Introduction to African American Studies

  • AFRO 1011, 3 credits
  • Faculty Coordinator: Rose Brewer
  • Sponsoring U of M Department: Department of African American and African Studies
  • Fulfills U of M Requirement(s): Meets U of M degree credit requirements, such as departmental major, minor, or elective requirements
  • Teacher Applications: Check the Applicant Handbook for details.

Course Information

This course is an introduction to the study of people of African descent in the United States with linkages to Africa and the African diaspora. We will explore why people of African descent have occupied an oppressed position in this culture and worldwide, and how they have resisted this oppression by creating social change.

Our major form of analysis will be historical sociology, as well as through the arts and humanities. We will examine changes over time and employ sociological, economic, cultural, and political tools to understand the historical and contemporary positioning of African-Americans. We will be centrally concerned with how domination, race, gender, and class shape Black life in the United States and how resistance and change have occurred.

In our analyses, we will consider the deep intersectionality of systems of oppression, as well as historic resistance to oppression. Critical race theory and Black feminist theory will be important frames for our work. Moreover, the significance of the cultural creativity of African peoples will be foundational to our understanding. We must be concerned with how Black people see themselves today. How social change is imagined in the 21st century will also inform our work.

A major assumption for us is that African-Americans have maintained a cultural integrity that is distinctive and deeply reflective of life in the United States and globally. This cultural integrity is exemplified across the African diaspora. It is reflected in a service tradition, a commitment to community, a struggle for democracy, decolonization, and an emphasis on freedom. These values are the foundation of African-American Studies. This means that the expansion of a more democratic reality in the United States and around the world has been deeply connected to the demands and activism for full citizenship and democratic participation by Black people. Crucial issues around citizenship and democracy will be central to this course.

Sample Syllabus

Other Considerations

This course is not an Entry Point Project course and there is no expectation that schools will target students in the academic middle. However, like the Entry Point Project, the African-American Studies department is especially interested in working with schools and teachers that will actively promote AFRO 1011 to a diverse group of students.

Class size limit: 25

U of M Catalog Description

The study of peoples of African descent including the evolution of African-American culture, comparative race relations, feminism, and social policy change.

Student Qualifications

Student assessment is not strictly determined by reading and writing strength, although these areas are important. A range of learning styles is validated so there is some flexibility for assessing student strengths and qualifications.

Students enrolling in AFRO 1011 must be juniors or seniors in high school AND meet at least TWO of the following additional requirements:

  • rank in the top 50% of their high school class
  • demonstrate strength in visual, written, and/or oral learning styles to the CIS instructor
  • demonstrate reading and writing proficiency to the CIS instructor

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors apply and are selected by faculty in accordance with the U of M policy governing Academic Appointments with Teaching Functions. Once approved, an instructor is appointed as a Teaching Specialist 9754 (University Job Title and Code) in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Instructor qualifications are determined by the sponsoring University department.

View the Instructor Applicant Handbook for course-specific qualifications and application steps. 

Textbooks

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
  • Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought
  • Mustafa Emirbayer and Matthew Desmond, Race in America
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk
  • Michael Gomez, Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora

Additional texts will be discussed during the summer workshop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the texts and readings specified or mandated by the University of Minnesota? If not, what are some of the choices? 
The seven core texts listed above are mandated. Additional texts will be discussed during the summer workshop.

Do teachers have a choice in assignments? Are there required assignments?
The cohort of teachers and the faculty coordinator will discuss and develop common assignments during the summer workshop.

Who creates the exams?
The cohort of teachers and the faculty coordinator will discuss options for assessments and exams during the summer workshop.

Is there a training and mentoring system for teachers new to CIS?
Yes. When you begin teaching Introduction to African-American Studies, you will be joining a group of high school teachers who share ideas and materials with each other through email and teacher workshops held in the summer and throughout the school year. New teachers also benefit from an orientation to College in the Schools that will familiarize them with the support available through CIS as well as prepare them for administrative tasks such as registering students and posting grades.

High school class schedules vary: can a teacher in the block system teach Introduction to African American Studies?
This is a semester-length course on campus. The course will need to be taught over a semester or longer in the high schools.

What happens at typical teacher workshops?
Typical activities at CIS workshops include meeting University faculty and hearing about their recent research in the discipline; reviewing and/or developing student assessment tools; sharing instructional materials; discussing particular content, pedagogy, or assessment of the University course; and receiving updates on CIS program policies and practices.

Is the student field day required for this course? 
Field days are optional but highly encouraged. The cohort of teachers and the faculty coordinator will discuss opportunities to engage students in field day and extracurricular activities during the summer workshop.

High Schools Offering This Course

Burnsville Alternative High Shool
Burnsville High School
DeLaSalle High School
Washington Technology Magnet School