Racial Identity in the American Imagination

From Sally Hemings to Barack Obama, this course explores the ways that racial identity has been experienced, represented, and contested throughout American history.  Engaging historical, legal, and literary texts and films, this course examines major historical transformations that have shaped our understanding of racial identity.  This course also draws on other imaginative modes including autobiography, memoir, photography, and music to consider the ways that racial identity has been represented in American society.  Most broadly, this course interrogates the problem of American identity and examines the interplay between racial identity and American identity.

Summer 2017 Syllabus


Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, African American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race

Elsa Barkley Brown, What Has Happened Here: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics

Matthew Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color:  European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race

Toni Morrison, On the Backs of Blacks

George Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945

Philip Deloria, Playing Indian