Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

African American Women's Lives

HISTORY 54N

African American women have been placed on the periphery of many historical documents. This course will encourage students to think critically about historical sources and to use creative and rigorous historical methods to recover African American women's experiences. Drawing largely on primary sources such as letters, personal journals, literature, and film, this seminar explores the everyday lives of African American women in 19th- and 20th-century America. We will begin in our present moment and look back on the lives and times of a wide range of African American women, including Charlotte Forten Grimké, a 19th-century reformer and teacher; Nella Larsen, a Harlem Renaissance novelist; Josephine Baker, the expatriate entertainer and singer; and Ida B. Wells and Ella Baker, two luminaries of civil rights activism. We will examine the struggles of African American women to define their own lives and improve the social, economic, political, and cultural conditions of black communities. Topics will include women's enslavement and freedom, kinship and family relations, institution and community building, violence, labor and leisure, changing gender roles, consumer and beauty culture, social activism, and the politics of sexuality. 

 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Allyson Hobbs

Allyson Hobbs is an associate professor in the Department of History. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and she received a Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago. Professor Hobbs teaches courses on African American history, African American women's history, and 20th century American history. She has won several teaching awards. She has appeared on C-Span and NPR. Her book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, was published by Harvard University Press in fall 2014.