Can popular culture challenge historically-engrained stereotypes of African Americans? Can cultural forms be ‘popular’ and ‘commercial’ and still be ‘authentic,’ politically ‘conscious,’ and transformative? In this course, students will explore these questions and the role of African Americans in U.S. popular culture from the 1830s to the present, from the representations of Blacks in Black face minstrelsy (the first popular cultural form in the U.S.) to the ways by which African Americans have adopted, adapted and confronted the legacies of racism. Looking at Black participation in Tin Pan Alley, Hollywood films, television, hiphop, and other commercial arenas, we will read, listen to, and view texts in a variety of disciplines including music, literature, film, cultural criticism, and cultural history. The course will be a combination of lecture and class discussion. Students will take a midterm exam, a final exam as well as short writing and research assignments.