Seminar on Angela Davis

August 30, 2019 John Drabinski

Here is the syllabus for my F/19 course on Angela Davis. The centerpiece of the course in Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism book, which is my favorite of her works. Early readings build toward it with considerations of the history of race-gender liberation, conceptions of freedom, and related stuff. When we get to the Blues Legacies book, I plan to add in readings from Hurston, Locke, Ellison, Baraka, and Murray to underscore the uniqueness of Davis’ contribution to understanding the political significance of vernacular culture and expression.

The official course description:

Angela Davis’ work spans some of the most provocative and important cultural and political moments in recent U.S. history. Beginning with the Black Power and Black Panther movements of the late-1960s and 70s, through innovations in the Black feminist movement in the 1980s onward, and recently with questions of racialized mass incarceration and links between Palestinian and African-American freedom struggle, Davis has forged a militant vision of racial, sexual, and transnational liberation. Her writerly and analytic voice blends philosophy and political theory with the urgent demands of activism and direct action. In this course, we will read across her life’s work, beginning with early essays and her autobiography, up through recent reflections on mass incarceration, Palestine, and #BlackLivesMatter. As well, we will examine Davis’ influences and how she transforms and extends their thought, ranging from Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse to Frederick Douglass, Assata Shakur, and Huey Newton, among others. What emerges from these readings is a rigorous and radical vision of liberation drawn from a powerful mixture of critical theory, vernacular culture, and political activism.

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