Introduction to African-American Literature

I.     Course Prefix/Number: EGL 134

       Course Name: Introduction to African-American Literature

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course introduces fiction, poetry, and drama by African-American writers. Content includes social, cultural, historical, and literary contexts; comparable themes in popular culture; terminology and methods of literary analysis and evaluation.

IV.   Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:

  1. Identify some of the important works and periods in African-American literature, such as slave narratives, the Harlem Renaissance, and Black Arts Movement;
  2. Explain the complexities of race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, and class in the African-American literary tradition;
  3. Delineate the social, cultural, literary, and historical influences specific to the development of African-American literary traditions in America;
  4. Demonstrate ability to discuss and debate multiple interpretations of literary works using the methods of shared inquiry;
  5. Engage in close readings of literary texts as support for literary interpretation in classroom discussion and written assignments;
  6. Interpret the formal elements of these works, using literary terminology appropriate to specific genres;
  7. Distinguish and apply multiple critical approaches to the analysis of literary texts.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Readings may be organized thematically or chronologically.  In either case, the major works and periods will be covered.

Sample outline by chronology:

Week 1-2: The Colonial Period
Introduction to course and course syllabus; oral traditions
Wheatley, Equiano

Weeks 3-5: Antebellum and Postbellum Literature
Douglass, Jacobs, Dunbar, Chesnutt, Washington,

Weeks 6 -8: Harlem Renaissance
Du Bois, McKay, Cullen, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Toomer

Weeks 9-11: Protest Literature
Wright,  Baldwin

Weeks 12-13: Black Arts Movement
Baraka, Sanchez, Giovanni

Weeks 13-15: Black Women’s Literary Renaissance
Lorde, Walker, Morrison

Sample outline by themes:

Week 1
Introduction to course and course objectives; oral traditions

Week 2-5 Slavery and Freedom
Wheatley, Equiano, Jacobs, Douglass, Washington

Weeks 6-11 Double Consciousness and the African-American Experience
DuBois, Johnson, Larsen, Ellison

Week 12-16 Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality
Baldwin, Wright, Walker, Morrison

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Primarily lecture and discussion of reading assignments. Guest speakers, films, and audio-visual materials may be used when appropriate.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Class will consist of lecture on and discussion of required reading assignments. Written work will include a midterm and final exam and formal essay assignments totaling 10-15 typed pages. Quizzes, group projects and/or oral assignments may also be given.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Novels, short stories, poetry and/or drama by African-American writers.  Films, audiovisual materials and/or guest lectures may be used when appropriate.

Suggested anthology: The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

In addition to exams and written/oral assignments, students will be evaluated on their active and prepared participation in class discussions and other projects.

XI.   Other Course Information

Attendance policy

For whatever information/procedures the instructor holds the student accountable.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.