Black Studies

Overview

Black Studies at Occidental College is a transnational and interdisciplinary study of the history, scholarship, arts and culture of people of the African diaspora. As a heterogeneous and diverse discipline, Black Studies encourages rigorous critical contemplation and debate. It engages with and expands upon the vibrant intellectual tradition of critical engagement already established at the college. Students of Black Studies learn to examine the world and their local communities with an eye to black people's important and sometimes overlooked contributions, and to understand the ways the experiences of people of African descent have shaped and continue to inform campaigns for human rights.

Courses draw from faculty expertise in the fields of Politics, International Relations, English, American Studies, History, Philosophy, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and others. The program explores the conditions and experiences of race in the twenty-first century through a historical study of the enduring traditions of scholarship, activism, and community throughout the African diaspora. Students participate in intersectional analysis of black populations, paying close attention to how class, location, gender, sexuality, have shaped black identities, cultural productions and forms of political engagement both past and present.

Students who major in Black Studies will:

  • Learn about the history and contemporary culture of people in African descent across the diaspora, including the development of foundational ideas and documents for our contemporary understanding of social justice and human rights;
  • Engage in interdisciplinary and intersectional analysis of black communities in the U.S. and abroad, both past and present;
  • Contribute to longstanding discussions about the enduring effects of slavery and colonization, the place of race in conceptions of citizenship and justice, the centrality of people of African descent to major developments (social, artistic, political, and scientific) throughout the world;
  • Experience black communities outside the United States through study abroad;
  • Have the opportunity to get involved in the local community through community-based partnerships in Los Angeles and surrounding communities;
  • Graduate prepared for careers in law, medicine, education, entertainment, international business, and several others that involve communicating with and understanding people across difference and within specific communities.


Major Requirements

The Black Studies major consists of a minimum of 40 units, or ten 4-unit courses.

There are two core required courses for the major, BLST 110 and BLST 490.

There are three Interdisciplinary clusters: expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory. Students are expected to complete six of these, with a minimum of two in each of the three interdisciplinary clusters.

Students must take two additional electives in consultation with the faculty advisor and selected from a list of approved electives or any of the interdisciplinary clusters.

Of the ten required courses, no more than two courses can be at the 100-level, and at least three must be at the 300-level.

No more than two courses taken abroad may count toward the major. Such courses may only fulfill elective requirements and require prior approval from the advisor and department chair.

COURSEWORK

Core Courses

BLST 110Introduction to Black Studies

4 units

BLST 490Black Studies Senior Seminar

4 units

Interdisciplinary Electives

Students must take two courses from each interdisciplinary cluster (expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory).

 

Expressive Forms
AMST 346/ENGL 346Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century African American Literature

4 units

BLST 240/AMST 240African American Women Writers

4 units

BLST 252/MAC 252African-American Film: 1967–Present

4 units

BLST 325/AMST 325Toni Morrison and African-American Self-Fashioning

4 units

CTSJ 280Rastafari

4 units

ENGL 142Joyful Noise! On Black Literature and Musicality

4 units

ENGL 377Literature and Other Arts

4 units

MUSC 104Music of Africa and the Middle East

4 units

MUSC 111Topics in Jazz History

4 units

RELS 245/BLST 245African American Religious Traditions

4 units

WRD 245Black Protest Rhetorics

4 units

Historical Perspectives
BLST 242/AMST 242The Great Migration

4 units

BLST 256/AMST 256Race Women: African American Women's Protest Culture

4 units

BLST 268/AMST 268Style Politics: Beauty and Fashion in Black Women's History

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

AMST 310The American South

4 units

HIST 309Slavery in the Antebellum South

4 units

HIST 21319th Century Black Activism for Abolition and Equality

4 units

HIST 312Race, Rights, and Revolution in the Atlantic World

4 units

Politics and Theory
BLST 352/POLS 352Black Political Thought

4 units

BLST 355/POLS 355Critical Fanonism

4 units

AMST 295Topics in American Studies

4 units

AMST 296/DWA 287Transnational Liberation: Black Radical Thought in the Middle East and North Africa

4 units

CTSJ 386Critical Blackness

4 units

DWA 233/BLST 233African Politics

4 units

DWA 234/BLST 234South African Politics

4 units

POLS 258/BLST 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

POLS 301Urban Policy and Politics

4 units

POLS 347Race and Law

4 units

Additional Electives

Students must take two additional electives chosen from the list of approved electives below, or any of the interdisciplinary clusters.

CTSJ 255Women of Color

4 units

CTSJ 261Race, Gender, Class, and the Media

4 units

CTSJ 286Whiteness

4 units

CTSJ 335Queer of Color Critique

4 units

DWA 335Junior Seminar: Theories of Revolution from Africa and the African Diaspora

4 units

EDUC 215Educating African America

4 units

EDUC 320Critical Race Theory in Education

4 units

ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature

4 units

HIST 277Women and Community Health

4 units

PHIL 353Health and Social Justice

4 units

POLS 206Race and American Politics

4 units

SOC 250Race and Ethnicity in American Society

4 units

SECOND-STAGE WRITING REQUIREMENT

The Second-Stage Writing Requirement may be fulfilled in one of two ways:

 

Option 1:

A student may complete the Second-Stage Writing Requirement in Black Studies by taking one of the following courses and receiving a grade of B- or better, determined by the instructor of record, on a 15-page final paper focusing on a topic relevant to Black Studies.

BLST 325/AMST 325Toni Morrison and African-American Self-Fashioning

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

AMST 310The American South

4 units

AMST 346/ENGL 346Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century African American Literature

4 units

AMST 390Junior Seminar

4 units

Option 2:

By submitting to the chair a portfolio consisting of fifteen pages of writing submitted as a final assignment in a 300-level Black Studies designated course or a course approved by the adviser in which the student has composed a final assignment addressed specifically to the topic of Black Studies. The portfolio may include more than one essay if a single essay is less than fifteen pages in length. The portfolio will be assessed by the adviser in consultation with the chair.

In order to successfully pass the Second-Stage Writing Requirement, submitted essays must exhibit evidence of the following: 

  • Correct use of the conventions of American academic prose including grammar, punctuation, syntax, and vocabulary
  • Proper citation formatting in MLA or Chicago Manual Style, preferably
  • Construction of a compelling and clear thesis or argument
  • Persuasive use of evidence (secondary sources, data, etc.) to support the thesis and related claims
  • Organization of the essay as a whole into a logical sequence with smooth transitions

Essays submitted as part of a portfolio will be assessed against these criteria and graded Acceptable/Unacceptable.

The course or portfolio must be completed by the end of the spring semester during the student's junior year.

Should a student not successfully complete the writing requirement by the end of their Junior year Spring semester, they will be required to submit a revised essay/portfolio to the adviser no later than the fourth week of their senior year fall semester.

COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT

Students will complete their comprehensive requirement by enrolling in the senior seminar (BLST 490) in their senior year and completing a 25-page paper on a topic relevant to Black Studies.

HONORS

To be eligible for honors, a student must have at least a 3.25 GPA overall and a 3.5 GPA in the major. Additionally, the student will be required to enroll in the senior seminar (currently BLST 490) in their senior year and complete a 40-page paper on a topic relevant to Black Studies. The paper must earn a grade of A- or above which is to be determined by the adviser in consultation with readers and the department chair.

Minor Requirements

The Black Studies minor is a five-course, 20-unit program consisting of one required core class (BLST 110); one elective from each interdisciplinary cluster (expressive forms, historical perspectives, and politics and theory (three courses /12 units); and one additional elective chosen from the approved Black Studies courses.

Coursework

Note: No more than three courses from one department can be counted toward the minor.

Required Core Course

BLST 110Introduction to Black Studies

4 units

Black Expressive Forms

One course from this category.

BLST 240/AMST 240African American Women Writers

4 units

BLST 252/MAC 252African-American Film: 1967–Present

4 units

BLST 325/AMST 325Toni Morrison and African-American Self-Fashioning

4 units

AMST 346/ENGL 346Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century African American Literature

4 units

CTSJ 280Rastafari

4 units

ENGL 142Joyful Noise! On Black Literature and Musicality

4 units

ENGL 377Literature and Other Arts

4 units

MUSC 104Music of Africa and the Middle East

4 units

MUSC 111Topics in Jazz History

4 units

RELS 245/BLST 245African American Religious Traditions

4 units

Historical Perspectives

One course from this category.

BLST 242/AMST 242The Great Migration

4 units

BLST 252/MAC 252African-American Film: 1967–Present

4 units

BLST 268/AMST 268Style Politics: Beauty and Fashion in Black Women's History

4 units

BLST 376/AMST 376Slavery, Freedom, and American Memory

4 units

AMST 310The American South

4 units

HIST 21319th Century Black Activism for Abolition and Equality

4 units

HIST 309Slavery in the Antebellum South

4 units

HIST 312Race, Rights, and Revolution in the Atlantic World

4 units

Politics and Theory

One course from this category.

BLST 258/POLS 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

BLST 352/POLS 352Black Political Thought

4 units

BLST 355/POLS 355Critical Fanonism

4 units

AMST 295Topics in American Studies

4 units

AMST 296/DWA 287Transnational Liberation: Black Radical Thought in the Middle East and North Africa

4 units

CTSJ 386Critical Blackness

4 units

DWA 233/BLST 233African Politics

4 units

DWA 234/BLST 234South African Politics

4 units

POLS 258/BLST 258Theoretical Accounts of Racism

4 units

POLS 347Race and Law

4 units

Additional Electives

One course either from this category or the above categories.

CTSJ 255Women of Color

4 units

CTSJ 261Race, Gender, Class, and the Media

4 units

CTSJ 286Whiteness

4 units

CTSJ 335Queer of Color Critique

4 units

DWA 335Junior Seminar: Theories of Revolution from Africa and the African Diaspora

4 units

EDUC 215Educating African America

4 units

EDUC 320Critical Race Theory in Education

4 units

ENGL 341Race, Law, and Literature

4 units

HIST 277Women and Community Health

4 units

PHIL 353Health and Social Justice

4 units

POLS 206Race and American Politics

4 units

SOC 250Race and Ethnicity in American Society

4 units

Courses

Black Studies Courses

Faculty

Advisory Committee

Courtney Baker, chair

Associate Professor, American Studies

B.A., Harvard University; M.A., Ph.D., Duke University

Erica Ball

Professor, American Studies 

B.A., Wesleyan University; M.A., Ph.D., The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Sharla Fett

Professor, History ; Advisory Committee, American Studies

B.A., Carleton College; M.A., Stanford University; Ph.D., Rutgers University

James Ford III

Associate Professor, English

B.A., Morehouse College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

Regina Freer

Professor, Politics; Advisory Committee, Urban and Environmental Policy

B.A., University of California, Berkeley; Ph.D., University of Michigan

Ainsley LeSure

Assistant Professor, Politics

B.A., Carleton College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Chicago

Movindri Reddy

Associate Professor, Diplomacy and World Affairs

B.A., University of Natal; M.A., Ph.D., Cambridge University