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Zentangle: April Showers Bring May Flowers

Following the Great Migration to the North and Midwest in the early 20th century, a wave of intellectual work developed fundamentally in the 1920s in Harlem, New York. African American writers, artists, musicians, folklorists, and activists—also known as the New Negroes—relocated or passed through Harlem and established a vibrant intellectual community. 

This course will examine selected New Negro representatives (and a few predecessors and mentors) such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Jessie Fauset, and Wallace Thurman through their life experiences, racial activism, and literary work. Selected pieces we will read in preparation for each class. As race is intricate—and crucial—to their writings, we will reflect on the social circumstances that motivated their art and what their fictional narratives accomplish.

Vanessa Rouillon is an independent scholar in the field of Rhetoric; she holds a doctoral degree in English, specializing in Rhetoric/Writing Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL (2013), as well as an MA degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (2008); she also holds an MA degree in Economics from Georgetown University (1996). Her research examines African American citizenship efforts and rhetorical activism during the first half of the twentieth century. She is currently writing the biography of an outstanding African American man, Albert R. Lee, who worked at the University of Illinois, at the President's Office, and became the unofficial, but first dean of Black students. She is the author of a documentary (2018) on Lee’s contributions to Illinois, “A Man of Substance, One of Illinois’ Finest Traditions” (, which was produced by the University of Illinois. Her work has appeared in Challenge, Language Assessment Quarterly, The Public i, the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics, and Peitho. She is also coauthor of Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times (2012).

There are no scheduled sessions at this time. Sign up to be notified when this course is available.

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