Author Seminar African American Literature

African American Literature Syllabus

Course Introduction

Welcome to African American Literature. This course will take its students on an, enriching, harrowing, and historical journey starting with the African people first kidnapped from their native land, and moving all the way to the complex and poignant modern African American dilemma. The varied situations, personalities, and beliefs of the authors which students will encounter provide a profoundly rich experience of African American culture which will lead students to cultivate empathy, appreciate diversity, honor the past, and wonder at human nature. This is a course that will reach into the mind, travel down to the heart, and touch the very souls of its conscientious students.

Course Description

African American Literature will move students chronologically through 9 units of study, each of which focuses on an era representing a step in African American history. Each unit presents several canonical authors based on shared chronology–for example our studies begin with Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley, and end with Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. In each of these units, primary texts in multiple genres are presented, analyzed, exposited, and discussed. The linguistic and ideological development suggested by the momentum of this approach ultimately draws rich and powerful lines for consideration, providing the earnest student with a compelling understanding of the language, images, and themes of the paradoxical body of African American Literature. 

This is a 1 semester course consisting of 9 units.  Upon successful completion students will receive 0.5 credit towards high school graduation.

Purpose of the Course

This course is designed to continue to develop students’ skills in composition, style, grammar, argumentation, oratory, and philosophy. Standard African American canonized texts will lead the students chronologically through the plotline of the African American experience and its most eloquent respondents and shapers. The nexus between language and culture is inevitable and students will find themselves immersed in sociological and ideological study while working closely with text.  Students will refine their skills in stylistic analysis and argumentation through written and oral evaluations of several varieties. The course involves close reading of two larger pieces as well as dozens of smaller readings in many genres. It culminates in a substantial synthesis research paper.

Course Overview

  • The Earliest Voices: Equiano and Wheatley
  • Argument and Race: Banneker, Colonization, Walker
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Sisters in Bondage—The Work and Lives of Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Jacobs
  • Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Maya Angelou and Alice Walker

Required Course Materials

Please access the list of course materials from the OC Online book ordering system and order your materials as soon as possible. Oftentimes, course materials are on back order and you may experience a delay in receiving them, causing students to fall behind in their online coursework. When ordering used or rented materials, be careful that online access codes are also current.

Methods of Instruction

Instruction in this course will occur in predominantly 5 ways:

  1. Direction Instruction: many concepts will be explained through textual instruction directly. This will require attentive reading.
  2. Interactive Power Point: many concepts will be illustrated through examples and practice assessments on interactive power point presentations, providing the student with concepts as well as opportunities to receive guided practice.
  3. Sample Work: sample work will often be provided. Examples of argumentative paragraphs, of rhetorical analysis, and of oratory are all provided.
  4. Synchronous Sessions: each week a synchronous session will be held by the teacher for all students to attend. Synchronous sessions provide an opportunity for students and the teacher to connect real time in order to gain a deeper understanding of the course content and to connect with one another. Be sure to check your course announcements to see if there is any preparation required on your part before the synchronous session. 
  5. Formative and Summative Assessments: students will compete oral exams, quizzes, rhetorical analyses, summaries and paraphrases, organizational charts and diagrams, review activities, and essays. Students will receive feedback and direction on these assignments in order to sharpen their performance.

Methods of Evaluation 

The course uses 9 methods of evaluation. Below is an overview chart.



Number of Tasks

Sentence Reworking

Students will rewrite a primary source sentence using differing rhetorical strategies to achieve syntactic effects.


Rhetorical Terms Quiz

Students will identify rhetorical strategies in primary source texts


CEW Paragraph

Students will write an academic paragraph which argues a claim, provides textual evidence, and furnishes expository analysis.



Students will share their own ideas in response to a primary text and respond to others’ ideas with the forum


Vocabulary Quiz

Students will learn words from primary sources and then place those words, conjugating them according to syntax and grammar, within sentences.


Oral Interpretation

Students will read primary source text, giving careful attention to the “interpretation” of their reading in its control of rate, pitch, emphasis, enunciation, and volume. 


Ideological Synthesis

These assignments call students to synthesize ideas within and between pieces and authors, showing connections and differences.


Oral Exam

These assessments will be given by the instruction 1:1 and will afford the student the chance to verbally respond to a question.


Multi-Paragraph Essay

These longer papers will combine the smaller CEW paragraphs into a larger, coherent whole.


Students will demonstrate mastery through the following formative and summative assessments:

  • 40%         Assignments
  • 10%           Participation (Discussion Posts, Synchronous Sessions)
  • 10%           Quizzes
  • 25%           Final Exam
  • 15%           Unit Tests 

Grading Rubrics

This course will use 4 rubrics:

  • CEW Rubric: this scoring guide will break down argumentative paragraphs into their claims, their evidence, and their warrants.
  • Multi-Paragraph Rubric: this scoring guide will break down larger papers into 5 components: Introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, concluding paragraph, fluency/style, and conventions.
  • Oral Interpretation Rubric: this scoring guide will divide speaking skills into 5 categories: rate, emphasis, pitch, enunciation, and volume.
  • Summary and Paraphrase Rubric: this scoring guide gives bulleted lists for the essential qualities of summarization and paraphrase.

* Semester-long Course and ** Eight-week Course

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