Courses offer insight into “Black experience” in America

Each fall, Jackson State Community College’s divisions of Communication and Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences offers HIST 2060: African American History and ENGL 2055: African American Literature, two courses that are particularly relevant to our social and cultural moment.

Professors Tammy Prater and Anna Esquivel feel that education is the best way to offer support and assist the community with understanding the current national crisis. “Students and community members may find themselves struggling to feel informed. Both of these courses offer an opportunity to understand our great American experiment in the context of Racial injustice,” said Prater.

“This is an opportunity to learn more about the Black experience in America and explore how Black arts, letters, theories, critiques, demonstrations, movements, inventions, leadership, and labor have shaped American society and democracy,” stated Esquivel.

Tammy Prater, Associate Professor of History, will teach African American History (HIST2060) that begins with the African experience before there were European colonies in North America. The course will explore the first Africans landing in North America in 1619 (one year before the Pilgrims) and follow them through lives of indentured servitude, then enslavement, and a continuous struggle for freedom and the rights of citizens. In a nation founded on the idea that “All men are created equal,” there will be an analysis of the continuing struggle for a nation to live up to that promise. The course will also explore the lives and works of Anthony Johnson, Denmark Vesey, Dred Scott, Frederick Douglass, Madame C.J. Walker, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Septima Clark, Emmet Till, The Scotsboro Boys, Angela Davis, Thurgood Marshall, and many others.

Anna Esquivel, Associate Professor of English, will teach a survey of African American Literature (ENGL2055), which emphasizes an exploration of African American literary identity through an examination of literary trends, themes, and historical and political contexts. In this course, we will ask questions such as: How do rap and hip-hop reflect the oral traditions of early African cultures? What do works by African American writers teach us about American culture, its history, and its politics? How do poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writing by African American writers reflect the inner lives of the artists as well as the cultural, social, and political environments in which they strive, thrive, and struggle? The course will explore the works of writers such as WEB DuBois, Anna Julia Cooper, James Weldon Johnson, Helene Johnson, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Colson Whitehead, Audre Lorde, and many others.

There will be opportunities for the community to participate by reading common works and engaging in online discussions with the professors and the students of African American Literature and African American History. For more information, please email tprater2@jscc.edu and/or aesquivel@jscc.edu.