English 181A - Fall, 2016

African American Literature to 1900

Class Information

Instructor: Heard Mollel, Danielle
CRN: 32530
Time: TR 10:30-11:50
Location: 1060 Bainer


    This course surveys the African American literary tradition through the 19th Century and begins with an examination of the different forms of black vernacular culture linked to West African traditions that developed during slavery. We move on to explore the pioneers of African American literature, the early writings of Phyllis Wheatley, Jupiter Hammon, and Lucy Terry, the landmark slave narratives of Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs. We will delve into the manifestos of abolitionism and protest made by Sojourner Truth, David Walker, and Mariah Stewart, as well as the competing takes on how to move forward after emancipation, such as those of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. We’ll read some of the very first African American novels by William Wells Brown, Martin Delany, and Frances Watkins Harper. In so doing, we will pay close attention to the historical phenomena which impacted the lives, culture, and movement of African Americans from the Middle Passage through the Reconstruction era. Since African American literature is intimately tied to black music, readings and lectures will be accompanied by musical recordings played in class whose forms and styles inform the aesthetics and subject matter of the literature we read in this course.


    20% Midterm paper—3-5 pages
    30% Final Paper—5-7 pages
    30% Quizzes
    10% Group Presentation
    10% Regular Participation and Attendance


    Blake or the Huts of America, Martin Delany
    The Classic Slave Narratives, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, ed.
    Three Classic African-American Novels: Clotel, Iola Leroy, The Marrow of Tradition , Henry Louis Gates, Jr, ed.
    The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 3rd Edition, Volume 1, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Valerie Smith, eds.