New Graduate Course at the City College of New York--Registration Open Until Classes Start!


Michele Wallace
English B2016.1FG CCNY M.A.
Black Feminism and the Civil Rights Movement
M 4:50-6:30
NAC 6/223 212-650-6367 (Office)
Please call at home if in need of further instructions or advice

African American Literature Curriculum Blog
Soul Pictures: Black Feminist Generations Blog
Recent article on International Review of African American Art webzine about feminist collaborations in my family over the generations.

See below Faith Ringgold's Illustrations for Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail  (2007) and Die (1967); Duane Hanson's Black Pieta (1964)

This course will look at crucial black feminist perspectives on the long Civil Rights Movement, from the Brown vs. Bd. Of Education decision “de-segregating the schools and the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 through the early 70s-- the arrest of Angela Davis, the appointment of Aileen Hernandez as the first black president of the National Organization of Women (NOW), Shirley Chisholm’s bid for the Presidency, and the founding of the National Black Feminist Organization.  At the same time, black women’s writing makes its significant appearance on the central stage of American culture with the publication of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, Alice Walker’s The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Our texts may include Johnetta Cole and Beverly Guy Sheftall’s Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities,
Paula Gidding’s When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America,
Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Vision, Jeanne Theoharis’s The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. 

We will rely upon Claybourne Carson’s helpful and superb illustrated overview –Civil Rights Chronicle: The African American Struggle for Freedom (2003) and the documentary series Eyes on the Prize for overall context. 

My own Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979) may provide a reference point for the general sense of the Civil Rights Movement I had as a Northern girl who went to integrated private schools, much of which was impossible to correct given the lack of reliable written sources at the time.  What impresses me so deeply and has made me a vigilant follower of this scholarship is how far our knowledge has come over the years, thanks to feminist scholarship in the fields of literature, political science, history, music and visual culture.

Required reading will be Johnetta Cole and Beverly Sheftall’s thin but stunning volume Gender Talk, which reviews a host of the debates that galvanized black feminism in both the 19th and the 20th century; Paula Gidding’s When and Where I Enter, in which the entire history of black female involvement, from Anna Julia Cooper to Angela Davis, in gender discourse in political struggles in America was finally laid out in exhaustive detail; and Jeanne Theoharis’s The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, the latest in a series of books to guide us in our understanding of how massively important and instrumental such a figure as Rosa Parks truly was.  We may include as well some excerpts from two major black female novels about the Civil Rights Movement:  Alice Walker (Meridian) and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters.

I plan to include in this course as well the work of my mother, and black feminist mentor Faith Ringgold, in particular her art of the 1960s as represented by her American People Series, her Black Light Series, her political posters and her mural For The Women’s House, and her illustrations for a special limited edition of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which I have provided as an attachment. I would expect her to be a guest in class, as well as at the conference planned around this topic and African anti-colonial struggles in South Africa at the Graduate Center in the Spring.

Requirements for the course will be weekly entries in a written journal and/or online discussion boards and a final term (10 pages) paper.  There will also be another writing option of a work of fiction or personal narrative as a spin off from our readings—either fictionalizing characters or situations from the texts, or writing personal narratives about participation in related but current struggles.

Faith Ringgold and Duane Hanson, the 60s. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, courtesy of PAMM

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