A Matter of Black and White: 20th Century Perspectives on Race


Inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’s famous thesis that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”, this course will try to understand a variety of 20th-century perspectives on race through a sympathetic examination of a selection of classic works of fiction, nonfiction, and cinema by authors and directors Black and White, including: DuBois himself, Rudyard Kipling, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Dixon, Jr., James Baldwin, and Joseph Conrad, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Prior to the first class, please do the short readings and watch D.W. Griffith’s (in)famous 1915 silent film, The Birth of a Nation … from a perspective as “critically empathic” as possible.

  • Jeremiah
  • Dixon, The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden — 1865-1900
  • DuBois, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept
  • Conrad, The Nigger of the “Narcissus”
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
  • King, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World
  • X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
  • The Birth of a Nation (Griffith, 1915, 195 min, Silent)
  • BlacKkKlansman (Lee, 2018, 145 min, English)