Current syllabus

Syllabus download (BlkArtMvt_F15_syll)

Updated 9/2/2015
Fall 2015
AFPRL 390.22 Section 001

Monday/Wednesday 7-8:10 PM
Instructor: Hank Williams
hwi0002 [at] hunter [dot] cuny [dot] edu
Office Location and Hours: 1732 Hunter West. Fall 2013 Hours: Mondays 6-6:30 PM or by appointment
Course Location: Hunter North C106

Description: This course examines the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s to mid 1970s, a multi-faceted group of African-American artists, writers, and musicians who were committed to creating politically charged socially relevant art and saw themselves as the cultural wing of revolutionary movements sweeping the country at the time. We’ll examine the work of several writers, poets, visual artists, and musicians of the era and situate their work within the political, historical, and artistic context. We’ll also ask key questions that remain relevant to artistic production: what is the relationship between art and politics? What is the role of the politically conscious artist?

Requirements: Regular attendance (See below), 2-3 short ungraded reaction (1-2 pp) papers, 2 short (3-4 pp) graded papers, group presentation, a final exam, one long (10-15 page) paper. Detailed descriptions of the assignments will be handed out in class and posted online.

Attendance and Punctuality: Because your participation is crucial to the overall success of the course (Really!), attendance—preferably on time—is important. Please note the following:

• 3 latenesses will be counted as an absence. Lateness is defined as after I officially begin class and take attendance.
• 4 absences will lower your final grade by ½ a letter grade.
• 5 absences will lower your final grade by a full letter grade.
• 8 absences may result in a failing grade.

You should drop this class and register for a different section if you will have problems attending class sessions or will be continually late. It is your responsibility to find out what happens in class if you’re absent. Please contact a classmate to get notes and/or important information if you need to miss class.

Grading: Will be based on an average of final exam (20%), short papers (20%), Final paper (40%), group presentation (10%), and participation (10%). All assignments must be handed in—period. It is your responsibility to find out what happens in class if you’re absent. Assignments not handed in at all will be assigned failing grades. Again, this is something to avoid. Talk to me if you’re having some kind of serious problem completing the work and I’ll try to work out a plan that satisfies us both. You will be asked to revise and resubmit papers that are unclear and/or have serious structural problems.

Communication: The best way to contact me is via e-mail, which I check several times a day. I’ll usually respond within a day. I have set up a text message service to quickly send out important announcements via To Subscribe, send a text to 81010 with the message @blackarts. You’ll get a confirmation text. You can also sign up for texts or emails here. You should also check the Course Updates tab at least weekly for exact readings /listening/ viewing. Note that we will not be using Hunter’s Blackboard: everything you need will be here.

Policy on Plagiarism: See Hunter’s policy online. My addition: in reality, this is a simple proposition. You should do your own work and be sure to properly cite sources for any ideas, words, or thoughts that are not your own or are not common knowledge, even if you are summarizing info you have read elsewhere. I have found that plagiarism primarily happens for 2 reasons: either students don’t allow enough time to complete assignments or they think their work will not be good enough. Reason #1 is not a good one, but you should discuss this with me if you are having time problems rather than resort to cheating. Reason #2 is an even worse proposition. In this class, if you think, make a good effort, and do your best, you will be fine. Your own work will be good enough. If you present work that is not your own, you will immediately fail the assignment and possibly the entire course. You may also be subject to disciplinary charges. Note that college penalties for this can be as severe as expulsion. TL/DR version: just do the work and don’t cheat – it’s not worth it.

Students with disabilities: I encourage students with disabilities to let me know as soon as possible during the semester what, if any, special accommodations they will need. After-the-fact accommodations will not be possible. All students requesting accommodation for disabilities need to provide documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.

Looking For a Major? Make AFPRL Your Choice. Major, Double Major or Minor in AFPRL

The Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies prepares students for a broad range of careers in the public and private sector; for entrance to professional schools such as law, social work, urban planning and medicine, and for graduate study and research in the social sciences and humanities. The Department has a long history of nurturing students’ intellectual discipline, creativity, and social and political awareness. The Department’s interdisciplinary structure offers students an opportunity to satisfy the increasing expectations of admissions committees and prospective employers for a broad liberal arts perspective that complements the specialized knowledge of a field.

Required credits: Major (30 credits), Double Major (30 credits), Minor (12 credits)
For more information contact Prof. J. Edey-Rhodes, jrhodes [at] hunter [dot] cuny [dot] edu, 212-772-5140.

Join Hunter’s AFPRL Club! The purpose of the Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Club is to promote greater cohesion among AFRPL students as well as increased awareness of pertinent issues by the larger Hunter community. The Club is a forum for students to engage historical and contemporary issues relavant to the AFPRL experience. The Club has hosted film screenings, invited speakers, held social events for members and sponsored teach-ins. For more information email Jennifer Boone at hunteraforlclub [at] gmail [dot] com or see Prof. Joanne Edey-Rhodes.

Course Objectives. Students will:

• Understand the cultural production of the subject within the larger cultural/ political/ social framework of the 1960s-1970s.
• Be able to make connections between different artistic forms presented in class and understand the intersection between art and politics and various artistic forms.
• Gain greater understanding of how race and racial experience impacted late 20th century culture and politics.

Course Goals. Students will learn to:

• Articulate ideas thoughtfully and clearly in written, oral, and online communication.
• Effectively use writing, reading, and research strategies applicable to multiple disciplines.

Required Texts: available at Revolution Books and on reserve in library. Details at the Books page.

Additional material and shorter works will be distributed online. See the password on your (paper) syllabus to access readings/media or e-mail me.

Course outline: See the Course Updates page for weekly updates and exact reading/listening assignments.

Course outline: Check the “Course Updates” tab on the website for weekly updates and exact reading/listening assignments. Assignments will be posted by Thursday for the following week.

Key Dates:

Monday, September 7: Labor Day – class does not meet
Thursday, September 10: Monday schedule — class meets
Monday, September 14: Rosh Hashanah–No CUNY classes; class does not meet
Monday, September 21: Yom Kippur–No CUNY classes; class does not meet
Wednesday, September 24: Professor Williams away—class does not meet
Monday, October 12: Columbus Day–No CUNY classes; class does not meet
Wednesday, November 25: Thanksgiving holiday – Class does not meet

Unit 1: Course introduction

What is the political and historical background of Black Arts? What theoretical understandings did the participants attempt to develop to guide their work? An intro to the era and some background information. We will also discuss director Stanley Nelson’s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, playing from 9-2-9/15 at Film Forum and Magic Johnson Theater (starts 9/11) in Manhattan and the exhibits on the Young Lords Party at the Bronx Museum of Arts, Museo del Barrio, and the Loisaida Center on the Lower East Side. We’ll also discuss the connections between the Nuyorican/Puerto Rican movements and Black Arts/Black Power.

Monday, August 31: course intro, syllabus review, and a few definitions

Wednesday, September 2: Kalamu Ya Salaam, “The Black Arts Movement” (link) and Larry Neal,“The Black Arts Movement” )

Monday, September 7: Labor Day – class does not meet

Unit 2: Malcolm’s legacy and the Black Arts Movement

El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X) is an inescapable figure of the 1960s and casts as wide a shadow on the arts as he does on the politics of the era. We will do a quick overview of his life and legacy including close reading of selected speeches and tributes.

Malcolm X speeches, tributes to Malcolm, (in class) Screening of Arnold Perl’s Malcolm X documentary.

Unit 3: The turn toward Black Arts

The sensibility of the 1960s, including the rapidly changing political developments both domestically and globally spread to the artistic world and cultural workers grapple with how to respond. We will use Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) as the primary case study for this process of transformation and politicization.

Amiri Baraka, “Cuba Libre” , Black Arts theory, and Baraka’s Dutchman.

Unit 4: Black Arts theater: creating our own images

Theater emerges as a key weapon in the arsenal of artists of the era. Drama is potentially more participatory and engaging than poetry and has the ability to explore various social and political issues. We’ll examine work from a few playwrights of the period, read some theoretical statements, and delve into the background of the era’s drama.

Plays by Ed Bullins, Jimmy Garrett, Sonia Sanchez. Essays by Toni Cade Bambara and Baraka; Black Theater: The Making of a Movement screening (selections, in class)

Unit 5: Music and the Black Arts – toward a revolutionary sound

The rise of Free/Avant Garde Jazz and the rebellion against old forms of art intersects with the political and social movements of the time. Jazz musicians push the limits of their instruments and also become key participants in artistic collectives and social movements.

Listening from Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, and others. Jazz-influenced short stories and poetry from Haki Madhubuti, others.

Unit 6: Poetry and the Black Arts

Poetry is probably the most popular literary form due to its accessibility to the public, relative ease of distribution/publication, and the popularity of public performance of poems. We’ll examine both more traditional written work and some of the extensive work distributed on records.

Poetry selections from Black Fire!, spoken word from Baraka, Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni.

Unit 7: Film/Visual Culture and the Black Arts

We close with a look at visual representations of the Black Arts. We’ll use director Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door as a case study for film and take a close look at artwork by visual artists Faith Ringgold and Emory Douglas.

Film: Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door (in class screening), Visual art by Faith Ringgold, Emory Douglas.