Summer Reading List: Black Revolutions

Cover of the book "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler

As part of the Department of English’s commitment to express our solidarity with Black Lives Matter by doing more to center black life in our curriculum and scholarship, this month we will be sharing reading lists taken from some of our courses on black voices and black lives. 

The first in this summer reading list series is taken from a course taught by Dr. Rian Bowie:

Black Revolutions: African American Writers and their Visions for a New World Order

This course takes an unusual view of African American literary traditions. In this course, students examine utopian and dystopian visions of slavery and freedom as they appear in nineteenth- and twentieth-century African American fiction and nonfiction writings. The mixture of genres and chronologies provide a lens through which to examine ways that black-authored texts grapple with basic questions related to individuality, kinship, identity, and inclusion. While basic questions overlap to reveal continuity, each author presents complex and at times competing answers to the problems of race, racial identity, and physical placement within an American social landscape. Students in the course wrestle with several crucial questions. What does it mean to write a “black” text? Does its creation serve as an act of resistance or insurrection? In what ways do texts for this course participate in revolving (intertextual) debates about race, place, and materiality of the (black) body? Can we find locatable sites of revolution—actual or theoretical—in texts where, at the end of the processes of reading, the aim has been to provide an alternative to the elusive dream of black inclusion within American social and political life? What happens to the authority of blackness if either the  world that exists or the one that could possibly be created relies upon forms of absence and erasure for its existence? 

Reading List

David Walker, David Walker’s Appeal (also in print),1829

Pauline Hopkins, Winona (also in print), 1902

Maria Stewart, Selections

Jessie Fauset, Comedy: American Style, 1933

Martin Delany, Blake; or, the Huts of America, 1859

George Schuyler, Black No More, 1931

Sutton Griggs, Imperium in Imperio (also in print), 1899

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower, 1993

Charles Johnson, Dreamer, 1998

Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, 1969                                

Film: Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (available on YouTube and Amazon Prime)

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