African American Literacies and Education:
The 20th and 21st Centuries
(click image above for course website)
Sick and tired of being sick and tired… Freestylin’ or lookin’ for a style that’s free… To protect and serve…Composition in a fifth key...Dukin’ it out with “the powers that be”… These are all titles to chapters in Elaine Richardson’s 2003 text, African American Literacies, now a must-read for anyone researching race, new literacies studies, African American cultures, and contemporary composition studies. Richardson defines African American literacies as the vernacular resistance arts and cultural productions that are created to carve out free spaces in oppressive locations. Like her, we will take up literacies as a way of situating reading, writing, and creating texts where individual learning is located within social and cultural processes. We will study African American literacies in the context of specific historical movements in the 20th and 21st centuries that will span: 1920s black student protests at the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), the Civil Rights Movement, and the impact of Hip Hop today (as a culture and a movement). We will look to the “classics” that have centered African American students’ learning, history, and discourse communities in the fields of: sociolinguistics and AAL (African American Language), composition theory, new literacies studies, African American rhetorical theory, and culturally relevant teaching. When we talk about African American populations and their learning in the United States, we are talking about specific challenges and histories so we will read an extensive range of linguists, composition researchers, rhetoric scholars, and literacy/educational activists in order to unravel unique inventions and interventions with the goals of African American freedom. The course will culminate in your own original study where you will be invited to research: 1) the consequences to students of African descent when educational settings maintain dominant linguistic politics; 2) social sketches of programs or teachers who offer opportunities and critical practices that draw on African American literacies and challenge schooling, OR; 3) broad questions of institutional practices, pedagogies, curriculum, and student interactions in the context of African American literacies.