Komozi Woodard

BA, Dickinson College. MA, PhD, University of Pennsylvania. Special interests in African American history, politics, and culture, emphasizing the Black Freedom Movement, women in the Black Revolt, US urban and ethnic history, public policy and persistent poverty, oral history, and the experience of anti-colonial movements. Author of A Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics and reviews, chapters, and essays in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedia. Editor, The Black Power Movement, Part I: Amiri Baraka, From Black Arts to Black Radicalism; Freedom North; Groundwork; Want to Start a Revolution?; and Women in the Black Freedom Struggle. Reviewer for American Council of Learned Societies; adviser to the Algebra Project and the PBS documentaries, Eyes on the Prize II and America’s War on Poverty; board of directors, Urban History Association. SLC, 1989–

Undergraduate Courses 2019-2020

History

Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders: Rethinking the Black Freedom Struggle

Open , Seminar—Year

Why do we know so little about the crowded field of women in the leadership of the black freedom struggle? When students imagine the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, most see figures only like Martin Luther King, Jr and Thurgood Marshall; however, a new generation of historians is rethinking the freedom struggle so that students might begin to see the leadership of Gloria Richardson at the helm of the Cambridge Movement in Maryland, Ella Baker at the helm of New York’s NAACP, Diane Nash at the helm of the Freedom Rides, Septima Clark at the helm of the Citizenship Schools, Fannie Lou Hamer at the helm of the Mississippi Movement, Ericka Huggins at the helm of the Black Panther’s Oakland Community School, Amina Baraka at the helm of the African Free School and the Black Women’s United Front, and Johnnie Tillmon at the helm of the National Welfare Rights Organization. This seminar will interrogate the role of Yuri Kochiyama in the founding of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa, Denise Oliver in the development of the Young Lords Party, and Vicki Garvin in the building of the National Negro Labor Council. Those women claimed a tradition that they traced back to Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and Claudia Jones. Historians are recovering the stories of hundreds of women writers, artists, actors, and activists in the Black Renaissance. Thus, students in this seminar will research some of those important subjects.

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Who Owns History? Reclaiming the Master Narrative From White Supremacy

Open , Lecture—Year

Is history solely possessed by the rich and powerful? Or did poor people ever have their say? Is history the story of a “master race” or the history of all of humanity? Do oppressed people matter? What voices count in the making of history? Who owns history? For more than a century, the master narrative of the Atlantic slave trade, American slavery, American freedom, and black Reconstruction after the Civil War was monopolized by white supremacy. The antiracist history and historians were banned not only from white colleges and universities but also from the educational establishment and academic journals. A new history is challenging the monopoly of white supremacy on the master narrative, and that new history is reclaiming the American past. This lecture introduces those new voices against the so-called master race. African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans—as well as indigenous, immigrant and working people—are reclaiming the making of American democracy and the story of world history.

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Previous Courses

The Blues Ethos and Jazz Aesthetics: A History of African Americans in the City

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

By the 20th century, African Americans in the city produced the genius of blues and jazz, including distinctive aesthetics of pleasure in music and dance. Artists like Bessie Smith, Ma‘ Rainey, Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, and Duke Ellington were paradigmatic in that cultural production. Those aesthetics influenced the black imagination in social, political, and cultural development, including not only the Harlem Renaissance and Chicago Black Renaissance but also the Black Arts Movement. With that cultural and historical background, students in this seminar will explore a variety of research projects.

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The Price of Citizenship: A History of Poverty and Public Policy in the United States

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture is a super-lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

The history of poverty and public policy in the United States did not begin with President Roosevelt’s New Deal or with President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Before the Great Depression and the Other America, the public policy toward urban poverty began with the humiliating and punitive institution of the poorhouse. And subsequently, public policy and social welfare in America developed in the shadow of the poorhouse. If one school of experts suggests that American social welfare has been obsessed with the social control over poor people, then a second school of experts has been engrossed in dividing the poor into two moral categories: the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Unfortunately, many experts were preoccupied with “improving” the morality of poor people rather than with ending economic poverty amid American bounty. By contrast, there is another tradition—one of social-justice movements that demand an end to American economic poverty and savage inequality. How did those dynamics shape the contours of American citizenship during the New Deal and the Great Society? Those issues will be explored in the lectures, discussions, and films in this course.

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The Making of Black America

Open , Lecture—Year

The rise of black America transformed American society, economy, and polity, as well as religion and culture. Most school books, however, erase an epic that W.E.B. DuBois called, "the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history." This lecture is an introduction to that hidden drama, including stories of tragedy and triumph. Discover: how the grassroots organized the Underground Railroad during bondage; the Union Leagues during Reconstruction; black populism during racial peonage; the Niagara Movement during white terror; the anti-lynching crusade during mob violence; the Universal Negro Improvement Association during the Red Summer of 1919; the Chicago Black Renaissance during the Great Depression; and the Negro Baseball Leagues during the age of Jim Crow.

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First-Year Studies: In the Tradition: An Introduction to African American History

Open , FYS—Year

African American history is an important window into the history of the United States and the rise of the modern world. This course explores classic narratives and examines major developments. The classic narratives are stories of self-emancipation and self-determination. The major developments range from the Atlantic Slave Trade to the Black Renaissance. On the one hand, students examine the dynamics of modern racism; on the other hand, students explore the contours of African American social, cultural, and intellectual history.

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Making Race and Nation: Was It the New Deal or the Raw Deal for Black America?

Open , Seminar—Spring

How does state formation shape race? The New Deal marked a major turning point in American society, reshaping race, citizenship, and nation. With the introduction of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the Housing Finance Agency, Social Security, and the GI Bill, millions of urban white working-class tenants fled slum poverty to become suburban middle-class homeowners with college, technical, business, and professional credentials. If there was a New Deal for White America, however, then there was a Raw Deal for Black America when African American taxpayers were barred from the bounty of those entitlement programs. On the one hand, this lecture explores the promise of the New Deal and the struggle of African Americans for Fair Employment and New Deal Citizenship; on the other hand, this course examines the segregated origins of the TVA, AAA, HOLC, Social Security, and the GI Bill and their impact on the postwar “racial gap” that divides America.

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Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and the Black Arts Movement: The Grassroots Awakening in the American Empire

Open , Lecture—Spring

The voices of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and the Black Arts Renaissance changed the group identity of Black America. This lecture will examine the controversies about Malcolm X, both in life and in death. Then students will study the impact of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. on the regional, national, and international spread of Black Power experiments such as the Black Panthers and the Black Arts. If Malcolm X designed bridges to the Bandung East, then the Black Panthers and the Black Arts also designed bridges to the Bandung West. While the Bandung East developed out of the 1955 Bandung Conference for Non-Alignment and Afro-Asian Solidarity in Indonesia, the Bandung West developed in the United States out of antiracist movements of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Mexican Americans, as well as Latinos and Puerto Ricans working together in Rainbow Coalition politics in the Long Sixties. The spread of the symbolic politics of the Black Panthers influenced not only the human-rights politics of the Young Lords and the Chicano movements but also encouraged human rights activism in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, India, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, and so forth.

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