February is Black History Month, a month-long celebration of African-American achievements. The holiday took its shape in 1926 as a week-long celebration, chosen as the second week in February to honor Frederick Douglass’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays (2/14 and 2/12, respectively). The first celebration in its current monthly form took place in 1970.
Here at Dean College, African-American history is featured in all levels of history courses. Dean College History Professor Rob Lawson, author of Jim Crow's Counterculture: The Blues and Black Southerners, 1890-1945 regularly offers some unique courses on a rotating basis. His course descriptions in his own words follow.
HIS 250 / BIO 250: Beyond Henrietta Lacks: Race and Medicine in 20th Century America
This course highlights the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancerous cells were extracted in 1951 without her knowledge or consent, leading to the first immortal cell line, which continues to contribute to medical discoveries today. More broadly, this course allows students to learn about the history of medicine and race and to make their own discoveries in the biology lab. This course was developed at Dean with a major grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.
HIS 310: The Harlem Renaissance
A wide variety of subject matter is covered here, examining how and why African Americans formed vibrant neighborhoods in New York and other northern cities, and explores their artistic output: literature, visual arts, music, dance and theatre. Students come to know Josephine Baker, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes and more as they discover the rebirth of African-American culture in the 1920s and 1930s.
HIS 311: August Wilson & the African-American 20th Century
Combining the fields of theatre, literature and history, students explore the rich legacy of playwright August Wilson. Wilson's "Century Cycle" consists of ten plays that span the black experience of the 20th century, and we study them all at Dean - including the most famous of Wilson's Broadway hits - Fences and The Piano Lesson.
HIS 395: History of Blues Culture
A fixture of our curriculum since 2005, this course offers a survey of blues music from its roots in west African heritage and its genesis in the Jim Crow South all the way to its transformation into Rock and Roll and becoming a global phenomenon, fueling the “British Invasion” bands of the 1960s.
Professor Jo-Ann Reid also offers courses on African-American topics, which she describes below.
ENG 357: Black Literature Matters
This course allows students to have a more robust study of black identity through the lens of the humanities. Students explore and analyze some of the older and younger generations of voices that make up the black canon. Students deconstruct and unpack the parallels between social activism of the past and present.
ENG 218-CH: Multiracial & Multicultural Identity: Breaking the Census Box
In this very politically tenuous time, attention to all things related to race, ethnicity and cultural identity may result in narrow or polarizing discussions. As multicultural or "blended" identity is both at the forefront of who we are as a nation, it is also the foundation of our global and intercultural identity.
The next opportunity to enroll in one of these courses is Fall 2020, when HIS 395: History of Blues Culture will be offered. Learn more about History program and browse the Academic Catalog to learn more about Dean College’s academic offerings.