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Law, Race, Narrative: The 1950's

ENGL 770.401


In exploring the intersectionality of law, race, and narrative in African American literature, we will focus on the “mid-century modern,” the1950s, a landmark period in the legal formation of racial identities, in the juridical conception of “raced” rights, and in the literary production of racial narratives by writers of African descent in the United States. Using a time line beginning in the late 1940s and extending into the early 1960s, we will take a long view of the 1950s and consider law’s “stories” and legal decisions along side housing covenants, school desegregation, anti-miscegenation statutes, Jim Crow restrictions, Cold War expatriation, and Civil Rights activism. We will examine the colliding social and cultural discourses on race (e.g., Anomie and Strain Theory, Hannah Arendt on Little Rock and miscegenation) and the widening public representations of race (from Emmett Till to Bandung). Our literary texts, centered in the 1950s, will come from a diverse group of writers (i.e., James Baldwin, Frank London Brown, Alice Childress, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Chester Himes, Loften Mitchell, Louis Peterson, Ann Petry, Richard Wright). We will conclude with narratives of racial memory, late twentieth-century African American writers (Ntozake Shange, Thulani Davis, and Bebe Moore Campbell) looking back at the 1950s and its momentous legal implications.

Undergraduates are not permitted to take 700-level courses.

fulfills requirements