For the 2013-2014 academic year, my colleague Tisha Brooks and I taught 12 African American literature courses – 6 last semester and 6 this semester – here at SIUE. Next year, when we’re joined by our new colleague Elizabeth Cali, we’ll offer between 14 and 16 African American literature courses each academic year. Our goal is to develop a robust, diverse, and intellectually rewarding set of classes focusing on African American literary studies.
From Fall 1993 – Spring 2003, the English department offered about 50 African American literature courses, and from Fall 2003 (when I arrived) to Fall 2013, we offered 96 courses. Between Spring 2014 – Spring 2024, we project that we’ll offer about 150 courses.
Our increase in course offerings somewhat coincides with an increase in black students at the university over the last 10 years. In 2003, the 1,157 black undergraduates made up 10.7% of the student population. In 2013, there were 1,623 black students, comprising 14.5% of the overall undergraduates.
I have been somewhat concerned that we – as a university community – have not adequately sought to address the academic needs and interests of this growing population of African Americans. In many academic fields, maybe the demographics of students does not matter much, at least so the thinking goes. Yet, black students have routinely reported that a major reason that they take black or African American-related classes is because of what it means to “us” and “our heritage.”
So here we are with African American literary studies @ SIUE, trying to build something purposeful and responsive.
• African American Literature @ SIUE