Prince George’s Community College

English 206/214 Section 3503

African American Literature Since 1910

W 6:30-9:40

Spring 2006



Instructor:                     Professor Ryna May    

Office hours:                 Largo Campus: Monday &Wednesday: 12-1pm

                                    LCC: Tues 1:30-2:30pm, Wed 5:30-6:30pm, Thur: 9:15-10:15am

Office location:              Marlboro Hall 3095 and Laurel Center 204

Office phone:                301.322.0601

Email address:     

Mailbox location:           Largo Campus: Marlboro Hall 3072 / Laurel Center 205

On the Web:       


Course Description
The focus of this course will be to develop an understanding of how some of the greatest writers in American history used political and formulaic methods to articulate their cultural identities.  We will examine their use of aesthetics and the historical contexts in which these artists wrote to develop arguments not only about authors’ meanings, but the potential ability of art to change the world as well.  Last, as we examine artists from different eras and locations, we will seek to identify what philosophers of black literature mean by a ‘black’ aesthetic.

Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Trace the development of the African American perspective through the content, style, and genres of African American writings.
  • Analyze the social, political, and religious ideas influencing these writings, especially those concerning the Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Arts Movement, and contemporary literature.
  • Explain the evolution of African American literature as it is revealed from the various perspectives of major literary figures.
  • Analyze the different genres of African American literature, including the genres of poetry, fiction, drama, and prose.
  • Respond critically and personally to the topics found in African American literature, especially those concerning American identity, freedom, and voice.
  • Competently compose analytical essays which discuss the literary trends of African American literature, each of which will possess a clear thesis statement, a coherent pattern of supporting paragraphs, adequate support/examples from the text to support the thesis, and a concluding paragraph. A minimum of errors in mechanics, grammar, and usage should appear in the essays.

Required Texts:

  • The Norton Anthology of African American. Gates/McKay, editors. Second edition.
  • Wilson, August. Fences. Vintage: New York. 1980.


Books can be ordered from PGCC’s bookstore.  If you are not going to campus to get your books, you can have them delivered to room 205.  Please do this right away so you can do your reading prior to next week’s class.



Required Coursework

Homework/Classwork/Quizzes               15%

Critical Paper                                        25%

Presentation                                          20%

Midterm Exam                                      15%    

Final Exam                                            25%                                                    


College Level Expectations

In general, college students can anticipate spending at least 2 hours out of class on coursework for every hour spent in class.  So the typical commitment for a 3 credit hour class is 6 hours of your own time outside of the classroom.  In order to perform to college level expectations, you should expect to devote a minimum of 6 hours per week to the work required for this course.


Essays  (formal written work)

Essays will be scored according to statewide standards.  A copy of these criteria will be made available to students.  Students submit their typed essays at the beginning of class on the due dates indicated on the syllabus.  Detailed assignment sheets will be distributed and discussed extensively in class.  Your formal essay must be submitted to before it can be turned in to me in class.  Essays will not be accepted without the receipt. 


Assignment Deadlines and Extensions

Essays are due in class on the assigned dates (see the syllabus).   Papers must be handed in to me in person or given to appropriate staff in the main office.  A late paper will only be accepted for up to one week after the due date, but it will drop one letter grade.  In-class contribution activities, including quizzes and homework, are due in class on the dates indicated on the syllabus and cannot be turned in late for any reason. 


In-class Contributions

The quality of work, both written and verbal, and the degree of preparation you bring to each class session affects the quality of the classroom experience for all of its members. Because the work you produce is designed to enhance collaborative learning in the classroom, these assignments (including quizzes) cannot be "made up" or turned in outside of class: you must be present, on time, and prepared in order to receive credit for your contributions. 


Course Policies

When you enroll in college courses, you expect that instructors will do their best to ensure a good learning environment, one in which we can concentrate on the material and feel comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions.  Nearly all students do their part to be respectful of others and consider it common sense and courtesy to be on time to class, leave only during designated breaks, etc. But, just in case there’s a problem or conflict, it’s good to have our ground rules in writing.



Attendance and Courtesy

Students are expected to attend all classes and to be on time.  There are no “excused” absences in the course, and any student who for any reason misses more than 2 of the class sessions or who does not turn in all the major assignments cannot pass the course.  Students who are more than 10 minutes late for a class session will be marked absent.  Students who disrupt class to an unreasonable degree with late arrivals, leaving and returning to the classroom, leaving early, or other non-productive activities like sleeping, or socializing, even after discussions with or reminders from the instructor, will be considered to be “absent” for a session. Also, please be sure to turn off all beepers and cell phones when in class, or, in emergencies, to set alerts to “silent” or “vibrate” mode.  Students are not permitted to eat during class.


Disruptive Behavior

Behavior that is incompatible with a learning environment will not be tolerated.  This includes arriving late for class, disruptive talking, interruptions of class activities, rudeness, eating in class, leaving class early, or other behavior not suitable in a college class setting.  Disruptive behavior can result in a student being removed from the class or dismissed from the college.  The Prince George's Community College Code of Conduct defines the rights and responsibilities of students and establishes a system of procedures for dealing with students charged with violations of the code and other rules and regulations of the college.   A student enrolling in the college assumes an obligation to conduct himself/herself in a manner compatible with the college's function as an educational institution. Refer to the 2004-2005 Student Handbook, beginning on page 39, for a complete explanation of the code of conduct, including the Code of Academic Integrity and the procedure for dealing with disruptive student behavior.


Cancelled Classes.

If essays are due on a day that the college is closed, the new due date is the next class session.  In the event that the instructor has to cancel a class unexpectedly, a notice will be posted on the classroom door and/or an email will be sent to all students with instructions regarding the schedule.



When the college announces a delayed opening, all classes with at least 45 minutes of class time remaining at the time of the opening will be held.  For example, in the event of a 10 a.m. opening, a 9:30-10:45 a.m. class will be held.  This procedure applies to all credit classes.


Student Responsibility

Students are responsible for maintaining copies of all of their written work, on disk and on paper.  All drafts and essays must be saved and compiled in a course folder.  In the event of lost work or missed classes, students are still expected to produce copies of assignments, and/or gain access to notes, announcements and session material. 


Extra Help

PGCC Students who need extra help with any aspect of the writing process (grammar, invention, drafting, etc) are encouraged to visit the Writing Center, which is located on the first floor of Bladen Hall (B107). Please call (301) 322-0748 for a half-hour, one-on-one tutoring session with an English faculty tutor. When you go to your appointment please be on time, have all needed materials (assignment sheets, outlines, etc.), be able to identify exactly what it is you would like to work on, and have a good attitude. HCC students should visit the CLC in ILB 210.


Disability Support Services

PGCC students requesting academic accommodations are required to contact the Disability Support Services Office (M-1042) or call (301) 322-0838 (voice) or (301) 322-0122 (TTY) to establish eligibility for services and accommodations.  Students with documented disabilities should discuss the matter privately with their instructors at the beginning of the semester and provide a copy of their Student/Faculty Accommodation Form.



Academic Honesty

The college is an institution of higher learning that holds academic integrity as its highest principle.  In the pursuit of knowledge, the college community expects that all students, faculty, and staff will share responsibility for adhering to the values of honesty and unquestionable integrity.  To support a community committed to academic achievement and scholarship, the Code of Academic Integrity advances the principle of honest representation in the work that is produced by students seeking to engage fully in the learning process.  The complete text of the Code of Academic Integrity is in the 2004-2005 Student Handbook (pages 41-43) and posted on the college's website.


A common violation of the academic honest policy is plagiarism.  Plagiarism is the improper use, or failure to attribute, another person's writing or ideas. It can be as subtle as the inadvertent neglect to include quotes or references when citing another source or as blatant as knowingly copying an entire paper verbatim and claiming it as your own work.  


Students who are caught plagiarizing will be subject to disciplinary measures according to the college policy.  When you are caught, you will receive a failing grade of zero for the assignment and the incident will be reported to the Office of the President for Student Services.  Subsequent incidents may result in your dismissal from the college. 

Here are some general guidelines as to what constitutes plagiarism:

  • Copying a source word for word without using quotation marks and without identifying the source
  • Extensive borrowing of words and phrases from a source without using quotation marks and without identifying the sources
  • Too close paraphrasing
  • Using others' ideas or information (including graphics, statistics, observations, or research data and findings) without giving credit to the source in the text of your paper in a footnote or endnote
  • Submitting the work of someone else as your own




Important Dates

Spring 2006


Please note dates specific to your school!


All Laurel College Center Students:


January 28

Spring 06 classes begin at LCC

February 20

President's Day, LCC OPEN

February 15

Last day to apply for May Graduation for PGCC students

March 15

Last day to apply for May Graduation for HCC students

April 07

Last day to withdraw from 15 week classes  for HCC students

April 22

Last Day to withdraw from 15 week classes for PGCC students

April 10- 16

Spring Break, LCC CLOSED

May 08 - 15

Final Exam Week at LCC



Prince George’s Community College Important Dates and Deadlines:


Last day to apply for spring graduation                                  Wednesday, February 15

Presidents’ Day – College closed - No classes                      Monday, February 20

Last day to change from "audit" to                                        Friday, March 3

            "credit" or "credit" to "audit"                              

Spring Break – College closed - No classes                          Mon.-Sun., April 10-16

Last day to withdraw from full-semester classes                   Friday, April 21

Final exam period/last week of classes                                  Tues.-Mon., May 9-15

Commencement, 7 p.m.                                                            Thursday, May 25



Howard Community College Important Dates and Deadlines:


Change to Audit

February 17

Withdraw from Class

February 18 - April 7

Final Exams

May 13 - May 19

Last Day to Petition to Graduate
for May degree

 March 15



100% tuition and fees

February 3

75% (no course fees)

February 4 - February 10

50% (no course fees)

February 11 - February 17


May 19



NOTE:  The instructor reserves the right to adjust the order and times indicated on this syllabus to suit the needs of the class; however, notification of such adjustments will be made in advance of the appropriate date.


Readings and Assignment Calendar for Spring 2006


All readings are from your Norton Anthology unless otherwise indicated.  Assignments are due next to the date they are listed.  Always read any and all background material on the authors as well – material from the background reading may be included on the Reading Quiz.



Readings and Assignments

Week One


Wed. Feb. 1

Introduction to the course and each other

View: Reconstruction – The Second Civil War

Background Information: Realism, Naturalism, and The Renaissance in Harlem

Week Two


Wed. Feb. 8

Harlem Ren.

Reading: Larsen – Quicksand (p.1085)

Hughes – “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (p.1311)

Week Three


Wed. Feb. 15

Harlem Ren.

Reading: Hughes Poems

"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (p.1291), "I, Too" (p.1295), "Song for a Dark Girl" (p.1299), "Ballad of the Landlord" (p.121302), "Harlem" (p.1308), “When the Negro Was in Vogue” (p. 1325), “Mulatto” (p.1297)

Hurston – “The Gilded Six Bits” (p.1033) and “How it feels to be Colored Me” (p.1030)

Reading Quiz 1

Week Four


Wed. Feb. 22


Reading: Hayden - “Those Winter Sundays” (p.1525)

Brooks - “The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith” (p.1628)

Baldwin - “Notes of a Native Son” (p.1713)

Week Five


Wed. March 1


Reading: Baldwin - “Sonny’s Blues” (p.1728)

Ellison - “Invisible Man” (p.1548)

Reading Quiz 2

Week Six


Wed. March 8

Black Arts Era

Reading: Gale - “The Black Aesthetic” (p.1912)

Clifton Poems - “the lost baby poem” (p.2032), “homage to my hips” (p.2033), and “wishes for sons” (p.2033)

Neal - “The Black Arts Movement” (p.2039)

Review for Midterm Exam

Week Seven


Wed. March 15

Midterm Exam

In-Class 6:30-8:30

Week Eight


Wed. March 22


Reading: August Wilson - Fences (entire play)

Reading Quiz 3

Week Nine


Wed. March 29


Reading: Morrison - Song of Solomon (p.2210) and “The Site of Memory” (p.2290)

Walker - “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” (p.2430)

Reading Quiz 4

Week Ten


Wed. April 5


Reading: Walker - The Color Purple (p.2454)

Critical Paper Due

View in Class: The Color Purple

Week Eleven


Wed. April 12

College Closed: Spring Break (No Classes)

Week Twelve


Wed. April 19


Reading: Angelou - “Still I Rise” (p.2156) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (p.2158)


Week Thirteen


Wed. May 3


Reading: Marshall – “The Making of a Writer” (p.2189)


Review for Final Exam

Week Fourteen


Wed. May 10

Final Exam Week

In-Class Exam 6:30-8:30