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This syllabus will give you an overview of this course.

Welcome – we’re excited you’re here for Black Performance as Social Protest. This syllabus will help give you a sense of how to succeed in this course.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) at the University of Michigan fully embraces the notion that academic and artistic excellence is inseparable from an abiding and pervasive institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The School is committed to furthering the University’s mission of ensuring that each member of our community has an equal opportunity to thrive and to take full advantage of the resources afforded by the University of Michigan.

Systemic racism must stop, and as members of the SMTD community, we have the duty to take an active role in being a part of this societal change towards racial justice. As a field, the performing arts is evolving and SMTD has a responsibility to prepare our students for careers that include diverse perspectives and skillsets.

Why should learners join this course?

This course is for a variety of learners who are invested in intersections between the arts and social justice. These include global artists and performers seeking more context and understanding to develop a social justice lens for their work as well as activists looking to incorporate the arts into their social justice work. Learners also include those who are seeking to understand the social, political and historical contexts of the African American experience as they grapple with a moment of heightened visibility for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black performance and social activism have been a model for protest globally. It has enriched and activated cries for justice in multiple contexts. Learners will have a chance to engage with three experts in their fields to develop and enrich their own practice whether that be in performance, activism, or research.

Course Overview

The focus of this online course is Black Performance as Social Protest. The arts are a potent way of responding to issues of injustice. Learners will recognize how Black performance resists oppression across several historical frames. The course illustrates how African Diasporic protest is expressed through music, dance and theatre throughout 4 distinct historical moments and culminates in a reflective manifesto. Students read, watch and listen to performances which illustrate various forms of artistic protest by people of the African Diaspora.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe how Black performance resists oppression across several historical frames.
  • Engage with performance content which illustrates various forms of artistic protest from the African Diaspora.
  • Compare patterns of resistance against slavery, lynching, incarceration, and disenfranchisement.
  • Identify ways in which patterns of resistance from the past contribute to ongoing social justice movements.
  • Produce a manifesto for achieving racial equity through performance.


We are committed to developing accessible learning experiences for the widest possible audience. We recognize that learners with disabilities (including but not limited to visual impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, or motor disabilities) might need more specific accessibility-related support to achieve learning goals in this course. If you experience any accessibility barriers, such as screen-reader inaccessible navigation, erroneous or incomprehensible captioning, or accommodation requests, please use this Accessibility Feedback Form to notify our team, and we will be more than happy to help. Please note the Accessibility Feedback Form is only for accessibility issues.


Below is a list of technology that you will use to participate in this course. We recommend that you spend time reading the brief description of each technology before jumping into the course. By doing this, you will have a better idea of what to expect and can create a plan for how you will approach taking this course.

  • The Gamut Gallery is a learning tool that provides a place for online learners to complete activities created by instructors in a public setting. As the name implies, when work is submitted, all learners in the course can view it. In general, this tool presents prompts to learners that they can consider and will function very similarly to how a learner might use a journal in a particular class.

    Learners will engage with The Gamut Gallery two separate times for this course. These are labeled as follows: Post Your Mixtape to the Gamut Gallery and Post your Final Manifesto to the Gamut Gallery. Each of these activities will provide the learner with a separate Gallery to share their mixtapes and final drafts of personal manifestos. Learners are encouraged to review their peers’ work and provide constructive feedback.

    For more information about Gallery and how you, other learners, and the University of Michigan can use material uploaded to Gallery, see Gallery’s Terms of Service.

  • Gamut Workbook

    The Gamut Workbook is a learning tool that provides a place for online learners to complete activities created by instructors privately. In general, this tool presents prompts to learners that they can consider and will function very similarly to how you might use a journal in a particular class.

    You will engage with the Gamut Workbook several times in this course. These are labeled as follows: Workbook: Protest-Personal and Political, Workbook: Considering Context, Workbook: Protest, Survival, and Sustainability, Workbook: Patterns of Protest, Workbook: Hollywood Strategies, Workbook: Multi-Media Impact, Workbook: Draft of Manifesto. Each of these activities will provide you with a separate Workbook activity to write and reflect to prepare to create your own personal manifesto. You are strongly encouraged to export a PDF version of your Workbook activities for your own records at the conclusion of the course.

    For more information about Workbook and how you, other learners, and the University of Michigan can use material uploaded to Workbook, see the Terms of Service.

Contact with the Instructor

Given the large number of students in this course, the teaching assistants or instructor(s) should not be contacted directly with any questions. While we appreciate the time and effort you put into the course, responding to questions is virtually impossible. But teaching assistants will monitor the forums and will keep the instructor(s) informed on a regular basis.

Would you like to take part in an optional learner background survey to improve the online educational offerings at the University of Michigan?

The University of Michigan is carrying out learner background survey research.

We’d like to invite all Learners on this course to take part in this optional pre-course survey. By taking part in this survey, you’ll support the University’s efforts to provide a quality online learning experience to a diverse population of participants. We may use the findings to evaluate the efficacy and impact of this educational content, as well as to identify opportunities to create new content.

The University of Michigan may share anonymous data collected during the survey with its platform partners, including Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn, with the goal of improving learning experiences and outcomes.

To take part in the learner background survey, please click the link below. If you choose to participate, you will be asked to provide personal information, including information about your gender, race, location country, employment status, and educational attainment. Your responses will be kept confidential, and the results from this survey will only be presented in aggregate form. It should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

Take part in the pre-course learner background survey.

Your responses will be linked to your course activity, but you will not be identifiable in any data that we publish or share. Summarized findings may be published in online and print publications and in University of Michigan promotional materials and may be included in presentations at professional development events, academic and professional conferences, and in various private settings. All the information collected during this survey, will be stored and handled according to the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan’s privacy policy.

The survey link will open in this same window for the purposes of making it accessible to screen readers and other assistive devices. You may need to manually navigate back to the course afterwards.

Thank you for helping to make the University of Michigan online courses better!

Please note that this is an independent research survey carried out by the University of Michigan and your participation is subject to the University’s own policies and terms. FutureLearn takes no responsibility for the contents or the consequences of your participation in this study. Your participation in the research has no effect on your course progress, marks or FutureLearn profile.

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Black Performance as Social Protest

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