About the Harlem Semester
Organized by the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Department of Africana Studies and launched in 2016, the Harlem Semester Program is an ambitious public humanities initiative that explores the complexities of Harlem’s social, political, and intellectual histories, its leaders, its culture, and its artists.
The curriculum of the Harlem Semester engages Harlem not as an inert site or abstract concept, but as an intensively peopled place of complex interaction. Pairing faculty from Barnard and other colleges with Harlem-based institutions, these place-based courses teach Harlem’s diverse cultural and political legacy through participatory, interdisciplinary, multi-directional learning modules.
The Harlem Semester Program offers a critical intervention in approaches to diversity, inclusion, and in- equality on campus. The program offers an innovative pedagogical model that directly engages controversial issues by creating learning spaces where social issues can be debated openly and students’ capacity for interpersonal awareness, solidarity, and respect can change and grow. Harlem Semester courses put diffi- cult issues front and center and enable students to engage with those who are actively grappling with these issues in their lives and work.
Central to this program’s intervention is an engagement with Harlem’s cultural institutions as sites of com- munity activism; spaces that continue to be crucial to exploring thorny questions of inequality and social jus- tice. Students participating in the program will gain a unique perspective on the extraordinary contributions of Harlem’s residents through the institutions and community workers who have sustained it, and through frank discussions of topics such as access, prejudice, recognition, and respect.
Spring 2017 Courses
AFRS BC 3532 – Romare Bearden: Home is Harlem
Diedra Harris-Kelley, Instructor
This seminar explores one of the greatest American artists finding an inspirational home in Harlem. Romare Bearden (1911-1988) noted painter, collagist, intellectual and advocate for the arts, spent his childhood and young adult life in Harlem. The Odyssey, one of Bearden’s most well known series, was created in 1977 and inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. The course takes up the issues in The Od- yssey series, and beyond, examining Harlem as home through Bearden’s eyes, from an artistic perspective, and around what inspired him most – the history, the people, and jazz music.
AFAS UN 3930 002 – “Blackness” in French: From Harlem to Paris and Beyond
Kaiama L. Glover and Maboula Soumahoro, Instructors
What distinctions must be made between US-black American fantasies of Paris and realities for Blacks in Paris? What are the his- torical linkages between black Americans and Paris? Using an internationalist approach and covering the 20th and 21st centuries, this course explores these and other questions over the course of the semester through a close consideration of the literature, arts, culture, history and politics emanating from or dealing with Black France and the unique, long-historical relationship between Harlem, Paris, and the wider French empire.
AFRS BC 3552 – Black Women, Performance, and the Politics of Style
Shirley Taylor, Instructor
Wednesdays 10:10 am – 12:00pm
Black Women, Performance, and the Politics of Style provides a historical overview of Black women in entertainment. Beginning in the early 20th century, the course will explore various Black female archetypes presented on stage and through audio and visual media, performance as both an intentional/unintentional political stance, and consider the impact Black women have had on the entertain- ment industry overall.
AFRS BC 3551 – Vibrations: Harlem Jazz and Beyond
Loren Schoenberg, Instructor
This course explores some of the multiple vibrations emanating from Harlem in all of their diversity. Our jumping off point will be music that emerged in Harlem starting a century ago and the visionaries who created it: James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie. We will follow their influence all the way through to contemporary artists such as Ken- drick Lamar, Cecile McLorin-Salvant and Robert Glasper. This course will partner with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (NJMH) and Harlem Stage and work toward understanding the relationship between the jazz and the people who created.
ARCH UN 3202 – Architecture Design Studio: National Black Theater
Irina Verona, Studio Coordinator
Architectural Design 2 partners with the National Black Theater (NBT) to examine how architecture and design can support multi-fac- eted cultural and social narratives. NBT will serve as a lens into Harlem’s layered cultural, social, economic and physical histories, as well as into Harlem’s future. As an organization currently in the process of expanding its current facility, students will explore the unique symbiosis between NBT and Harlem and design a new performance center that repositions the theater as a key component of social urban interaction, activism, and community participation.
A&HH 5051- Harlem Stories: Oral History (Teacher’s College)
Ansley Erickson, Instructor
How do historians learn about communities and their educational past? How has Harlem educated its children? How do stories about the past matter for education today? In this course we collaborate to document and understand the history of education in Harlem. We focus on the history of Harlem’s 117-year-old Wadleigh school. Students conduct oral history interviews with Wadleigh communi- ty members and create public digital projects to share their knowledge.
AHIS BC 2018 – Freestyle and Displacement in Contemporary Art Practices
Leslie Hewitt, Instructor
“Freestyle,” the important 2001 exhibition held at the Studio Museum in Harlem in New York, helped usher a generation of artists into public discourse and scrutiny by challenging the art world and questioning conventional thinking about art made by artists of color in the twenty-first century. Taking this exhibition as a point of departure, the seminar will explore the multiple modes of expression apparent in contemporary art practice, and the complex set of aesthetic, philosophical and political motivations that these modes of expression expose.
For more information on courses and to enroll, visit the Barnard College Course Catalog.
For more information on the Harlem Semester, visit our website, or contact us by emailing bcrw [at] barnard.edu or calling 212-854-2700.