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CCOG for ENG 257 Spring 2023

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Course Number:
ENG 257
Course Title:
African American Literature to the Harlem Renaissance
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Covers the major genres and authors of African American literature from the period of slavery through the Harlem Renaissance. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Major topics include abolition, labor and conditions under slave bondage, reconstructing the black identity in the post-Emancipation Era and the Harlem Renaissance, protest against racist violence, racial passing and socioeconomic mobility, creation of a Black aesthetic.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Identify the importance of self-documentation as a means to claim the African American identity.
  2. Examine the intersection of economics, history, culture, region, politics, religion, gender, and sexuality to African American literature.
  3. Examine the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the African American experience.
  4. Identify the relationship between African American literary forms and Black vernacular (gospel, blues, jazz, sermons, stories, and the oral tradition).

Integrative Learning

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to reflect on one’s work or competencies to make connections between course content and lived experience.

General education philosophy statement

English and Writing courses align with the PCC General Education philosophy by providing an appreciation of writing and literature from global and personal perspectives. Students in English courses engage the imagination, critical inquiry and self‐reflection, and in the process of doing so, cultivate a more complex understanding of their own culture(s), linguistic/communication practices, and perspectives in relation to others. Because the literary arts lie at the heart of most human cultures, they are essential for understanding each other and navigating our differences. In literature classes, students explore significant texts from diverse cultures and periods in history. Students look closely at texts from a range of genres, articulating the way elements of writing, content, form, and style are interrelated, and considering how values and interpretations have changed over time and through different theoretical lenses. Students engage texts through critical analysis and creative response, learning to use evidence to support their interpretations and to navigate critical conversations. Students explore literature both as an art form designed to provoke thought and challenge social norms, and as an expression of human experience. Writing and Literature courses foster a stronger sense of engagement with history, culture, and society. Writing and Literature students develop an awareness of themselves as readers and writers in a global world, and an enlarged understanding of the relationships between language, identity, ideas, scholarship, communication, and transformation.

Aspirational Goals

1. Relate the writings of the African-Americans from the time of slavery through the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary African American writing.

2. Identify the shared experiences in the writing of the time period to the contemporary Black experience.

3. Investigate the institutional and cultural forces that seek to erase African-American Literature.

Course Activities and Design

Students read, discuss, write and perform research on related topics and events presented in the literature. Class activities may include instructor lecture, whole class discussion, small group work, student presentations and guest lectures.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Students will complete a term project, typically a research paper of 1500-2000 words in length, pertinent to the literature of the period.  Instructors may also permit alternatives to the traditional research paper.  Such alternatives include the following possibilities: scrapbook/family history projects; websites; PowerPoint presentations; multimedia presentations; portfolios of creative writing or visual art forms; dance, theatrical or spoken word performances.  Instructors who permit such alternatives will ensure that students also write substantive analytical pieces in the form of journal, examination, or other appropriate format.  Additionally, instructors may use a variety of other assessment tools such as quizzes, participation, etc.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Some of the central concepts of the course include:

Creation of African American writing as a body of literature and the major and minor figures of the time period.

Self-documentation and fictional self-documentation as self-representation, resistance against Eurocentric ideas of Blackness, a form of preservation of Black culture.

The influence of the slave narrative and the neo slave narrative in American history and its mass appeal to American audiences.

The Harlem Renaissance as a purposefully created literary movement including the founders, participants, publications, politics, and history.

The importance of counter public spaces for the formation and preservation of African American identity, resistance, and culture.

The unique aesthetics of African American Literature such as dialect, jazz poetry, gospel, blues, and the sermon.

Suggested Texts and Writers:


The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (2014). Ed. Henry Louise Gates.

The Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African American Literature (2014).  Ed. Gene Andrew Jarrett.

The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents (2007). Ed. Jeffrey B. Ferguson

The Classic Slave Narratives (2012). Ed. Henry Louise Gates.

Suggested Writers

William Wells Brown

Frederick Douglass

Olaudah Equiano

Harriet Jacobs

Elizabeth Keckley

Frances Harper

Jupiter Hammond

Martin R. Delaney

Solomon Northup

David Walker

Phillis Wheatley

Harriet Wilson


Charlotte Grimke

Booker T. Washington

Charles Chesnutt

Pauline Hopkins

Ida B. Wells

W.E.B Du Bois

James Weldon Johnson

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Alice Dunbar Nelson

William Braithwaite

Fenton Johnson


Angelina Weld Grimke

Anne Spencer

Alain Locke

Georgia Douglass Johnson

Marcus Garvey

Claude McKay

Zora Neale Hurston

Nella Larsen

Jean Toomer

George Schulyer

Rudolph Fisher

Marita Bonner

Sterling Brown

Gwendolyn Bennet

Wallace Thurman

Langston Hughes

Countee Cullen

Helene Johnson