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The Episcopal School of Los Angeles

Fall 2017

African American History through the

Civil War

Dr. Gabriel Yoon-Milner

Office hours: XXXX

Course Description:
This course traces the diverse
historical experiences of African
Americans, from their cultural roots
in the West African interior to their
involvement in shaping the meaning
of the Civil War. Through cultural
artifacts including memoirs, medical
treatises, songs, and speeches we
will explore the unique contours of
African American History, as well as
pivotal moments in U.S. History as
seen through the lens of African
Americans in a variety of social and
geographic contexts.
Thus, this course aims to
decenter our basic narratives of
national development; to expand our
focus of American peoples in order
to explore larger global migrations
Indeed, throughout the semester, our readings and
conversations will open the door for us to wrestle with the
overarching themes of freedom, democracy, citizenship, capitalism,
and Christianity that structure core national narratives.
This course will meet three times a week. The first meeting of
each week will consist of a lecture and the subsequent meetings will
involve collaborative close readings, discussions of texts and major
ideas, and writing workshops.

Course Objectives:

1. To introduce students to significant events in African American
history from the peoples indigenous roots in Africa to the end of
the Civil War.
2. To emphasize analytical themes, rather than dates and names,
as the building blocks of history, thus focusing on connections
and relationships between people, events, and ideas.
3. To introduce students to the differences between primary and
secondary sources.
4. To introduce students to the various ways in which historians
recover and chronicle subaltern voices.
5. To develop students ability to think critically, and to read
primary and secondary sources with a critical eye.

Classroom Etiquette:
Students are expected to be respectful of their classmates.
While laptops are permissible, surfing the web is not. The first time
someone is found surfing the web, he or she will be asked to stop. The
second time, to leave. Talking on cellphones is strictly prohibited. The
first time that someone is caught talking on the phone or texting
during lecture, he or she will be asked to leave for the rest of that

Course Requirements:
1. Class Attendance and Participation (20%): Attendance at
lectures and participation in discussion is mandatory.
2. Discussion Moderating (10%): Students will lead a conversation
for one of the artifacts or articles we are examining in our class.
3. Analytical Essay (15%): In order to facilitate the development of
good critical thinking and writing skills, students will submit
one essay of 2-3 pages during the semester. The essay will
critically analyze a major debate in African American history
between historians. We will discuss details in class.
4. Reflection Pieces (15%): Students are required to submit three
one-page reflection pieces. We will discuss details in class.
5. Final Paper (40%): Students will read a Slave Narrative and
write an eight-page-paper detailing what the source can tell us
about African American History.

Grading and Attendance Policies:

Unless accompanied by a medical or an otherwise valid excuse,
all late assignments will be penalized one-third of a letter grade for
each date late, including weekend days. Make-up exams will be
administered only in case of excused illness or documented
emergency, or only if the instructor has been notified in advance.
Students who do not complete all assigned work will not pass the

course. Please note that computer difficulty is not an acceptable
excuse for failure to complete assignments on time.
Students who miss more than three classes without excuses will
suffer grade reductions, and the instructor reserves the right to fail
any student who misses more than eight classes for any reason. Each
tardy arrival will be counted as one-half of a class absence.

Course Readings:
Blake Allmedinger, Imagining the African American West
Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity
Alice Fahs, The Imagined Civil War
Yaa Gyaasa, Homegoing



Week One: Culture and Contact
How Do We Talk About African American History?
Lecture: Contact in West Africa
Week Two: Life in West Africa
Discussion: Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative (1789)
Week Three: The Advent of African Slavery in the Americas
Lecture: The Market for Slaves in British North America
Discussion: Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 21-96
Jennifer Morgan, Accounting for The Most
Excruciating Torment
Week Four: Slavery and the Revolution
Lecture: The Ironies of Independence
Discussion: Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity, 97-157
Woody Holton, Rebel Against Rebel
The Deleted Passage of the Declaration of


Week Five: Freedom and Slavery in the Early Republic
Lecture: An Expanding Nation
Discussion: Collected Poems of Phillis Wheatley
Blake Allmendinger, Imagining the African
American West
Week Six: The Scope of Slavery, Part 1
Lecture: Owning People

Discussion: Samuel Cartwright, Diseases and Peculiarities of
the Negro Race
Paper Workshop
Week Seven: The Scope of Slavery, Part 2
Lecture: The Culture of the Cabins
Discussion: Henry Box Brown, Narrative of the Life
Week Eight: The Scope of Slavery, Part 3:
Lecture: Popular Culture
Discussion: Robert Toll, From Folktype to Stereotype
Charsee Lawrence-McIntyre, Double Meanings of
the Spirituals
First Paper Due


Week Nine: Alternative Narratives
Lecture: Radical Resistance
Discussion: Mitch Kachun, Antebellum Americans, Public
David Walkers Appeal
Listen: 99% Invisible: The Great Dismal Swamp
Week Ten: How to Talk About Nat Turner
In-Class Screening: Charles Burnett, Nat Turner: A
Troublesome Property
Week Eleven: The Public Culture of Anti-Slavery Agitation
Lecture: Anti-Slavery vs. Abolitionism
Discussion: Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave is the
Fourth of July?
Week Twelve: Paper Workshop
Week Thirteen: The Civil War
Lecture: From a New Perspective
Discussion: Alice Fahs, The Imagined Civil War
Weeks Fourteen and Fifteen: Then and Now
Discussion: Yaa Gyaasi, Homegoing