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English 223 Fall 1993
Black American Literature

This syllabus was awarded syllabus of the year by the journal College Literature.

The class is described in "Prison, Race, and Social Justice: Teaching to the Contemporary Crisis." College Literature, Fall 1995. Special Issue:
"African American Literature and Literary Theory."

Prison, Race, and Social Justice

Don't be shocked when I say that I was in prison. You're still in prison.That's what America means: prison.

Malcolm X

Drawing on key African American texts and historical materials, and informed by recent thought in critical criminology, this course will conduct an interdisciplinary search for analysis and strategies to address the contemporary crisis of crime, imprisonment, and social justice. Our reading will include three novels, two autobiographies, a play, selected poetry, essays, and speeches, music lyrics, social and historical studies, video documentary, and film.

Attendance, careful preparation, and involvement in discussion is essential to success of the course and a factor in the grade (20%). There will be two (six page minimum) papers and a final exam (60%). Integral to this course is a computer conference (ENGL-223) that provides a forum for consideration of reading, in class discussion, and course process (20% of final grade, one 45 minute log on per week is sufficient participation for a "B").

Required Texts:

Wright, Richard. Native Son (1940).

Baldwin, James. If Beale Street Could Talk (1974).

Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).

Piñero, Miguel. Short Eyes (1982).

Davis, Angela. Autobiography (1978).

Jones, Gayle. Eva's Man (1974).

King, Martin Luther Jr. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (1967).

Course Packet

I. Crime, Race, and the American Social Order

8/31 A Nation of Prisons?

Fox Butterfield: "U.S. Expands Its Lead in the Rate of Imprisonment," NYT (2/10/93).

Francis Clines: "Prisons Run out of Cells, Money and Choices," NYT (5/28/93).

Peter Luke: "Dwindling Support, Rising Costs Send Universities Out of Reach," Kalamazoo Gazette (9/8/93).

Michigan Dept. of Corrections: "Map Of Prisons," "Profile of Prisoners," "Prison Crowding" (1992).

9/2 -7 Historical Perspective

Howard Zinn: "Drawing the Color Line," "Slavery without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom" fromPeople's History of the United States (1980).

Michael Lynch and Britt Patterson: "Introduction," Race and Criminal Justice (1991).

Andrew Hacker: "Crime: The Role Race Plays" in Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, and Unequal (1992).

9/9 -10/21 Race and Crime

Richard Wright: Native Son (1940).

9/23 Critical Criminology

Due: Oral Report and Analysis of one of the following (on reserve):

Michel Foucault. "Panopticism," or "Illegalities and Delinquency," Discipline and Punish (1979).

Adam Hirsch. "Penitentiary and Slavery: Form," or "Penitentiary and Slavery: Substance," The Rise of the Penitentiary: Prisons and Punishment in Early America (1992).

Jeffrey Reiman: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (1990).

Harold Pepinsky and Paul Jesilow:Myths that Cause Crime (1992).

Brian MacLean and Dragan Milovanovic. Racism, Empericism, and Criminal Justice (1990).

Douglass Smith: "Minorities and the Police," or Jim Thomas: "Racial Codes in Prison Culture," Race and Criminal Justice ed. by Michael Lynch(1991).

9/28 On the Outside

James Baldwin: If Beale Street Could Talk (1974).

9/30 "Black Rapists" and the Social Order

Eldridge Cleaver: "On Becoming," Soul on Ice (1968).

Angela Davis: "Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapist," Women, Race, and Class (1983).

II. Resistance

10/5 -7 Prisons and the Civil Rights Movement (first paper due)

"Ain't Scared of Your Jails", Eyes on the Prize (1987).

Howard Zinn: "Or Does it Explode?" People's History of the United States (1980).

Martin Luther King Jr.: "Letter From the Birmingham Jail" (1963)

Recommended: Martin Luther King Jr. Why We Can't Wait (1964) (On Reserve)

"No Easy Walk", Eyes on the Prize (1987).

10/12 -21 Prisons and the Nation of Islam

Haley, Alex. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).

Eldridge Cleaver: "The White Race and It's Heroes," Soul on Ice (1968).

"The Time Has Come," Eyes on the Prize (1987).

Recommended: Spike Lee film: "Malcolm X" (1992).

10/26 Black Panther Party / Attica Insurrection

Fred Hampton: "Fred Speaks" (1969).

"A Nation of Law?" Eyes on the Prize (1987).

10/28 -11/2 Black Communism

Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1976).

III. Still On the Inside

11/4 -9 Racial Codes in Prison

Miguel Piñero: Short Eyes (1982).

Leo Carroll: "The Cons," "The Blacks," Race Relations in a Maximum Security Prison (1988).

Raab Selwyn: "Black Prison Guards to File Suit Over Bias Claim," NYT (4/10/93).

11/11 Poetry From Prison

Ethridge Knight: Poems From Prison (1968).

Mario Gaines: The [Kalamazoo] Ghetto Poet (1989).

11/16 Patriarchy and Women Prisoners

Michelle Holden: "Female Offenders in the '90s: Incarcerations of Women Increase 261 percent since 1980," Prison Life (3/93).

Gayle Jones: Eva's Man (1974).

Ana Kerston: "In the College of Hard Knocks" In These Times (11/1/88).

IV. Where Do We Go From Here?

11/18 Rodney King and the LA Riot/Insurrection (second paper due)

"Rappers Sounded Warning" Rolling Stone (7/9/92).

"Boy s 'n the Hood" (1991) [Screening Wednesday evening 11/17, 7-9].

11/23 Clinton's Crime Plan

Gibbs, Nancy: "Laying Down the Law," Time (9/23/93).

Francis Clines: "Drug Law Catching Few Kingpins," NYT (3/23/93).

11/30 -12/7 Nonviolence or Revolution?

Malcolm X: "Message to the Grass Roots" (1963).

Eldridge Cleaver: "Domestic War and International Order" (1968).

Martin Luther King Jr. : Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967).

Recommended: Frantz Fanon: "Concerning Violence" from Wretched of the Earth (1961).

12/9 Prepare for Final Exam