Course Descriptions & Syllabi

332 African-American Art

Course Description


This course can be used to fulfill the CCD-1 and AHP of the Core Curriculum.


This course surveys the work of African American artists, from the nineteenth century to the present. We will use the artwork as a means of understanding the lived experiences of black Americans – that is Americans of African descent, whose origins are from across the diaspora.

Lectures will cover a range of material culture, including the built environment, ephemera, film, installations, painting, photography, and sculpture. The course pays particular attention to themes of African American life, including migration, notions of home, citizenship, social segregation, expatriation, gender norms, colorism, music, sport, and family. It also stresses the relationship between the rural, urban, and international African-American experiences, as depicted in the artwork we will discuss. Finally, the course will also consider the role of the African American artist within the Du Boisian concept of double consciousness.

The course is interdisciplinary in nature: our investigation into African-American Art will include methods and theory from anthropology, art history, environmental studies, ethnomusicology, geography, history, and literary studies. We will use both primary and secondary sources to gain an understanding of the African-American experience as depicted through various art forms; the course readings will be coupled with music, poetry, and narratives.

The class will take advantage of the resources at the Zimmerli Art Museum. Students should be willing to complete the reading, think deeply about the themes covered, and come prepared to participate in class.

Learning Goals

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Develop a foundation for visual literacy through the introduction and practice of various methods of analysis
  • Demonstrate a fuller understanding of the historical development and social construction of black America and how art reflects trends and concerns in the society in which it was made 
  • Critique various artistic representations of black America
  • Illustrate a knowledge of African-American expressive traditions
  • Synthesize information from multiple sources in order to generate new insights

Course Materials

  • Lisa Farrington, African-American Art: A Visual and Cultural History, 1 ed. (New York:Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • bell hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (New York: The New Press, 1995)


Participation  (10%)
Quizzes  (20%)
Art Analysis Paper (6-8 pp) (35%)
Final Paper (6-8 pp) (35%)

Course Instructor

Amber Wiley

FALL 2020

Syllabus: The syllabus will be available on the Learning Management System (Sakai/Canvas) as of first day of class.                

DISCLAIMER: The Course Synopses pages have been provided as samples and the information should not be considered accurate or current. For actual course information, refer to the course site hosted by a Rutgers Learning Management System (Sakai/ Canvas, etc.) first day of class.