AAST 263: African American Intellectual History

Frederick Douglass posing for photo

African American intellectual history is often framed as an ongoing debate between two competing and seemingly irreconcilable positions, i.e., between an assimilationist and a nationalist impulse. Although this division has a clear heuristic value, its intellectual validity is not as self-evident as we might have once presumed. This course introduces African American intellectual history by reading against the grain of this dominant interpretation. We will seek to ask what is invested in this reading of the tradition? What does it obscure? How does it function to reproduce the dominant discourse of African American experience? Focusing on key writings and debates from the 1850s to the 1960s we will attempt to outline a different narrative of African American intellectual history.