July 21, 2021

AFRAM 405A: #BlackLivesMatter in Historical Context – A Calderwood Seminar

SLN: 10186

Wed. 10:30-1:20

5 Credits – DIV / I&S

Instructor: La TaSha Levy

This course explores the emergence of #BlackLivesMatter as a critical development in a long history of Black resistance to anti-Black racism and state violence. While the recent movement has organized campaigns against police murders, mass incarceration and other iterations of racial marginalization, #BlackLivesMatter also conjures specific intellectual and activist traditions in African American history. In this course, students will examine the origins of #BlackLivesMatter, as an ideological intervention, alongside the historical events, organizations and leaders who have given it inspiration. Course material will engage the political thought of Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Assata Shakur and Ella Baker—all of whom figure prominently in #BlackLivesMatter historical frames. Students will also engage an ever-growing body of intellectual interventions (both academic and public scholarship) that interrogate the social, cultural, and economic contexts of racial violence in the United States and beyond.


As we study the #BlackLivesMatter movement in historical context, we will practice the art of public writing – the ability to translate complex arguments and professional jargon to a broad audience. College learning affords us the opportunity to acquire the skills, concepts, and theories to understand and explore the world we live in, but it is critical that we never lose our ability to communicate these powerful ideas to a wide audience, outside of the ivory tower. This seminar is a time for you to find your voice and learn to write with confidence, knowledge and clarity. Effective writing is a highly marketable skill for any career field you may choose.

Our studies demand that we commit the next 10 weeks to a remix of the maxim “knowledge for the sake of knowledge.” In this course we will cultivate a writing practice committed to knowledge for the sake of service – a core principle of the Black Studies tradition. How do we take what we learn in our college courses and communicate effectively with a popular audience? Black Studies (also known as African American Studies) was founded on the idea of “relevant education.” This course provides a unique opportunity to revisit that imperative by breaking down Black Studies scholarship for everyday people.