From Spirituals to Hip Hop (MUS 113) Syllabus, Spring 2022

SUNY Broome Department of Music and Theater Arts MUS 113
From Spirituals to Hip Hop: American Music of the African Diaspora
T/Th 2:00-3:15
Office Hours Th 3:30-4:30

The assignments are subject to change, and if you take a look at it every day there will be no surprises.

Rachel got it right.

Also: I may or may not have done this.

  • All the readings are open-source and accessible from this page.
  • All the music listening assignments are embedded in the blog posts linked under the heading “On the blog,” for each class date.
  • For some units, I’ve added OPTIONAL readings/listening that you may pursue if you are interested in the topic and have the time. These readings are NOT required.
  • Some of the readings are from the New York Times. If you are unable to open them, subscriptions to the New York Times are free through the SUNY-Broome library. Directions for access can be found on this page.
  • Many of the readings are on Google Drive. You will need to be logged on to Google to access them.
  • This course DOES NOT USE Blackboard.
    It DOES USE a Discord server for communication. I will send an invite to the Discord using your email address. It is A REQUIREMENT that you join this server.
  • If you need a paper copy of this syllabus, or paper copies of any of the readings, please ask. I will be happy to provide them.

There are a few other things to be aware of in this course:

(1) The readings assigned represent a variety of viewpoints and methods of inquiry from the past 150 years of Black music scholarship.

They do not necessarily represent my own views, those of the Music Department, or those of SUNY-Broome.

Many of these readings “argue against” each other, offering different explanations and lines of reasoning as they delve into Black music history. Please read them CLOSELY and CRITICALLY.

Keep in mind that well into the 20th century, most music scholarship on African American music was done by whites. Even where white scholars and collectors were sympathetic to the plight of Blacks in America, unconscious bias and even outright racism is present in many of their writings.

(2) The material covered in this course engages with difficult histories of suffering and oppression, including racism, slavery, segregation, sexism, homophobia, violence, transphobia, economic inequality, and other forms of social injustice. Some of the readings and assigned music will contain offensive language, including the N-word, and other historically derogatory terms for Black people. I will also be asking you to study music, texts, and images that are explicit and disturbing.

By situating these painful issues in the musical-historical context, my intent is NOT to excuse or minimize them in any way, but to help you to explore the ways that a truly great culture grew out of horrific oppression and suffering, and how that culture was eventually diffused to the entire world.

It is not an exaggeration to say that American music IS Black American music. We have to confront the fact that this great culture and music was born from the cradle of injustice.

As the credo of Afrofuturism holds: We cannot change the past. But we CAN change the future.

If your experience of these issues, or the way they are presented in this course, is problematic or triggering in any way, please speak to me about it. I take such concerns seriously, and I strive to find better ways of addressing painful, challenging, and complex topics in the classroom.

(3) Historically, the language by which both Black and white Americans have referred to Black Americans has changed over time. You will find 19th- and early-20th-century sources using terms like “colored,” and mid-20th-century sources using “Negro” (keep in mind that, in their own time, these terms were by no means slurs, but actually considered respectful, especially “Negro” with a capital N). The term “Black” superseded “Negro” in the mid-1960s. You will also see the N-word used by Blacks in 19th- and 20th-century sources, as well as in rap starting in the late 1970s up to the present day. For more, see the article “Negro, the Word: A Brief History” from the African-American Registry, and the essay “I Can’t Brook the Idea of Banning ‘Negro,’” by the always-compelling John McWhorter.

When I created this course in 2018, “Black” was generally spelled with a lower-case b. Since the international protests inspired by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, however, usage has changed to reflect awareness of Blackness as an ethnicity, not just a description of skin color, and Black is now generally capitalized. Although I revise the materials for this course regularly, I may not have gotten around to replacing all the lower-case b’s with upper-case B’s in my writings for this class by the time you read this.

For more on this topic, read the New York Times‘s explanation of the stylistic change from lower-case b to upper-case B (it references someone you’re going to hear a lot more about in the next few weeks, W.E.B. Du Bois, the great Black sociologist), and then read this essay by a Black Englishwoman pushing back against it.

That said, you will encounter offensive terms for (and attitudes towards) Black people in some of your readings and listenings for this course. As the writer David Wondrich wrote in his preface to the book Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924:

The language is offensive . . . I do not use [those words] in my private life . . . but neither will I shy from them when necessary. They’re not my words. To let them scare us off from understanding our history, from experiencing it in all its awfulness and beauty, is to grant them far too much power.

(4) It is impossible to cover the entire history of Black music in America, from the 16th century to the present day, in one semester. Some things will be left out.

In order to cover as much ground as possible, however, it’s essential that you ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in your learning. Many of the assigned readings cover the historical background and context of the music, so that we can focus on the music itself in our class discussions. DO THE READING. If you skip out on this essential step, you will have a difficult time understanding Black music and its history.

This course goes fast. Stay on top of the reading, writing, and discussions, because we won’t have time to repeat material that’s already been covered.

Remember: It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.

A Note On Office Hours

Office hours are the scheduled time set aside every week, outside of class, to discuss any issues you’re having pertaining to this course. These issues may include, but are not limited to:

  • Clarification of topics related to class discussion or reading materials
  • Following up on anything that stood out for you in class
  • Exploring topics that interest you
  • Asking for extra help
  • Discussing your progress on class projects
  • Your personal health
  • Any life situations
  • Questions about grading
  • Connecting to resources across campus or locally

These are all topics to be brought up during office hours. I do not require you to attend office hours. I expect you to evaluate for yourself whether or not to come. However, I have set aside that time in my office each week for you and whatever questions you may have. If scheduled office hours are not convenient for you, please contact me via email to make another time.

Please note, however: email and Discord are NOT substitutes for office hours. All of the above issues are issues that need to be discussed with me face to face. I am accessible by email and Discord, but I cannot address the issues on those platforms that should be brought up during office hours.

Schedule of Assigned Reading, Listening, Writing, and Other Projects

How to use this syllabus:

  1. Read it every day!
  2. Prepare the reading and listening assignments on your own, before each class date listed. The dates mean the date BEFORE WHICH you need to have the reading/listening done!
  3. You can access the readings directly from the links under each class date. The “On the blog” links will direct you to posts on this blog, where you will find all the listening examples. For these blog posts, you are expected to read as much as possible of the linked content, and listen to as much as possible of the linked/embedded audio and video.
  4. This link has detailed information on best practices for doing the reading and other coursework. Read it!
  5. This link has detailed information on best practices for doing the listening. Read it!
  6. Take notes on the reading, listening, and class discussions. Re-read your notes every evening.

We have a lot of material to get through, so we may not cover everything listed in the syllabus.

January 25
First class: Defining our terms, syllabus explained and what to expect from this course
We will be posing the questions:

  • What is Black music?
  • On a more fundamental level, what is Blackness?
  • What is “race”? Who defines what race is? Who defines what culture is?
  • Are there a limited number of recognized/accepted ways that one may express one’s race and/or culture? Or are the ways that people of a given group may engage in cultural expression infinite?
  • What does it mean to be an American (of any color)?

Keep these questions close. They will be the basis for everything we study this semester!

Race, Cultural Appropriation, and Cross-Cultural Encounters
Jan. 27
“Why is Everybody Always Stealing Black Music?” Wesley Morris
The Omni-Americans, excerpt, Albert Murray
“Under the Skin,” Razib Khan

On the blog:

Feb. 1
“Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means,” John Jeremiah Sullivan
Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family’s Claim to the Confederate Anthem (excerpt), Howard and Judith Sacks
“How Black Women Reclaimed Country and Americana Music in 2021,” Andrea Williams, Marcus Dowling, Jewly Wright
“They Look White But Say They’re Black,” Khushbu Shah

On the blog:

Black Stringband Music: Recommended Resources
“Why Rappers Rock the Confederate Flag: From Outkast to Kanye West’s Merchandise,” Stereo Williams
“Cowboy Blues: Early Black Music in the West,” Patrick Joseph O’Connor
“Meet Tray Wellington, The Black Bluegrass Banjoist Breaking Barriers in Appalachian Mountain Music,” Alexis D. Wray

From Africa to the New World
Feb. 3
“Some Fundamentals of African Music,” Peter van der Merwe
“African Music Retentions in the New World,” Lazarus E.N. Ekwueme
“Rock and Roll Unplugged: African-American Music in 18th-Century America” (Michael J. Morgan)

On the blog:

West and East African Songs (musical transcriptions for those who read music)
“Musical Passage”:
A website dedicated to the earliest known pieces of African music in the Americas. The pieces were transcribed in a 1707 book called Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbados, St. Christophers, and Jamaica, known as the “Hans Sloane Document.” Hans Sloane was a British naturalist who went to Jamaica in 1687 as physician to the British governor of Jamaica. He included several West African songs, which he heard enslaved musicians play on his trip, in his book (it is thought that the music was transcribed for him by an enslaved man who had been trained in Western music notation).

Optional: Watch this short film of a concert by Spanish viol player Jordi Savall and his ensemble, Hesperion XX. Their project, Les Routes d’Esclavages (Routes of Slavery), is a musical history of the music encountered along the routes of the slave trade, from Spain to North Africa to West Africa to the New World.]

Black Folk Music(s)

Feb. 8
Hero’s Journey Analysis Due
“The Truth About Black Freedom,” (a reflection on Juneteenth with many references to local history), Daina Ramey Berry
“Through the Prism of Folklore: The Black Ethos in Slavery,” Sterling Stuckey (a classic essay about the culture created by enslaved people, which allowed them to “free themselves” within the institution of slavery)
12 Years A Slave Is This Year’s Best Film About Music,” Ann Powers

Musical transcriptions:
“My Father How Long?” (from Slave Songs of the United States, 1867)
“Follow the Drinking Gourd/Run, N—-, Run” (collected by Alan Lomax)

On the blog:


Feb. 10
Class meets in the library

Note: Because of changing views about the word “Negro,” spirituals are now generally called “African American Spirituals” or just “spirituals.” However, some scholars insist that the correct term is still “Negro Spirituals.” Dr. Alisha Jones, one of the world’s leading authorities on Black sacred music, explains:–

On the blog:

Musical transcriptions:
“Job” (folk spiritual collected in Alabama, 1930s)
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (sheet music published in a 1900 anthology for home music-making — read the intro!)
Musical examples from The Story of the Jubilee Singers with Their Songs, J.B.T. Marsh (1882). (These are on p. 146-288. Don’t freak out when you see 294 pp!)

Feb. 15

Portrait of the Fisk Jubilee Singers commissioned by Queen Victoria after hearing them sing, 1873

“Songs of Remembrance,” Josephine Wright
“These Young Singers Still Carry the Torch of Black Freedom,” Margaret Renal
The Gift of Black Folk excerpt: “The American Folk Song W.E.B. Du Bois
“This Church Is Paying ‘Royalties’ When It Sings Spirituals Composed by Enslaved Africans,” Craig LeMoult

We will be watching Walk Together Children in class, a documentary about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Trailer here:

On the blog:


“Imagine a Bible with No Moses, No Story of the Exodus,” Sharon Brous
“The Color Line,” Annette Gordon-Reed (interesting article about Du Bois’s exhibit of his graphs at the Paris Exposition of 1900)
Watch No Cowards In Our Band, a musical drama by Anthony Knight that uses spirituals as a backdrop for the words of Frederick Douglass (performed by Syracuse Opera in 2021)

Minstrelsy in Black and White
(TW/CW: Minstrelsy is the primary source and the continuing location of some of the most offensive visual and sonic tropes of American racism. You will see many offensive and disturbing images in this unit and hear offensive language.)

Feb. 17
Group assignments given
“Sins of the Fathers,” Colin Grant
Blackface, p. 19-34 and 98-112, Ayanna Thompson
Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, Eric Lott, p. 3-7
“What I See in the Latest Blackface ‘Scandal,’” John McWhorter

On the blog:

“Black Virginians Took [Governor] Northam Back. Neither Has Forgotten,” Aston W. Herndon
Watch “The Racist History of Cartoons”

Feb. 22

“A Brief Guide to 21st-Century Blackface,” Aisha Harris
“Before it Goes Away: Performance and Reclamation of Songs from Blackface Minstrelsy,” Sheryl Kaskowitz
“UT-Austin report links ‘The Eyes of Texas’ to minstrel shows but not Robert E. Lee, says song is ‘not overtly racist,’” Kate McGee and Neelam Bohra
“Should Classic Rock Songs Be Toppled Like Confederate Statues?” Jennifer Finney Boylan


(The tune of “The Eyes of Texas” is “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

On the blog:

We will be watching this lecture-recital on the music and visual culture of minstrelsy in class, given by Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, recorded on June 18, 2020.

Black Folk Music: The Blues

Bessie Smith (Charles White, 1950)

Feb. 24
Personal Accountability Logs due today and every Thursday from this day forward
Stomping the Blues, Albert Murray (excerpt)
“The Blues: A Secular Spiritual,” James Cone

Listen to the following songs:

Can you detect any similarities between the west African songs and the blues song? Think about what the rhythm, melody, voices, and instruments sound like.

On the blog:

The Cultural Forces that Birthed the Blues
Mar 1
Letter to the Chicago Defender, May 13, 1917
“The Great Migration,” editors
“Abolition is Not Complete,” Eric Foner
Twitter thread by Louis Hyman:

On the blog:

Mar. 3:
“Libba Lives On,” Patrick McCarthy (legendary folk guitarist Libba Cotten, who lived in Syracuse)
“The Ballad of Geeshee and Elvie: On the Trail of the Phantom Women Who Changed American Music and Then Vanished Without a Trace,” John Jeremiah Sullivan
This is a long article with embedded listening examples. Read and listen to all of it!
“A Song That Changed Music Forever,” David Hajdu

On the blog:

Optional: “We Need A Second Great Migration,” Charles M. Blow
White Tears, Hari Kunzru. This is an ENTIRE NOVEL. If you have time and are so inclined, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is about the blues, about ghosts, and about the debt that white America owes to Black America (a debt that, Kunzru suggests, can never be paid up). I LOVE THIS BOOK

Mar 8:
“Ragtime,” Guy Waterman
“A Pianist Strolls Her Harlem History, and Scott Joplin’s,” Seth Colter Walls
Look through these stunning photographs of Black life taken by amateur photographer John Johnson in Lincoln, Nebraska around the turn of the 20th century.

On the blog:

Composers and Performers of Color in Classical Music Traditions

Mar 10:
Listen to Episode #51, “As White As Classical,” from the podcast How Music Does That

“Singing Against the Grain: Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter Era,” Kira Thurman
“Home,” Langston Hughes
“A Vigil For a Black Violinist Who Died Too Young,” Courtney Sherwood, Claudia Meza, and Arya Surowidjojo
“The Rediscovery of Florence Price,” Alex Ross

On the blog:

A fascinating lecture-recital on the music of Ignatius Sancho, the first Black composer to publish original compositions in England.

Mar 15:
Picture Book Planner Due
“Black Voices, German Song,” Adam Kirsch
“Camilla Williams, Barrier-Breaking Opera Star,” Margalit Fox
“It’s Time to Let Classical Music Die,” Nebal Maysaud (be sure to read the comments!)
“Lifting the Cone of Silence From Black Composers,” George E. Lewis (listen to audio clips!)

Watch When I Rise, a documentary film about opera singer Barbara Smith Conrad, my beloved former teacher.

On the blog:

“Opera Can No Longer Ignore Its Race Problem,” Joshua Barone
Have a look at @operaisracist on Instagram
“The Women Behind the First Black Music Magazine,” Ashawnta Jackson

Black Sacred Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Mar 17
“Ancient African Religion Finds Roots in America,” Christopher Johnson
“Third Avenue Series: Mystic Essentials of Brooklyn,” Larry Racioppo
“Shared Possessions: Black Pentecostals, Afro-Caribbeans, and Sacred Music,” Teresa L. Reed

Great Twitter thread on different regional and denominational gospel styles (a couple of spirituals in the mix too):

Watch a performance of Alvin Ailey’s 1960 ballet “Revelations,” which uses both spirituals and gospel to narrate the story of Black American Christianity. How are the spirituals and gospel sections different?

On the blog:

The Harlem Renaissance
Mar 22:
In the first 15 minutes of class, groups will present their work to date.
“The Caucasian Storms Harlem,” Rudolph Fisher
“History of a Song: Underneath the Harlem Moon,” Harlem World magazine
“Harlem, Billy Strayhorn, Ethel Waters . . . and Me,” Steven Blier

“Gladys Bentley: A Gender-Bending Blues Performer Who Became Harlem Royalty,” Giovanni Russonello

On the blog:

Mar 24:
Ten Basic Elements of Jazz, Langston Hughes
“Jazz Antecedents,” Eddie Meadows. This reading provides an alternative theory about the birth of jazz.
The following primary source readings are all very short, and I’ve combined them into a single document, here.
“Sidney Bechet’s Musical Philosophy,” Sidney Bechet
“Whence Comes Jass?” Walter Kingsley
“The Location of ‘Jass,’” New Orleans Times-Picayune
“A ‘Serious’ Musician Takes Jazz Seriously,” Ernest Ansermet
“A Negro Explains ‘Jazz,’” James Reese Europe
“Jazzing Away Prejudice,” Chicago Defender
“The ‘Inventor of Jazz,’” Jelly Roll Morton

On the blog:

Optional: “Deconstructing the Quadroon Ball,” Nick Douglas. An investigation of the plaçage system in Louisiana, which allowed white men and free women of color to marry, despite the laws against intermarriage.

We will be watching episode 1 of Ken Burns’s documentary Jazz in class:

Jazz in the 1930s and 1940s

Mar 29:
“Souvenir of the Lost World of the New York Jazz Club,” Sean Wilentz
“Duke Ellington Explains Swing”
“Listen Up! History of the Big Band”

On the blog:

Watch the short 1929 film “Black and Tan Fantasy,” featuring Duke Ellington and his music:

Watch a live performance of Ellington’s extended concert work Black, Brown, and Beige (1943). Is it jazz? Is it classical? Is it protest music? What was Ellington’s vision for this piece?

Mar 31:
“Bird: The Brilliance of Charlie Parker,” Whitney Balliett
“The Cult of Bebop,” Dizzy Gillespie

On the blog:

Watch this brief documentary on the evolution of bebop by Caira Lee.

Optional: “Reminiscing About the Night Before,” Charles Simic — a lovely essay about the ways that jazz permeated the culture of New York City in a bygone era

The most important jazz singer of the 20th century: Billie Holiday

Apr 5
Team Forms Due
Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth, p. 102-106, John Szwed
“Strange Fruit,” David Margolick
“The Hunting of Billie Holiday,” Johann Hari

On the blog:

Another song by Abe Meeropol with a strong social message. Frank Sinatra sang it in a short film against racism made in 1945 at the end of World War II (T/W: the film includes a racist slur against Japanese, against whom the US had been fighting). It was also recorded by Black artists, including Paul Robeson and Sam Cooke.

Jazz from the 1960s to the Present

Apr 7
“John Coltrane Draws A Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music,” Open Culture
A selection of poetry from the Black Arts Movement about John Coltrane
“An Artist Speaks Bluntly,” Archie Shepp
“Free Jazz: A Reflection of Black Power Ideology,” John D. Baskerville
“Where Jazz Lives Now,” Giovanni Russonello


On the blog:

“Why MLK Believed Jazz Was the Perfect Soundtrack for Civil Rights,” Ashawnta Jackson
“Jazz Has Always Been Protest Music. Can It Meet This Moment?” Giovanni Russonello
“Five Decades On, An Eclectic Church Preaches the Message of John Coltrane,” Anastasia Tsioulcas

Watch the 1959 film The Cry of Jazz:

April 12: Convocation Day

We will be using class today as a work day for the editing, re-writing, and organizing of your picture books (see Final Project Page).

“The Blues Had A Baby”: From Rhythm and Blues to Rock

Apr 14:
We will be using class today as a work day for the editing, re-writing, and organizing of your picture books (see Final Project Page).

“Little Richard Set the Mold by Breaking It” (Spencer Kornhaber)
 “Why Do Whites Sing Black?” Albert Goldman
“The Possessed: James Brown in 18 Minutes,” David Remnick
“Fifty Years Ago, James Brown Took An Unlikely State: Rikers Island,” Billy Heller

Watch James Brown’s performance at the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964:

Notice how many hit songs of the 1960s British Invasion were covers of songs first recorded by Black Americans:

On the blog

Spring Break April 18-24

Music of the Civil Rights Movement and Beyond

Apr 26:
We will be using class today to make mock-ups of your final projects before you turn them in to me for duplicating.

“Freedom Songs: Building a Civil Rights Playlist,” Charles L. Hughes
“Birth of a Freedom Anthem,” Ethan J. Kyle and Blain Roberts
Integrated Bus Suggestions, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On the blog:


“Woke or Still Dreaming? A Dialogue on MLK’s ‘Dream’ Speech,” Journal of Free Black Thought
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Spent the Last Year of His Life Detested by the Liberal Establishment,” Zaid Jilani

Motown and Soul

Apr 28
Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, p. 3-22, Suzanne E. Smith
“50 Years Later, Why ‘What’s Going On’ Endures,” Tonya Mosely and Samantha Raphelson

On the blog:

“The Death of the Black Utopia,” Brent Staples
“A Warning Ignored,” Jelani Cobb

May 3:
Elizabeth Cotten and Charles Cohen groups: mock-ups are due to me: HARD DEADLINE!
All Picture Book Analysis Forms due
“What We Want,” Stokely Carmichael
Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! Excerpt, Julius Lester
The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History, David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (excerpt)
Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power (excerpt), Aaron Cohen

Listen to Malcolm X’s November 1963 speech “A Message to the Grass Roots.” Malcolm dismisses the August 1963 March on Washington and talks about the need for a “Black revolution.”

On the blog:

“My Mother’s Dreams for Her Son, and All Black Children,” Hilton Als
“A Brief History of the Lumpen, the Black Panthers’ Revolutionary Funk Band,” Eric Arnold
“The Party’s Over,” Kate Coleman — a highly critical look at the degeneration of Black Panther Party and its charismatic leader, Huey Newton, in the late 1970s (the party was disbanded in 1980)
“The Panthers and the Patriots,” Michael McCanne — the story of a radical alliance of Panthers and poor white activists in Chicago
“The True Story of Soul City, A Utopian Town Built for African Americans,” Brentin Mock
Read this fascinating article by Geoffrey Jacques about Freedomways, the magazine of the Civil Rights Movement

Watch footage from the late 1960s of Black activists explaining their position. Do their words still resonate today?


Afrofuturism is highly theoretical and interdisciplinary The readings are dense, so give yourself plenty of time to go through them!

May 5:
Invisible Man, Prologue (Ralph Ellison)
“George Schuyler: An Afrofuturist Before His Time,” Danzy Senna
“The Robot Voodoo Power Thesis: Afrofuturism and Anti-anti-essentialism from Sun Ra to Kool Keith,” J. Griffith Rollefson

“Trans Identity as Embodied Afrofuturism,” Amber Johnson
Check out Sistah Scifi, a Black-owned bookstore in Philadelphia devoted exclusively to Afrofuturism

Look at some of Sun Ra’s album covers, prints, and pamphlets here:

On the blog:

Watch a video about the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit, “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room.”

Watch Janelle Monáe’s 2018 Dirty Computer.

Watch Sun Ra’s germinal 1974 Afrofuturist musical film Space is the Place. [Content warning: contains nudity, violence, sexual situations, violence against women, and explicit language, including the N-word. If you want to, you can skip a scene that contains a lot of this content, from about 47:00 to about 54:30, in which two NASA scientists trying to learn Ra’s secrets of musical teletransportation go to a brothel.]

Optional (This is one of my favorite topics, so there are lots . . . ):
“I Am Curious (Black)!” from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (1970) — the title is a reference to an experimental 1967 film, I Am Curious (Yellow).
The Parable of the Sower (graphic novel adaptation), Chapter 1 (Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy and John Jennings)
“That Time Muhammad Ali Beat Superman,” Todd Steven Burroughs
“Superheroes and Trailblazers: Black Comic Book Artists, Rediscovered,” Helene Stapinski
The reading list for a course Sun Ra taught at UC-Berkeley is here:
Much of Afrofuturism looks to the glories of the ancient past. Read “Malcolm X and Ancient History,” and peruse a hand-written syllabus and final exam that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. created for a philosophy course he taught at Morehouse College in 1962.
Ingrid LaFleur ran for mayor of Detroit in 2017 on an Afrofuturist campaign. Watch her lecture about how to work radical transformation through Afrofuturism.]

TW/CW: As we move into rap and hip-hop, we’ll be encountering an increased amount of explicit/offensive language, narratives, and imagery in both the music and the critical readings.

The Blues is dead because the soil that produces the Blues either lies fallow or has been covered with concrete. However, the Blues sensibility, the impulse to rise above by declaiming just how tough times are, the laughing to keep from crying, the celebration of the transformatory power of violence – all of that is found in the Blues music of the ’90s, which is, of course, Rap.” (Kalamu ya Salaam)

Hip Hop: Roots and Origin Stories


May 10
Julius Eastman group: mock-up due to me HARD DEADLINE!
Field Trip to Roosevelt School to present your final projects to elementary school students

Anti-racist educator Chloé Valdary on hip hop’s connection to the Homeric tradition (remember the Hero’s Journey!)

“Rap’s African and African American Roots,” Fernando Orejuela
Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me, Bruce Jackson: read the following excerpts:
– Preface, v-viii
– Toasts about Stagger Lee, 31-43
– Toasts about Dolomite, 45-50
– Toasts about Shine and the Great Titanic, 169-185
“Hip Hop’s Ground Zero,” Fernando Orejuela
“The Art of Turntablism,” History Detectives

On the blog:

Watch the trailer for the 2019 documentary Decade of Fire, about the destruction of the South Bronx:

“Crate Digging Begins at Home: Black and Latinx Women Collecting and Selecting Records in the 1960s and 1970s Bronx,” Jennifer Lynn Stoever
“The Connection Between Hip Hop, New Wave, and Punk,” Davey D

Rap and Gangsta Culture
May 13:
“The Story of Stagger Lee,” Timothy Lane
“Hardcore: ‘Message Rap’ and ‘Gangsta Rap,’” Fernando Orejuela
“How Drill Music Took Over Chicago — And Was Almost Forced Out,” Andre Gee
“Eric Adams Meets With the Drill Rappers Whose Music He Said He Wanted to Ban,” Wilfred Chan

On the blog:

Optional: Black Punk Rock
Shotgun Seamstress blog, Osa Atoe
Shotgun Seamstress zine issues
“The Black Punk Pioneers Who Made Music History,” Daisy Jones
Black Women In Rock blog
Buttocks Productions: Tina Bell (Godmother of Grunge) — H/T Ben Kernan
“Black Punk Time: Blacks in Punk, New Wave, and Hardcore 1976-1983,”
James Porter and Jake Austin
Hard to see in this video, but the legendary Binghamton punk band Devastation Masters’ drummer, Bill Roberts, was Black. (Bill is also a former student of mine.)

Critical Hip Hop Discourses: Black Scholars (and a token white dude) on Rap’s Mixed Legacy
May 17
“How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back,” John McWhorter
The 21st-Century Hip-Hop Minstrel Show, excerpt, Raphael Heaggans (TW for disturbing content about prison life, among other things)
“Anti-Racism is an Inter-White Struggle,” Freddie deBoer (token white dude — this article is a broader critique of white allies in anti-racist struggles, but it uses the moral outcry over hardcore rap as a point of comparison)
“The Education of a Part-Time Punk,” Kelefa Sanneh (the reminiscences of a Black music critic who went from punk to rap to entire worlds of great music)

On the blog:

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