JR 130
Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays 2:40-3:50PM

Professor James Dator
No Preferred Gender Pronoun
Phone: x3299
Skype: jamesdator
Office Hours:
M, 1-2:30pm &
By Appointment (48 hours notice)
VM 138
Course Requirements

AFR 200 is a chronologically organized but interdisciplinary course that explores the diverse ways everyday people, artists, intellectuals, and academics have experienced and reimagined “black identity” and its relationship to Africa over time.  In turn, we will explore key issues in the field through documentaries and films, historical texts, visual and musical arts, and contemporary writings that highlight how—as abolitionist Martin Delaney once argued—Africans and Afro-Diasporans have long had a “reflex influence” upon each other.  AFR 200 fulfills the core course requirements for the Africana Studies minor, but students studying History, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and other disciplines are of course welcomed.  Students planning on studying abroad to Africa, the Caribbean, or other places shaped by the African Diaspora are also encouraged to enroll.


Course materials will include documents written by former slaves and critical texts composed by men and women who experienced racism via colonial domination and imperial persecution in Africa, the West Indies, and South America.  We will also learn about important theoretical arguments by sociologists, anthropologists, and other scholars who have influenced the academic study of Africa and its Diaspora.  Some of the major themes we will cover include: forced and voluntary migration; the intersection of race with the experiences of class and gender; slavery, colonialism, segregation, and freedom struggles; and the relationship between resistance and culture.  This course is reading and writing intensive, and active participation is essential.     


Course Objectives


     Through a combination of lectures and active discussions, we will

  • Develop critical reflection skills, oratory proficiency, and writing aptitude

  • Examine how people in the African diaspora—intellectuals, academics, and everyday men and women alike—have wrestled with and reimagined the intersection of race and culture across space and time, and, in turn, refashioned the meaning of terms like “black” and “African”

  • Consider some of the key interpretive methods and the parallel political/social transformations that have informed the field of Africana Studies

  • Explore important theories, approaches, and critical perspectives that students may use in ensuing coursework and research in the Africana minor program as well as other disciplines

  • Enhance our critical thinking skills through active discussion about primary and secondary works detailing the lives of African/Afro-Diasporic individuals and societies




     Coincidentally, this course fulfills the GCR-RPP requirement. As such you will also learn how to

  • Describe the worldviews under study

  • Explain primary causes or contextual factors contributing to the worldview(s) under study, which may include social, political and economic dominance

  • Analyze differences between two or more worldviews, using methods and terminology appropriate to the disciplines

  • Students will identify the factors that contribute to various types of differences, inequalities and power structures, whether they be historical, social, or political factors.


A Note On Me & You: How to get the most out of this course, and college, really!


My life’s passion involves helping you become a better thinker and communicator. Much of this project involves helping you find your voice. Yet your voice is your voice. So how do I help you do this? Well part of this game involves trusting my style. Sometimes that might be hard for you to do. In fact, sometimes you might say to yourself, “Why is he pushing me to say it differently?”, “Isn’t any answer good enough?”, “Isn’t participating enough?”, or “Doesn’t he see that I am trying, isn’t trying enough?”


The truth is that my job is to be your intellectual mentor—to help you mature and gain confidence with knowledge and the profound power that it yields. I will set your bar high. And that means that I have to teach you differently than your peer who is quiet, than your peer who is loud, than your peer who is nervous, than your peer who does not want nor care to try. I have to teach you.


And how do I know you? Well, I only can know you by what you show me in and out of the classroom, by how you interact with your peers, and by the way you carry yourself as an adult who by luck of the draw gained this opportunity to learn. Our contract in this process hinges on trust. And I trust that what I see in and out of the classroom is what I get. Show me who you want to be, and I promise I will do my best to help you get there.


Office Hours & Appointments


I am always available to mentor you by way of office hours, an appointment with 48 hours notice (unless I am traveling, I usually can make it to campus), and by way of Skype. These are great ways for us to get to know each other better and thus to help me help you.​


Assignments: The Hows and the Whys


Attendance & Participation Grading Explained


       Participating means being an active member of the classroom.


We meet a scheduled number of times each semester. You are not scored for the first class. You receive a participation grade on a scale of 0-100 every class thereafter. Your participation grade is based on the sum of these scores divided by the total of graded classes (no grade for the first class, one unexcused absence).


       Sign the attendance sheet every day you come to class!


  • Please be on time and be courteous to the rest of the class

  • You are permitted one unexcused absence during the semester. After that, you get a 0 for your participation for any additional absences

  • Excused absences require 3rd party verification

  • If you know of any schedule conflicts, please notify me in advance


        What counts as participation?


  • 100% attendance does NOT equal an A, B, or even a C participation grade! SRSLY;-)

  • Do you come to class and never say anything? Do not expect better than a 65. That’s generous for being a warm body, no?

  • If you are shy, confused about the material, or have concerns about sharing your ideas with the class, come chat with me! 

  • Listening is important, too! Don’t suck the oxygen out of the room, and reflect on what your peers say!

Map Quiz


This course tracks an amazing array of places and people, often times shifting locales within the same conversation. Thus, understanding basic geography is essential for success in the course. This quiz lays a basic foundation for all fifteen weeks of AFR 200.


This quiz is straightforward. You will need to fill in several blank maps—one of the Caribbean, one of South America, and one of Africa. I will provide you with a study guide. The quiz itself will be drawn from this study guide; it will not be all of the places on the study guide. Full maps, blank maps, and the study guide are available on here. Practice by filling in blank maps by hand!!!




Papers assess your ability to craft an argument from source material in a clear, organized fashion. The assignments in this course require that you build upon readings and class discussion to demonstrate that you can synthesize material and develop a compelling, creative argument relying on that material.




Exams help you learn how to organize, reflect, and synthesize information gathered over an extended period of time. In fact, if you prepare well, you will notice that you learn the most in preparing because it requires you to become a “self-regulated learner.”


Exams will involve a combination of short-answer IDs and a selection of essays. You may also have a surprise reading identification. All answers must be substantive and not simply descriptive; describe the importance of the topic under consideration and not just the facts. Thus, like essays, exams help you learn how to creatively synthesize knowledge.





Research shows that learning is lessened by computer-based note taking but increased by handwritten notes. I suggest a cheap composition book, which should only cost a couple of dollars at most. These journals should keep track of your notes, your reflections on the readings, and your notes from lectures, discussions, and films.


Your notebook will not be graded in this course, but it is a requirement and I can ask for it anytime. However, not keeping a proper notebook will negatively impact your overall participation grade.


Additional Details


     Please note:

  • All assignments must be completed to pass the course

  • If requested to do so, please e-mail your papers as an attachment in .doc or .docx (Word) format. No RTF, TXT, etc.

  • If requested to do so, turn your papers in hard copy to the wire basket that sits outside of my office on the ground. Make sure they are stapled and have your name in the upper right-hand corner

  • Unless you have obtained an extension from the instructor, late assignments will be graded down a full letter grade the first day and a full letter grade every five days thereafter

  • Familiarize yourself with the Goucher Academic Honor Code. Do not plagiarize.