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African Diaspora Program Syllabus

The Africana Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the Boston Pan African Forum are piloting a collaborative venture designed to create academic achievement in an urban, high school system, especially for youth of African descent. The program evaluates how students respond to a supplementary curriculum that portrays the diverse and complex history of people of the African Diaspora. The site for the program is Codman Academy Charter School.  The hypertext syllabus, co-created by Robert Johnson and Deborah Whaley, focuses on Africana history, study skills, personal, and community development. If you would like to know more about the program contact Professor Robert Johnson, Jr. at 617.287.6794, or by email at Robert.Johnson@umb.edu.                  

Program Overview: 

The African Diaspora Program is designed as an after school development program for youth of African descent in the greater Boston area. Interdisciplinary instruction one day a week for two and one half hours in the history and culture of the African Diaspora, mentoring, tutoring, collaborative teamwork, community organizing, and events are designed to help students succeed academically and provide students with leverage on their cultural surround. The weekend seminars are arranged thematically and historically. Themes in the program are as follows: Mapping Inter-cultural Africa, Social Movements in the African Diaspora, Becoming African American, Representation and Culture, Math, Science, and the African Diaspora. The historical time span is from antiquity thru the 21st century. 

Field areas represented are cultural and social history, autobiography, popular culture and the arts, math, science, and technology. Modes of instruction include lectures, multi-media presentations, group work, and film viewings. Additional workshops will include study techniques, goal setting, financial management, career choices, and social awareness. Outside of course instruction, students will attend field trips, guest speaker events, and interact with the programís website, hypertext syllabus, and electronic listserv. 

The African Diaspora Program will help students develop a proactive role in their own personal and educational development. This individual transformation, we expect, will develop concurrently with studentsí growing consciousness of their history and environment leading to participation in community development and improvement in study skills and grades. As students work toward their education and career goals, they will gain the self-actualization and desire to transfer and use their knowledge constructively throughout their lives. We also hope that through successful completion of the program it might work as a magnet and university outreach program to encourage students to attend college. While the African Diaspora Program focuses on the humanities and social sciences and will primarily help students with reading, writing, and critical thinking, we also hope to pool together a critical mass of peer tutors in the areas of math and science.   

About Codman Academy (School Site's Statement):  

Codman Academy Charter Schoolís mission is to prepare students for full participation in the intellectual, economic and civic life of our society, by ensuring their preparation for and access to further education, the skills and vision to undertake a rewarding career, and the motivation and character needed to engage deeply and productively in community life. We view parents and community members as integral partners in this endeavor.  


Our principles focus attention on what is important and principles that provide us with something to return to when we need guidance. Learning is an expedition into the unknown. Expeditions draw together personal experience and intellectual growth to promote self-discovery and construct knowledge. We believe that adults should guide students along this journey with care, compassion, and respect for their diverse learning styles, backgrounds, and needs. Addressing individual differences profoundly increases the potential for learning and creativity of each student. Given fundamental levels of health, safety, and love, all people can and want to learn. We believe expeditionary learning harnesses the natural passion to learn and is a powerful method for developing the curiosity, skills, knowledge, and courage needed to imagine a better world and work toward realizing it.

More about Codman Academy:

Program Objectives: 

By the end of the program students will ideally

1. Gain historical and cultural knowledge of Africana history

2. Increase their reading, comprehension, writing, public speaking, computer, and study techniques

3. Learn to work independently and collaboratively in groups

4. Set career, educational, and financial goals

5. Improve time management and multi-tasking

6. Gain an enhanced sense of themselves as active citizens and community organizers 

Program Readings: 

Semester One and Two 

   John Henrik Clarke, In Search of My Africa (African Diaspora * History)

   Benedita de Silva, An Afro-Brazilian Womanís Story of Politics and Love (Brazil * Biography)

   Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Petals of Blood (Kenya * Fiction)

   Julia Avarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Dominican American * Fiction) 

Semester Three and Four 

   Mario Azevedo, Africana Studies: A Survey of Africa and the Diaspora (USA * History)

   Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson, A Shining Thread of Hope: Black Womenís History (USA * History)

   Benjamin Quarles, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (USA * Auto-Biography)

   William Andrews and Henry Louis Gates eds., Six Womenís Slave Narratives (USA * Auto-Biography) 

Semester Five and Six 

   Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy (South Africa * Autobiography)

   Jacqueline McLeod, Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America (USA * Auto-biography)

   Todd Boyd, Young, Black, Rich, and Famous: The Rise of the NBA, The Hiphop Invasion, and the Transformation of American Culture (USA * Cultural Criticism)

   Michel Laguerre, American Odyssey: Haitians in New York City (Haitian American * Cultural History and Ethnography) 

Semester Seven and Eight 

   Robert Johnson, Jr., Two Plays of Initiation (USA * Theatre and Drama)           

   Delia Poley and Virgil Suarez eds., Little Havana Blues: A Cuban American Literature Anthology (Cuban American * Literature)

   Richard Powell, Black Art: A Cultural History (USA * Cultural History)

   Juan Flores, From Bomba to Hiphop (Puerto Rico / USA * Popular Culture Studies)           


   Declaration of Independence

   13th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution

   Dred Scott Decision

   Emancipation Proclamation

   Equal Rights Amendment (Chronology and Amendment)

   Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail 


   Marcus Garvey, African Fundamentalism (sound speeches)

   Mary Church Terrell, Being Colored in the Capital of the United States

   Ida B. Wells, Lynch Law in Georgia

   W.E.B. Du Bois, The Role of the Black Intellectual (sound speeches)

   Booker T Washington, Atlanta Exposition

   Malcolm X, The Ballot, or the Bullet

   Equal Rights Amendment

   Sojourner Truth, Ainít I A Woman? 


I. Time Management Worksheet 

Semester One: Students will write a one-to-two page time management worksheet. On this worksheet, students will chart their dayís activities and expected activities into realistic time allocations.  The purpose of this assignment is to help students allocate appropriate time to family, studying, work, extra-curricular activities, and community development.  After the workshop and completed worksheet, students should find that they have adequate time to complete their work and fulfill their responsibilities, and that time management will help them gain control over their daily schedules. 

II. Savings and Budget Worksheet          

Semester Two: The two-page budget studentsí construct will follow a template given to students from Microsoft Money.  After our workshops on budget maintenance, expected income, living costs, and student loans, students will construct working budgets for post-high school use and/or budgeting directed toward their college finances. This worksheet is designed to help students think through financing and saving before they graduate to foster future financial planning. 

III. Community Service Project 

Semesters Three and Four: The community service project asks that students work collaboratively with one other student and write a one-page proposal for an event or hands-on intervention in their community that influences their community for the better. In addition to the one-page description of studentsí community project, they will give presentations on the completed projects following the poster style format to their peers, program staff, parents and instructors at the end of the programís year. The community service project will help students think about collaborative ways to affect change in their communities on a micro-level, which will lead to larger, macro-level results. 

IV.  Research Project                  

Semesters Five and Six: Students will write a five-to-seven page mini-research paper on any aspect of the African Diaspora using course material, the Internet, and library sources. Students may write on a historical or cultural event, social movements, politicians, community organizations, the arts and humanities, scientific innovation, oral histories, Africans role in math development, etc. This project will be turned in in three stages: concept paragraph and five source annotative bibliography, outline, rough draft, and final paper. 

V.  Personal Essay of Background, Education, and Career Objectives                  

Semester Seven: The personal statement students will write consists of a description of their education and career goals. Students will also articulate youth programs, community development, and relevant extra-curricular activities that have shaped those goals. The essay will demonstrate that their identities and life experiences provide the tools through struggle, tenacity, and success to work towards a degree in higher education. Studentsí participation in the youth program will offer substantive material to form their statement of objectives.  This assignment is handed in in three different stages: concept paragraph and outline, rough draft, and final. The goal of this assignment is for students to have a viable college application essay completed before they finish the program.                                             

VI. Discussions 

Discussion sessions on current events, film viewings, and conflict resolution between and among youth of African descent will be organized by students in consultation with the program director, staff, and faculty. Throughout the programís duration, students will gain increased ability to dialogue and debate with their peers intellectually, passionately, and collegially.                    

VII. Reading and Viewing Journals                  

Students will write one-page journal entries in response to questions or prompts about the reading and viewing material.  One paragraph will respond directly to the question and the second paragraph will constitute an informal discussion about their thoughts on what they read. Periodically, these journals will be read aloud in the seminar or in program meetings and events. Students are asked to bring their journals every time they attend a program session and will turn in these journals periodically throughout the year.  The use of journals is two-fold: Students improve their critical thinking skills by responding to the question prompts and they will have an opportunity to keep their journals, which will document their comprehension of the reading and viewing over the programís year.                  

**In all, after students complete the program, they will have a portfolio which includes the above sections.  This will allow students the opportunity to archive their work and experiences with the program in written form. It is expected that students will use the portfolio after graduation to guide them through post-high school planning.                  

Program Multi-Media      


   Biko (To accompany the Mathabane book)

   Get On the Bus (To accompany the Boyd book)

   Daughters of the Dust (To accompany the Hine book)


   Africans in America (On Colonialism and Africans in America)

   Eyes on the Prize (On Boston Busing)

   Ethnic Notions (On Ethnic Stereotypes)

   Skin Deep (On College Campus Racism)                  

MusicFunkamentals, Education By Any Means Necessary (Science, Math, Language, World History selections). Other selections are spontaneous and will elucidate the dayís reading or activities. They will include selections from Africa, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Afro-America.

Life Workshops:

   Goals Setting

   Time Management

   Writing a Personal Essay for College Admissions

   Community Organizing


   Multi-cultural Awareness      

    Field Trips:

   Underground Rail Road

   Black History Museum

   UMASS Boston Black Student Center, Haitian Student Center and African Student Center

   UMASS Boston Campus Tour                  

Program Assessment:            

Students will receive certificates and written letters at the end of the term pertaining to their participation throughout the year and their commitment to learning the material, reflecting, and writing about Africana history.  Additional acknowledgment (plaques) may be appropriate for individuals that reflect and demonstrate the programís goals of leadership, organizing, humanitarianism, collegiality, and educational excellence.

Links on the African Diaspora, Math, and Science:

This site was created by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley.  It was last updated 23 December 2003. Please email the webmaster with suggestions, corrections, and information about broken links on this page. To write or contact Codman Academy, you may do so at:  637 Washington Street, Dorchester, MA 02124, phone: 617-287-0700, fax: 617-287-9064. To contact the Boston Pan African Forum you may do so at: Boston Pan-African Forum, P.O. Box 1232, Cambridge, MA 02238-1232, USA (617) 869-3428. Please direct questions about the program to Professor Robert Johnson.