Black Studies

Coordinator:       SYDNEY CARPENTER (Studio Art)
                           Rose Maio (Administrative Coordinator)
Committee:        Timothy Burke (History)
                           Anthony Foy (English Literature)
                           Sharon Friedler (Dance)
                           Nina Johnson (Sociology and Anthropology)
                           Cheryl Jones-Walker (Black Studies, Educational Studies)
                           Keith Reeves (Political Science) 3
                           Micheline Rice-Maximin (Modern Languages and Literatures, French) 2
                           Peter Schmidt (English Literature)
                           Christine Schuetze (Sociology and Anthropology) 3
                           Sarah Willie-LeBreton (Black Studies, Sociology and Anthropology)
                           Carina Yervasi (Modern Languages and Literatures, French)
2 Absent on leave, spring 2015.
3 Absent on leave, 2014-2015.

The purpose of Black Studies is to introduce students to the history, culture, art, social relationships, and political, religious, and economic experiences of black people in Africa and the African Diaspora.

Black Studies has often stood in critical relation to the traditional disciplines. Its scholars have used traditional and nontraditional methodological tools to pursue knowledge that assumes the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora are central to understanding the world accurately. The courses in the Black Studies Program at Swarthmore enhance the liberal arts tradition of the College, acknowledging positivist, comparative, progressive, modernist and postmodern, postcolonial, and Afrocentric approaches.

The Academic Program

Course Minor

Students must successfully complete BLST 015 Introduction to Black Studies, normally in freshman or sophomore year. Usually, students must earn a grade point average of 3.0 or above in Black Studies coursework in order to be accepted into the program. In addition to Intro, students must complete 4 courses that BLST Program credit. Check the website or with the Administrative Coordinator for the most current list of courses. No more than 2 courses for the minor may be taken off of Swarthmore’s campus. At least one course must be outside of the student’s major and no more than two courses may double count, that is may be counted towards both the major and the minor.

Honors Minor

Honors minors must meet all requirements of the course minor. Students participating in the Honors Program are invited to define a minor in the Black Studies Program. Honors minors in Black Studies must complete a two-credit preparation for their honors portfolio to be submitted to external examiners. The following options apply:

  1. A two-credit honors thesis written under program supervision,
  2. A one credit thesis paired with a BLST course,
  3. A two-credit honors seminar that counts toward the BLST Program, or
  4. The pairing of two one-credit courses that count toward the BLST Program.

Requirements and Preparation for Honors Minors

The 2-credit honors thesis must include work done for the interdisciplinary minor and should entail some unifying or integrative principle of coherence. In addition, an honors thesis must also include substantial work (normally 50% or more), drawing on a discipline that is outside of the student’s major. The Black Studies Committee must approve the proposal for the 2-credit honors thesis, normally during the fall of the student’s senior year.

After consultation with the major department, minors may draw on these preparations to enhance or, where appropriate, to integrate their completed or ongoing senior honors study for the major. Work in the Black Studies Program may be represented in the honors portfolio sent to the external examiner by the inclusion of an essay designed to enhance and/or integrate work done in two or more courses, a revised and enriched seminar paper or a term paper from a Black Studies Program course, a video or audio tape of a creative performance activity in dance or music, or other approved creative work.

Special Major

Students preferring more intensive work in Black Studies are welcome to design a special major by consulting with the program’s coordinator, usually during sophomore year. The special major includes the requirements for the minor plus 5 additional credits, one of which usually includes a cap stone experience to be decided upon in consultation with the program’s coordinator.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

Students may complete a 1-credit course thesis (BLST 091) as part of the Black Studies minor or special major. Permission will be granted only after consultation with the Black Studies coordinator and committee. Approval must be secured by the spring of junior year.

Application Process Notes for the Major or the Minor

Students in any department may add an interdisciplinary minor in the Black Studies Program to their departmental major by fulfilling the requirements stated subsequently. Applications for admission to the black studies interdisciplinary minor should be made in the spring semester of the sophomore year to the program coordinator. All programs must be approved by the Black Studies Committee.

Life After Swarthmore

Students with a background in black studies have pursued a number of paths after graduation. Some have worked in research, or social service organizations, while others have gone directly to graduate school. Many eventually become teachers or professors. Others work in the broadcasting, arts, journalism, international law, business, finance, or in non-governmental organizations. All consider black studies to have been an important part of their liberal arts education.


Courses in the Black Studies Program are listed below. Courses of independent study, special attachments on subjects relevant to black studies, and courses offered by visiting faculty that are not regularly listed in the catalog may also qualify for credit in the program, subject to the approval of the Black Studies Committee. Students who wish to pursue these possibilities should consult with the program coordinator.

The following courses may be counted for credit in the Black Studies Program. Descriptions of the courses can be found in each department’s course listings in this catalog.

Black Studies

BLST 015. Introduction to Black Studies

This course introduces students to the breadth and depth of the discipline in the Black Studies Program, using primary sources. It begins with an examination of current debates that define theory, method, and goals in black studies. It also examines the movement from the more object-centered Africana studies to subject- and agentic-oriented black studies that occurred as a result of civil rights and anti-colonialist movements in the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe. The course examines the challenges that were levied against traditional academic disciplines with the rise of anti-racist scholarship. It briefly examines the conversation between American, Caribbean, and African postcolonialists, and it allows students to delve into some of black studies’ most current and exciting scholarship, with a focus on the U.S.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Johnson.

BLST 040G. Between the “Is” and the “Ought” Black Social and Political Thought

(Cross-listed as SOCI 040G)
Our study of black social and political thought will include not only the pivotal scholarly texts, but also the social and political practice and cultural production of abolitionists, maroons, Pan-Africanists, club women, freedom fighters, poets, and the vast array of “race men and women” across the spectrum of crusades. We will explore the range of intellectual and cultural production and protest ideology/action of Blacks through the politics and social observation of the pre-emancipation period, post-emancipation liberation struggles, and the post-colonial and post-civil rights period.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015. Johnson.

BLST 059. The Black Freedom Struggle: From Civil Rights to Hip-Hop

(Cross-listed as HIST 059)
This course is devoted to the study of the black efforts to achieve political, social and economic equality within the United States through protest. Students will investigate the links between protest efforts in the era of World War II, the nonviolent and radical phases of the modern civil rights movement and the development of a new culture of protest in the last quarter of the 20th century. In addition to studying historical texts, students will analyze various forms of protest media such as Black Radio Days, cartoons, paintings and plays of 1960s Black Arts Movement and the poems, lyrics, and graphic art of early hip-hop.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. A. Dorsey.

BLST 090G. Black Liberation 1969: Black Studies in History Theory and Praxis

(Cross-listed as HIST 090G)
This research seminar on the civil rights movement and student activism will investigate the history of the black student movement on college campuses in America circa 1968–1972 with an emphasis on unearthing the story of Swarthmore’s own black student protest in 1969. Students will write the first accurate history of the black protest as well as develop a creative project designed to educate the campus and broader community about these events.
1.5 credits.
Fall 2014. A. Dorsey.

BLST 091. Thesis

Writing course.
1 credit.
Each semester. Staff.

BLST 092. Seminar in Black Studies

1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015.

BLST 093. Directed Reading

1 credit.
Each semester. Staff.

BLST 180. Honors Thesis

2 credits.
Each semester. Staff.


DANC 043. African Dance I
DANC 049. Performance Dance: Repertory: African
DANC 053. African Dance II
DANC 078. Dance/Drum Ensemble


ECON 073. Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Economics
ECON 081. Economic Development
ECON 082. The Political Economy of Africa
ECON 171. Labor and Social Economics
ECON 181. Economic Development

Educational Studies

EDUC 068. Urban Education
EDUC 167. Identities and Education

English Literature

ENGL 009S. First-Year Seminar: Black Liberty, Black Literature
ENGL 060. Early African American Print Cultures
ENGL 061. Core: Fictions of Black America
ENGL 062. Classic: Black Autobiography
ENGL 063. Contemporary Black Autobiography
ENGL 064. The New Negro Versus Jim Crow
ENGL 068. Black Culture in a “Post-Soul” Era
ENGL 119. Black Cultural Studies Seminar

Film and Media Studies

FMST 059. Re-Envisioning Diaspora


FREN 043. Ecrore le moi
FREN 045D. Le monde francophone: African Cinema
FREN 046D. Poésies d’écritures françaises
FREN 056. Ces femmes qui écrivent/Reading French Women
FREN 077. Caribbean and African Literatures and Cultures in Translation
FREN 110. Histories d’Isles
FREN 111. Le Désir colonial: représentations de la différence dans l’imaginaire français
FREN 114. Théâtre d’écritures françaises
FREN 115. Paroles de femmes


HIST 007A. African American History, 1619–1865
HIST 007B. African American History, 1865–Present
HIST 008A. West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade, 1500–1850
HIST 008B. Mfecane, Mines, and Mandela: South Africa From 1650 to the Present
HIST 008C. From Leopold to Kabila: Central Africa’s Bad 20th Century
HIST 051. Black Reconstruction
HIST 053. Black Women in the Civil Rights Movements
HIST 058. Africa in America: Gullah/Geechee Life and Culture
HIST 059. The Black Freedom Struggle: Civil Rights to Hip Hop
HIST 089. Environmental History of Africa
HIST 090E. On the Other Side of the Tracks: Black Urban Community
HIST 137. Slavery: 1550–1865
HIST 140. The Colonial Encounter in Africa


LING 052. Historical and Comparative Linguistics


LITR 059F. Re-Envisioning Diaspora
LITR 077F. Caribbean and African Literature and Culture in Translation


MUSI 003. Jazz History
MUSI 003B. Jazz and the Trans-Atlantic African Diaspora
MUSI 061. Jazz Improvisation
MUSI 071. Afro-Caribbean Drum Circle
MUSI 078. Dance/Drum Ensemble


PHIL 061. Philosophy of Race and Gender

Political Science

POLS 070B. Politics of Punishment (instructor’s permission required)
POLS 106. The Urban Underclass and Public Policy (instructor’s permission required)


RELG 010. African American Religions
RELG 024. From Vodun to Voodoo: African Religions in the Old and New Worlds
RELG 025. Black Women and Religion in the United States
RELG 109. Afro-Atlantic Religions

Sociology and Anthropology

ANTH 003F. Culture and Religion in Africa
ANTH 003G. First-Year Seminar: Development and Its Discontents
ANTH 023C. Anthropological Perspectives on Conservation
ANTH 043F. Culture, Power and Religion in Africa
SOAN 020B. Urban Education
SOCI 007B. Introduction to Race and Ethnicity in the United States
SOCI 007C. Sociology Through African American Women’s Writing
SOCI 040I. Race and Place: A Philadelphia Story
SOCI 127. Race Theories