesters from 2012-2016 in Hunter College’s Africana, Puerto Rican, and Latin@ Studies department as AFPRL 39022 (390.22).

Current Status

It’s currently on hiatus. See the syllabus page for an idea of structure and the weekly course updates page for more granular detail. It will hopefully be offered in the future at Hunter or elsewhere.

Not a Hunter College student? Then sign up by CUNY e-Permit! Talk to your college’s registrar office for specifics, but this guide from Brooklyn College gives a pretty good explanation of how the process works.

For students in the class

Keep an eye on are the Updates page, where I’ll update weekly reading/ listening/ viewing. You can find PDF files for readings not in Black Fire! and Dutchman and The Slave, which are both required and also on reserve in the Hunter’s library. The Readings page is where PDF files will patiently wait for you to download and read them.

For community members and guests

Feel free to follow along with is either virtually (online) or stop by and visit a class session. (Note: Hunter College’s security has changed and restricted building access. E-mail the instructor if you want to join us.) The books are widely available online, in bookstores, and in libraries. E-mail me for a password for the online readings if you need one and kindly include a short introductory note. You might consider signing up for e-mail updates of new posts. (See the form at the bottom of the page.)

Also consider formally signing up for the course as a non-credit auditor! You get to come to all classes, lectures, trips, and guest lectures, and don’t need to take exams. Cost is fairly reasonable and you’ll help make sure that the class continues to be offered. (Colleges keep a close eye on course enrollment numbers now and will stop running ones that have low student enrollment.) Info on the audit option for non-matriculated students is here.