Student in a Black Studies class in a west side Chicago classroom, 1973

African American Studies: Foundations and Key Concepts

This non-exhaustive list of readings in African American Studies highlights the vibrant history of the discipline and introduces the field.
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How Chocolate Came to Europe

Pre-Colombian cultures valued chocolate highly as a drink, and often served it at important events. It wasn't made into a solid candy until 1847.

Fixing the Grassroots of the American Lawn

A citizen scientist bred low mow slow grow grass that needs little water and fertilizer.
Martin Luther King in 1957

The African Roots of MLK’s Vision

“Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice… An old order of colonialism, of segregation, discrimination is passing away now.”
Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison on Race

Ralph Ellison believed fiercely in the American project and in the centrality of black people to it.
Dance hall illustration

Jane Addams’s Crusade Against Victorian “Dancing Girls”

Jane Addams, a leading Victorian-era reformer, believed dance halls were “one of the great pitfalls of the city.”
NYC movie theater air conditioning

Can We Live Without Air Conditioning?

Air conditioning is a profoundly paradoxical technology: the hotter it gets the more we use it, and the more we use it the hotter it gets.
Mt. Holyoke Balloon Day

How Women Crushed on One Another Back in the Day

Same-sex crushes and romantic friendships between college-age women were common throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Christine Jorgensen

Was Christine Jorgensen the Caitlyn Jenner of the 1950s?

“What is femininity anyway?” Jenner writes in her new book, The Secrets of My Life. Perhaps the famous transwoman Christine Jorgensen knew.
jefferson davis inauguration

The Battle Over Confederate Heritage Month

A Southern governor has proclaimed April to be Confederate Heritage Month. But how can you celebrate the confederacy without mentioning slavery?