This class will examine works by African American writers from a variety of genres in order to understand the ways writing has been used, first, to define and negate the effects (and after-effects) of enslavement and disenfranchisement (an enterprise that is ongoing) and then later to imagine the meaning and significance of terms like "race," "racism," "identity," "history," "oppression," and of course, "writing." As we move through the readings, it will become clear that an understanding of these terms relies on the mobilization of critical perspectives that change over time. In addition to the primary texts, students will be introduced to a diverse assortment of critical materials and interpretive methods. Authors in the course will include David Walker, Charles Chesnutt, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, John Wideman, Anna Deveare Smith, and Octavia Butler. Course work will consist of weekly responses to the readings, a take-home exam at mid-term, and the choice of final exam or a final project.