Fall 2013 Syllabus, Part I

HIST 460-1  African Enslavement in the Americas
Fall 2013, Mon/Wed, 10:50 am — 12:05 pm, Social Sciences Hall 123
Professor Robert S. Wolff
Office: SSH 216-19; Phone 860.832.2807; Email wolffr@ccsu.edu
Tentative Office Hours: Mon 12:05-2:05; Tues 1:30-2:00; Wed 1:15-1:45; Thurs 1:30-3:30

Syllabus, Part I: General Course Information and Requirements
*See Syllabus, Part II for Reaction Paper & Discussion Assignments

Overview: This is an advanced undergraduate seminar that explores the history of African enslavement in the Atlantic World from the fifteenth century until the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888. The course discusses both the experience of enslavement and the institution of slavery through a series of historical monographs and articles. It compares the historical experience of different regions, namely Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America. Topics covered include: the origins of the Atlantic slave trade; the work of slavery; culture & community among enslaved peoples; resistance & rebellion; and abolition/ emancipation. Please note that this syllabus is a guide to the course, and is subject to revision at the instructor’s discretion.

As with many 400-level history courses, this course has a fairly high reading load, typically 100-150 pages per week. The course is run as a discussion seminar in which class participation is essential (and required). During each week every member of the class completes the core readings outlined below. After the first few weeks, students will begin to write their reaction papers based upon supplemental readings. These papers will form the basis of class presentations and will serve to further encourage discussion of the issues and themes in the course.

The design of the course presumes certain skills and knowledge on your part. Undergraduates should have completed HIST 301. All students must be familiar the E-Journal Locator, J-STOR, Early American Imprints [a.k.a., the Evans], Historical Abstracts, and America: History and Life. For end/footnotes and bibliographies, you must be prepared to use The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) or Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th ed.). Use the Humanities not the Social Science style.

Course Requirements for Undergraduates:
Précis (10 points)
2 Reaction Papers [one in each half of the course] (20 pts. each).
2 Discussion Sessions [to accompany papers above] (5 pts. each).
Final Exam (40 pts.)
Total Points in Course = 100

Your final grade will be based on the total number of points received in the categories above. The letter grade you receive at the end of the course will be based on the following scale: A (100-93), A- (92-90), B+ (89-87), B (87-83), B- (82-80), C+ (79-77), C (77- 73), C- (72-70), etc.

Each student will complete a précis of the first book assigned in the course, Walter Johnson’s Soul by Soul. A précis summarizes the argument of a given text without commentary. This first assignment is worth ten points (i.e., 10% of the course grade). Once we have read and discussed the first book together, the course will then proceed as follows. For each class, all students read a core assignment. These readings must be completed by the Tuesday in the week that they are assigned. Additionally, in each class several students will read other assigned materials, write a 5-7 page reaction paper for the instructor, and lead class discussion. The expectations for these sessions will be explained further. It is worth noting that each student must write one reaction paper and serve concurrently as a discussion leader in each half of the presentations. In other words, you must choose one topic prior to Week #10, and one in that week or after.  Each reaction paper is worth 20 points; serving as discussion leader counts for 5 points. Reaction papers are due one day before your presentation at noon. For your presentation, you should prepare a one-page outline of key information to distribute to your classmates. Make sure to bring enough copies for everyone. A final exam will cover all of the course readings as well as class presentations. In other words, you will be tested on material that you have learned via your peers. For this reason, it is essential that you attend all classes even though there is no class participation grade per se. The final exam, a lengthy take-home of approximately 12-15 double-spaced pages, accounts for the remaining 40 points in the overall grade. All written work must be submitted to the instructor at wolffr@mail.ccsu.edu. In the subject line, please write the following: HIST 460 (assignment) from (full name) — e.g., “HIST 460 Precis from Robert Wolff.” Please note that you must complete the précis, both papers and discussions, as well as the final exam in order to receive a grade in this course.

All written work must conform to style guidelines established in The Chicago Manual of Style [CMS] or Turabian. Should you have any questions about how to properly cite your sources in end/footnotes or bibliographies, please consult the instructor. Any paper, précis, handout, or exam that does not conform to CMS will be returned ungraded. Failure to make corrections promptly will result in a 10% penalty on the assignment.

Additional Information on Reactions Papers and Leading Discussion:
Although the reaction paper should be a familiar genre of historical writing, a few comments seem warranted to explain the expectations for class presentations and the relationship between the presentation and discussion. The expectations for the discussion session are as follows:

  • You will prepare (and make copies sufficient for every member of the class) a handout that summarizes the key points of your individual readings and identifies topics for discussion in connection to the core readings for the class. Remember that the presentations contain material that will later be tested on the final exam.
  • You will prepare for the discussion session thoroughly. You are required to meet with the instructor prior to your presentation. You must also meet with any other students writing on the same topic, to share resources and divide discussion responsibilities so that each person bears an equal burden. Because library resources at any university are limited, it is essential that students take books out of the library only when they are prepared to read them promptly and return them.
  • Each presentation should be roughly ten minutes long. This is a very short amount of time. Budget accordingly.
  • A final tip – make sure that you put your name on the handout!

The distinction between the content of your reaction paper and class presentation is primarily one of emphasis. Your reaction paper must present a scholarly argument with a clear thesis in the introduction that is developed carefully throughout the paper. In the paper you should discuss the people, events, and ideas germane to your thesis; you should not attempt to summarize the entire narrative of your readings. Focus upon the arguments and evidence presented therein. A focus question has been included for each topic as a guide; at minimum, papers must address the focus question in order to merit a passing grade. In contrast, the classroom presentation should summarize the authors’ interpretations and narrative content. Although you should state your own conclusions (i.e., the argument you make in your reaction paper), you should also provide your peers with a sense of the factual information you have learned.

For reaction papers and presentations, you are required to provide clear analytical connections between the core readings and those specific to your own assignment. You are encouraged, but not required, to explore sources in the supplementary reading list and those that are uncovered through your own research. You may also make connections to readings or concepts developed in other classes in history and related disciplines.

Students with Disabilities
Please contact me privately to discuss your specific needs if you believe you require course accommodations based on the impact of a disability, medical condition, or if you have emergency medical information to share.  I will need a copy of the accommodation letter from Student Disability Services  (Willard 101-04) in order to arrange your class accommodations. Student Disability Services maintains the confidential documentation of your disability and assists you in coordinating reasonable accommodations with your faculty.

Academic Misconduct:
Academic dishonesty, including cheating and plagiarism, will not be tolerated. When writing your papers in this class, always provide a citation for any quotation or idea that you take from your readings or other sources. As a general rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure whether you need to cite a source, you probably do. Too many citations are always better than too few. All students should be familiar with CCSU’s Academic Misconduct Policy.

Grade Expectations:
An “A” grade will be given to work that demonstrates mastery of all course materials (readings, lectures, movies, discussions, etc.) while incorporating the student’s own interpretations and ideas. The fundamental characteristic of an “A” paper is independent thought that is explored in relation to course themes. “B” papers are well grounded in the course materials, and may include the student’s ideas or impressions. In contrast to an “A” paper, the “B” paper typically shows that the student is thinking but those thoughts are often expressed in general terms and with fewer specific references to other materials in the course. A paper that describes events or ideas, with little or no interpretation, merits a “C.” These papers are satisfactory in every respect and demonstrate knowledge of all course materials. A “D” grade reflects work that is barely passing, while an “F” means that the work is unsatisfactory. Should you receive a “D” or “F” on any assignment you are required to see the instructor.

Other Information:
Written assignments must be turned in before the beginning of class on the day that they are due. Papers that are turned in late will be penalized one letter grade per day. In other words, a paper of “B” quality will receive a “C” if turned in one day late. In some cases students can receive an extension on written work. If you feel that you may have difficulty completing an assignment on time, you should contact the instructor as soon as possible. Such extensions will only be given in extreme cases and only if the student consults the instructor in advance. There are no “make-up” assignments or exams in this course. On this and other issues relating to assignment and course grades, as well as to issues of student conduct, the instructor reserves the right to decide each case individually when there are extenuating circumstances. Please also be advised that this syllabus is a guide to the course and may be amended by the instructor as the situation warrants during the semester.

One final piece of guidance: be your own advocate. Faculty office hours provide you with an opportunity to discuss questions in greater depth with the instructor. You should also feel free to discuss exam strategies, paper-writing techniques, or even your major or minor program in history. Most importantly, if you have any questions about a grade you receive in this class, make an appointment with the instructor to discuss your work. You have a right to ask for clarifications about the grades you have received.

Required Books:

  • Brown, Vincent. The Reaper’s Garden; Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Johnson, Walter. Soul by Soul; Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  • Smallwood, Stephanie. Saltwater Slavery; A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Sweet, James H. Domingo Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  • ________. Recreating Africa; Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

Course Outline:
*See Syllabus, Part II for Reaction Paper & Discussion Assignments

Week # 1 (Aug. 28) Course Introduction
Readings: Johnson, Soul by Soul, 1-77.

Week #2 (Sept. 4) Grappling with American Perspectives on Slavery
Readings: Johnson, Soul by Soul, 78-end.
*No class on Sept. 2 (Labor Day)

Week #3 (Sept. 9, 11) Foundations of African Slavery in the Americas
Readings: Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery, 1-100.
Due Sept. 9: Précis
*No class on Sept. 11

Week #4 (Sept. 16, 18) Slavery and the Growth of the Atlantic World
Readings: Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery, 101-end.

Week #5 (Sept. 23, 25) Work, Culture and Community
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 1-83.

Week #6 (Sept. 30, Oct. 2) Runaways and Rebels
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 87-188.

Week #7 (Oct. 7, 9) Faith & Belief
Readings: Sweet, Recreating Africa, 191-end.

Week #8 (Oct. 14, 16) Documents and Narratives
Readings: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London: G. Vassa, 1789). Copy available via Documenting the American South [http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/equiano1/equiano1.html]; Paul E. Lovejoy, “‘Freedom Narratives’ of Transatlantic Slavery,” Slavery & Abolition 32, no. 1 (March 2011): 91-107.

Week #9 (Oct. 21, 23) Identity & Personal Experience
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 1-101.

Week #10 (Oct. 28, 30) Forging Freedom
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 103-168.

Week #11 (Nov. 4, 6) Uprising and Revolution
Readings: Sweet, Domingo Álvares, 169-233.

Week #12 (Nov. 11, 13) Debating Slavery’s End
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 1-91.

Week #13 (Nov. 18, 20) Slavery and Memory I
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 93-156.

Week #14 (Nov. 25) Dying, Social Death, and Soul Murder
Readings: Brown, Reaper’s Garden, 157-end.
*No class on Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Break)

Week #15 (Dec. 2, 4) Slavery and Memory II

Week #16 (Dec. 9) Exam Review

Finals Week: Your final exam is due via email by 1:00 pm on December 11.

*See Syllabus, Part II for Reaction Paper & Discussion Assignments

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