Instructors: Dr. Daniel McNeil and Dr. Franny Nudelman

Course Description:

This course explores the demand for black freedom that courses through U.S. culture from the movement to abolish slavery in the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, and places this long struggle for justice and equality in a global and transnational context. Throughout, we will pay particular attention to the politics and poetics of black intellectuals, artists, and activists who have shaped the modern world by resisting forms of racial hierarchy and violence. Topics that will be explored in the course include: the marketing and reading of slave narratives; anti-lynching crusades and the visual archive of mob violence; contested memories of the transatlantic slave trade and imperialism; the relationship between anti-colonialism, surrealism and existentialism; Black Consciousness Movements and Afrofuturism; representations of love, sexuality and desire in popular culture; and current struggles against mass incarceration and police brutality.

Texts may include:


  • David Walker, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829)
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  • Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors and Other Writings; The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 (1996)
  • W.E.B DuBois, selected writings
  • Langston Hughes, selected poems
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955)
  • Martin Luther King, selected speeches
  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961)
  • Black Panther Party, Ten Point Program (1966)
  • Angela Davis, “Political Prisoners, Prison, and Black Liberation” (1971)
  • Toni Morrison, Sula (1973)
  • Armond White, selected writings


  • Thomas Waterman Wood, “A Bit of War History” (1866)
  • Jacob Lawrence, Migration Series (1941)
  • Selected protest photographs (Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter)



  • Anonymous, “John Brown’s Body” (1861)
  • Julia Ward Howe, “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (1862)
  • Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” (1939)
  • Charles Mingus, “Better Git It In Your Soul,” “Fables of Faubus” (1959)
  • Various Artists, “Freedom Songs: Selma, Alabama” (Folkways Records, 1965)
  • Thelonious Monk, “Underground” (1968)
  • Voices of East Harlem, “Right on Be Free” (1970)
  • Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On” (1971)
  • Curtis Mayfield, “Superfly” (1972)
  • Change, “The Glow of Love” (1980)
  • Frankie Knuckles, “Beyond the Mix” (1991)
  • Prince, “The Black Album” (1994)
  • Gil Scott-Heron, Jamie XX, “We’re New Here” (2011)
  • J. Cole, “Be Free” (2014)
  • Beyoncé, “Lemonade” (2016)


  • Lionel Martin, “Night of the Living Baseheads” (1988)
  • Edward Zwick, “Glory” (1989)
  • Josell Ramos, “Maestro” (2003)
  • Mark Romanek, “99 Problems” (2004)
  • Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, “Trouble the Water” (2008)
  • Melina Matsoukas, “We Found Love” (2011)
  • Terence Nance, “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” (2012)
  • Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, “The Knick” (2014-)
  • Michael D Fuller and Graham Gordy, “Quarry” (2016-)
  • Jordan Peele, “Get Out” (2016)
  • Kathryn Bigelow, “Detroit” (2017)