Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty

Fugitive Justice: Introduction to Black Studies

Instructor: Brandi Hughes
Bethlehem Building
1450 McKinstry Street
Detroit, MI 48209

What happens when Black history focuses on the fugitive rather than the emancipated slave?  What do the men and women who defied black slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries have to teach us about contemporary demands for freedom, as well as ways to address the injury, grief and mourning that are still present today? What might we learn about justice from the runaway slave, the outlaw, the maroon? Is “justice” something that the state can simply bestow, or must it be fashioned from the broken bits and pieces of society?

This class explores the concept of “fugitivity,” why it matters, and why it’s helpful as we confront the frustrated politics of race in America. Using Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) as our primary guide, we’ll also read from the fugitives’ archive: slave narratives, antislavery petitions, legal suits, newspapers, maps, and church buildings. We’ll look for clues in these historical documents and ask why, 150 years after emancipation, American society is still plagued by anti-black violence. Contained within the fugitives’ story are partial, fleeting, constrained, and seemingly impossible claims for justice. Our course takes up the challenge of these seemingly impossible claims to ask: Can the memories, experiences, and unreconciled grievances of fugitive slaves expand our vision of the future of American justice?

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 09 — December 07, 2017
4 weeks