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Race and Religion in African American Culture

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1564
Section 001
Instructor Myisha Priest
Days Wed
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement HUM


The ways in which Americans have imagined and represented the sacred has been profoundly shaped by race and slavery, and this intersection has become a foundation for many kinds of cultural practices and the development of political philosophy in African American culture. Two central questions therefore motivate this course: How has race shaped the production of sacred meaning and African American sacred art? How have spiritual discourses of salvation and redemption motivated political and cultural action? To pursue these questions we will explore representations of the sacred in several genres, including the Bible, essays, sermons, and art, as well as performances of African American sacred music and dance. Also, each student will select a contemporary cultural form and examine how it is shaped by the desire to represent both racialized experience and the sacred. Students can research cultural forms of interest to them, including familiar forms like contemporary music (rap, gospel rap, and more), or films, but could also tackle less familiar forms like public performances (inauguration, anyone?), historical sites and public spaces. Primary texts include: Exodus ; Frederick Douglass, Narrative ; W.E.B. Dubois, Souls of Black Folk ; James Weldon Johnson, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse , including Aaron Douglass' illustrations; Dr. Martin Luther King, selected speeches; Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens ; Alvin Ailey dance performance; Spirituals performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock; Gospel Music (may include a church visit).

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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