Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance, and Populist Protest

New York University

Summer Session II, July 5-August 11TH

Professor Frank Roberts (NYUGALLATINRACE@gmail.com)

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:

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

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

Keeanga-Yamatta Taylor, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation


All additional readings and media material: BlackLivesMatterSyllabus.Com


July 5:

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


July 7:

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.


July 12:

Screening: Beyonce, Lemonade (Excerpts)

Required Reading:

Saidiya Hartman, “The Labor of Black Women”

Zandria Robinson, “We Slay, Part I.” & “We Slay, Part II.” NewSouthNegress.com

Additional Readings TBA

Special Guest: Candace Benbow (Author, #LemonadeSyllabus)


July 14

Required Reading:

Keeanga Taylor, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation

Judith Butler, “What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?”New York Times, Jan. 12, 2015


July 18

Required Reading:

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

Special Guests: H.O.L.L.A. (How Our Lives Link Altogether)



July 21

Required Reading:

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow


July 25

Screening: Who Killed Freddie Gray?



July 28:

Required Reading:

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


Week 6: But Some of Us Are Brave: BLM’S Queer, Feminist, and Millennial Intersections (Continued)

August 9

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


August 11

Wrap Up

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