National Institute on Aging

New Bowdoin College Courses Examines the Role of Black Women in U.S. Intellectual History

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, launched a new two-semester course this academic year that examines the contributions made by Black women to U.S. intellectual history. Established in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Africana studies at Bowdoin, the course, “Black Women’s Lives as the History of Africana Studies” addresses the diversity of social and political thought by Black women.

The course is being taught by associate professor of Africana studies Judith Casselberry and Tess Chakkalakal, who is the Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English and also director of the Africana Studies Program.

In the fall semester, the class examined Black women authors from the 18th and 19th centuries. This semester, the course is examining works of women from the 20th and 21st centuries and introducing students to works by Zora Neale Hurston, Rosa Parks, Lorraine Hansberry, Condoleeza Rice, and Angela Davis.

“One of the main aims of the class is to introduce students to a new narrative/canon of Africana studies that places the words and experiences of Black women at its center,” says Dr. Chakkalakal.

Dr. Casselberry added that “the way we went about teaching spoke to the goals of the course — to bring students into a truly interdisciplinary intellectual environment, as they grapple with key issues and themes in Africana studies through the lives of Black women.”




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