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Blacks, Catholics and Jews: Their American Experiences

Blacks, Catholics and Jews: Their American Experiences


For an alternative option, refer to the program description for:
American Experiences, American Dreams

Fall and Winter quarters

Major areas of study include:
African and African-American studies, Catholic studies, Jewish studies, American studies, folklore, literature and American history.
Class Standing:
This Core program is designed for freshmen.

“Speaking from my own special area of American culture, I feel that to embrace uncritically values which are extended to us by others is to reject the validity, even the sacredness, of our own experience.” —Ralph Ellison

Blacks, Catholics and Jews: three peoples historically consigned to the margins of the American social order, yet highly influential in shaping the culture of the nation. How did this happen? How did members of these groups build on the validity of their own experience to remake themselves and, ultimately, American society? What do their travails and achievements reveal about the place of pluralism in American life?

The three groups have shared legacies of geographical dispersion from the Old World, discrimination and a sense of otherness, and the creation of rich identities and communities based upon identification with older worldviews, customs, folkways, and rituals that preceded life in the United States. We will survey African, Catholic and Jewish cultures of the Old World of Africa and Europe and their transformations over several centuries in the United States. Our major theme is Diaspora: how emigrants from distant lands find ways to connect with their cultural origins and revitalize social life in newly-formed communities that often face hostility and oppression. While analyzing parallels in these groups’ experiences, we will be mindful of differences of circumstance and outlook among and within them. We will also explore in considerable detail another major religious tradition, Islam, in the experience of Africans and African-Americans.

Our studies will examine contributions by Jewish, Catholic and African-Americans to American literature and arts, popular culture, politics and ethics. We will consider challenges posed by assimilation and conflicting versions of identity; representations of each group in the media; and relations of the groups to each other. We will read histories, novels, folklore, essays and cultural studies, listen to music and watch films. We will be constantly attentive to matters of gender, race, ethnicity and religiosity.

This program offers students an intensive focus on writing, interpretation and research. Student projects will involve library and ethnographic work, including opportunities to explore the ethnic and/or religious heritage of family or acquaintances.

16 credits each quarter.
Special Expenses:
$90 for all overnight field trips.
Program is preparatory for:
careers and future studies in the humanities and social sciences; interpersonal, multicultural and community work; education, journalism and law.

Program updates:

This program has been cancelled. For an alternative option, refer to the program description for: American Experiences: Blacks, Jews and Other "Others"

Contact the Site Manager


Last Updated: August 25, 2017

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