Permissions Agreement

Black Lives Matter Syllabus is the intellectual property of instructor Frank Leon Roberts. This means that material compiled in this syllabus should not be duplicated without proper citation and attribution. Duplicating this syllabus verbatim or nearly-verbatim (i.e. its description, subject headings, weekly topics, or configuration of reading material) without proper attribution is an act of intellectual dishonestly.

If you are planning on adopting this syllabus for a course of your own:
1. Be sure to include the following disclaimer statement at the top of your syllabus: “This syllabus is an adoption of the course, “Black Lives Matter” designed by Frank Leon Roberts (frankroberts@nyu.edu) at BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.com.”
2. At the top of each of the pages in the syllabus, include the link: BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.com.
3. Send a courtesy email to frankroberts@nyu.edu, notifying us of your intention to adopt this syllabus.

University instructors who attempt to adopt this course without proper attribution should expect to be contacted and reported to their Provost and/or the Department Chair at their home institution.

MLA Citation:
Roberts, Frank Leon Roberts. Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest. 2016. Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, New York, NY. Microsoft Word File.

APA Citation:
Roberts, Frank Leon Roberts. (2016). Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest. [Syllabus]. New York, NY: Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University.


Approaching The Black Lives Matter Movement

New York University

Summer Session II, July 5-August 11TH

Professor Frank Roberts

Tues & Thurs: 5:30-8:30PM

Course Hashtag: #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus

From the killings of teenagers Michael Brown and Vonderrick Myers in Ferguson, Missouri; to the suspicious death of activist Sandra Bland in Waller Texas; to the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York, to the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida and 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit, Michigan—-#blacklivesmatter has emerged in recent years as a movement committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against black and brown bodies.

This intensive interdisciplinary seminar links the #blacklivesmatter” movement to four broader phenomena: 1) the rise of the U.S. prison industrial complex and its relationship to the increasing militarization of inner city communities 2) the role of the media industry in influencing national conversations about race and racism and 3) the state of racial justice activism in the context of a neoliberal Obama Presidency and 4) the increasingly populist nature of decentralized protest movements in the contemporary United States. In this course we will be mindful of an important distinction between #blacklivesmatter (as an emergent movement that has come into existence within roughly the past three years) vs. a much older and broader U.S. movement for black lives that has been in existence for several centuries (which can be traced back to at least the first slave uprisings in the antebellum south). Part of our goal then, we be to think about how the former has been influenced by the latter and to what ends. Among the many topics of discussion that we will debate and engage this semester will include: the moral ethics of black rage and riotous forms of protest; violent vs. nonviolent civil disobedience; the hyberbolic media myth of “black on black” crime; coalitional politics and the black feminist and LGBTQ underpinnings of the #blacklivesmatter movement; the similarities and differences between the blacklivesmatter movement and the U.S. civil rights movement; and the dynamics of political protest among the millennial and post-millennial generations.

Required Textbooks:

  1. Marc Lamont Hill, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
  2. Keeanga-Yamatta Taylor, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation
  3. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
  4. Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

All additional readings and media material: BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.Com

July 5:

Film Screening: Stay Woke (Dir. Lauren Grant, Prod. Jesse Williams, 2016)

July 7: Black Lives Matter, The Movement for Black Lives, and the Deep Democratic Tradition 

  • Cornel West, “Democracy Matters in Frightening Times”
  • Cornel West, “The Deep Democratic Tradition”
  • Jelani Cobb, “The Matter of Black Lives.” The Nation, March 14, 2006
  • Patrisse Cullors, “We Didn’t Start A Movement, We Started A Network.” Medium.com, Feb. 22, 2016.

In-Class Viewing: http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/


July 12: “Ok, Ladies Now Lets Get In #Formation”: Black Lives Matter’s Protest Populism 

Screening: Beyonce, Lemonade  (Excerpts)

Required Reading:

  • Saidiya Hartman, “Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women’s Labor”
  • Zandria Robinson, “We Slay, Part I.” & “We Slay, Part II.” NewSouthNegress.com

Select three of the following short thought pieces:

  • ——————–, “How Beyonce’s Lemonade Exposes the Inner Lives of Black Women”
  • Candace Benbow, “Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Black Christian Women’s Spirituality”
  • Syreeta McFadden, “Beyoncé’s Lemonade is #blackgirlmagic at its most potent”
  • Omise’eke Natasha Tinsle, Beyoncé’s Lemonade Is Black Woman Magic”
  • Miriam Bale, Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ Is a Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism: Critic’s Notebook.” Billboard, April 25, 2016

Special Guest: Candace Benbow (Author, #LemonadeSyllabus)


July 14  Historicizing #BlackLivesMatter and the Movement for Black Lives 

BLM to Black Liberation

Required Reading:

  • Keeanga Taylor, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation
  • Judith Butler and George Yancy, “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?”New York Times, Jan. 12, 2015










In-Class Viewing:


July 18  The Prison Industrial Complex: Reform or Abolition? 

58322100778090lRequired Reading:

  • Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?
  • Special Guests: H.O.L.L.A. (How Our Lives Link Altogether)

July 21  The Prison Industrial Complex: Reform or Abolition? 

newalexanderRequired Reading:

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow


July 25 But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Lives Matter’s Queer Critiques

Required Reading:

  • Darnell Moore, “Black Freedom Fighters in Ferguson: Some of us are queer.” The Feminist Wire. October 17, 2014.
  • Emma Margolin, “Which #BlackLivesMatter? The killings no one’s talking about.” MSNBC.com. 07/21/15

“Queerness on the Frontlines of Ferguson.” MSNBC Original.

Special Guest: Michael Roberson, Center for Religion and Economic Democracy


July 28 Nobody: Causalities of America’s War on the Dispossessed  

Required Reading:

Marc Lamont Hill, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond





























August 2  #SayHerName: Black Women, Intersectionality and Black Feminist Critique

  • Alicia Garza “A Herstory of the Black Lives Matter Movement
  • Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival” & “Who Said It Was Simple”
  • Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” and “The Transformation of Silence in Language and Action” in Sister Outsider
  • Lucille Clifton, “Wont You Celebrate With Me”
  • Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins”


Combahee River Collective, A Black Feminist Statement

August 4 Mediated Mobilization and the Future of Black Community Organizing

Special Guest: Charles Davis,

Readings TBA


August 9 Beyond “The Lesser of Two Evils”: #BlackLivesMatter, Election 2016, and the Future of the American Left 

Required Reading:

Eddie Glaude, “America Is Suffering a Crisis of Imagination.” In Time, Feb. 24, 2016.

Areva Martin, “Black Lives Matter Could Play Disruptive, Crucial Role in 2016 Election”

Democracy Now, “We Endorse No One: Black Lives Matter & the 2016 Presidential Race”

Special Guest: TBA

View: The Dream Defenders SQUAD2016 Initiative


August 11

Wrap Up