America's history is inexplicable without reference to the men and women of African descent who were a part of making it. But as is the case with historical knowledge more generally, African-American history is contested ground. Debates swirl among scholars over the influence of Africa and the diaspora, over black people's embrace of Christianity, over family formation and domestic relationships, over the experiences of slavery, its legacies, and slaves' ability to shape the terms of their bondage. Arguments likewise erupt over the contours of hard won freedoms, who achieved emancipation, and why a vicious racialist ideology eventually emerged victorious. As with all historical scholarship, the questions raised and the interpretations made are inextricably bound up with the scholars' own lives and experiences. Thus the debates over the African American past are at heart, debates about contemporary life, and about our futures.
AAAS 218 is designed to provide an introduction to the major themes of this scholarly conversation. Through sets of weekly readings, discussion, and individual writing projects we will explore the current state of African-American history from the slave trade to the Great Migration. While the required readings will focus largely on the questions currently at the center of scholarly debate, the supplemental bibliographies associated with each week are designed to alert you to alternative and older interventions. Although these lists are far from comprehensive, feel free to use them as starting points for further study of a particular topic.