The era in American history covered by the course title (a title I borrow from a Charles Chesnutt essay) encompasses the period historian Rayford Logan designated as the "nadir" in African American history, but it also encompasses a period in which African American intellectuals devoted their considerable energies to the creation of an African American literature. In this course we will therefore evaluate both literary and nonliterary (i.e., avowedly polemical) writings as attempts to negotiate postbellum racial and gender politics; but we will also focus upon the ways in which the expressly literary text imagines and produces self, race, nation, and the ways in which such texts taken together help constitute an African American and/or an American literature. Writers will include Frances Harper, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sutton Griggs, Pauline Hopkins, Charles Chesnutt; primary texts will be supplemented from time to time with essays from the criticism or from historical assessments of the period. Students will be asked to do at least one discussion-starter presentation; to write two short essays and a longer final essay, and to maintain a readings journal.