African-American Culture and the Arts

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HUM 124

       Course Name: African-American Culture and the Arts

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course offers an interdisciplinary and comparative survey of the intellectual, artistic, historical, and cultural achievements of people of African descent in America. Content includes examination of literature, philosophy, visual art, music, film, and other performing arts.

IV.   Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the cultural/social history of the African American artistic and philosophical movements covered.
  2. Identify and evaluate representative works of African American art (painting, music, literature, film, etc.)
  3. Apply the critical vocabulary associated with the art forms presented.
  4. Examine and analyze African American works (texts) within/without the works’ historical, social, and economic contexts.  
  5. Trace the interrelationships and continuity shared by African American artistic expression and cultural movements across time.
  6. Articulate how particular socio-political milieus are linked to African American culture and art.
  7. Demonstrate a knowledge of the cultural achievements of people of African American descent in America.

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

  1. Historical Overview
    1. African/African American Diaspora
    2. Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
    3. The Great Migration
    4. Civil Rights Movement
    5. Socio-political Movements
    6. Cultural Movements
  2. Religion and Philosophy
    1. Significance of folklore
    2. Intertwining of religion and political philosophy 
    3. Historical development of the invisible church, black church, and other religious denominations.
  3. Social Organization
    1. The Slave Community
    2. Economic foundations
    3. Family
    4. Role of women
    5. Local communities
    6. Role of the state 
  4. Art
    1. Three-dimensional media
    2. Painting
    3. Sculpture
  5. Literature
    1. Oral traditions
    2. Slave Narratives
    3. Poetry
    4. Drama
    5. Novel
    6. Autobiographies
    7. Literary Criticism
    8. Speeches/Essays
  6. Music
    1. Cultural significance of music
    2. Historical significance of music
    3. Political significance of music
    4. Performance
  7. Contemporary Culture
    1. Tradition and Modernity
    2. Art, music, and literature
    3. Film
    4. Cultural identity

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Texts such as the following will be used:

  • Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television by Donald Bogle
  • Am I Black Enough for You? by Todd Boyd
  • Norton Anthology of African American Literature edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. et al.
  • Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins
  • killing rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
  • Yo Mama’s Dysfunktional by Robin Kelley
  • Race Matters by Cornel West
  • The Hip Hop Reader by Tim Strode & Tim Wood

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

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. Lectures and discussion
  2. Small group work
  3. Films
  4. Oral recordings
  5. Field trips to places such as the Art Institute and the DuSable Museum
  6. Guest speakers

IX.   Instructional Materials

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

  1. Students will take six quizzes, a midterm exam, and a final exam in order to demonstrate their understanding of the cultures studied.
  2. Students will complete 6 one page response papers that will present a brief analysis of the reading/text scheduled during the semester. Student will demonstrate their understanding of the cultural, political, and/or historical milieus in juxtaposition of their chosen subject.
  3. Students will write two papers at least five pages in length in order to demonstrate their ability to analyze a work of literature, art, music, or film.  The papers must show an understanding of the overall context within which this work of art was created.
  4. Students will visit at least one exhibit at a museums and attend at least one musical/dramatic performance.  They will record their observations in brief two-page papers in order to develop their respect and appreciation for the cultures which they are studying.
  5. Students will participate in class discussion and small group discussion in order to develop both their critical thinking abilities and their appreciation for the diversity of African American cultures.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

  1. The midterm and final exams count for 30% of the final grade.
  2. The quizzes and response papers will count for a combined 20%.
  3. Each paper 5-page paper counts for 30% of the final grade. The instructor will look for accuracy in the presentation of the material and for arguments that support a thesis.
  4. Each observation papers count for 10% of the final grade.
  5. Participation will count for 10% of the final grade.

XI.   Other Course Information

In keeping with this policy of tolerance and non-discrimination, in this class all of us (myself included) should strive to listen and give careful consideration to all ideas expressed in class, especially those that are different from our own, without attacking or demeaning the people who have those views.  We should also strive to avoid using insulting terms or telling offensive jokes when talking to or about individuals or groups.

Office Hours and Miscellaneous Information

    Instructor Contact Information

    Office Phone Number:
    Fax Number:

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.