Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3356 : Radical Black Archives in the U.S. - Sound and Image

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ellie Armon Azoulay
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Students interested in African American history and cultural history will enjoy this module, which explores archival projects consisting of music and sound recordings, photography and paintings from the 20th century until today. Archives and the practice of archiving will be theorized as part of a radical practice of resistance and care enacted by generations of African Americans. It will examine how collecting, sampling, juxtaposing, and archiving methods were used to create visionary archives of Black subjectivity. From songs that documented Black labourers’ working conditions, lapsed love and desire, through paintings that depicted the experiences of the Great Migration, to the first Black-led and run record label in the US, this module will explore how these archival projects became sites for knowledge production and exchange. The module will trace how these archives and their creators sought to document and celebrate Black lives in the face of anti Blackness, racial terror and segregation. Focusing on Black lives and experiences through visual and musical representations, these archival projects and their creators resisted long-lasting racist tropes and stereotypes that originated in slavery and were reborn during the Jim Crow era.

By studying primary and secondary sources, we will question the effect and affect of visual and sonic language and materiality around various issues such as community building, memory, representation, resistance, and storytelling. Students will be encouraged to think through the urgency associated with such a practice. This module is an opportunity to expose the students to various research methodologies and teach them how to approach a range of primary sources from written texts, artworks, recorded music, and archival collections and to examine the potential and limitations of archival projects. The archive is assumed here as a site, a source, the means, and a writing platform capturing and disseminating the Black experience, histories, and voices in the United States and beyond.

The aims of the module are:

1) demonstrate a critical understanding of historical and contemporary archival practices and processes across a range of institutional frameworks and material types;

2) develop proficiency in archival literacy across a range of platforms

3) demonstrate the ability to develop a sustained argument synthesising theoretical concepts and 'archival work' based on a specialised archive/s.

4) To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and develop the capacity for independent study.

5) To provide an opportunity to investigate in some depth selected problems in African American history, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current scholarship on African American archives and archival methodologies.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will be divided into three thematic parts:
1) Archive as Method
2) Storytelling the Archive
3) Sampling the Archive

A selection of archival projects (might change)
-       Negro Exhibit, W.E.B. Du Bois, Exposition Universelle (Paris), 1900
-       Black Swan Records, 1921-1923, Harlem New York
-       The Black Book, Toni Morrison, 1974 and Notes on the Margin of the Black Book, Glenn Ligon,
-       Foreign Office, Buchra Khalili, 2015
-       Federal Writers’ Project Recording, Zora Neale Hurston, Library of Congress, 1939 and The
Sound I Saw, Roy DeCavra 2001
-       Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence 1940-1941
-       The Songs My Mother Taught Me, Fannie Lou Hamer, 1963
-       Love is the Message, the Message is Death, Arthur Jafa, 2016 and Lemonade, Beyoncé Knowles,
-       “Careless Love: Imagining Black Radio”, Tobi Kassim, Black Sound Archive Working Group, 2019
-       Black Quantum Futurism, Black Quantum Futurism Collective 2020

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

• The module will foreground an interdisciplinary approach to the archive that provides students with skills to approach archival work for their own research and embed them in the critical work on archives that characterises much of the secondary and theoretical literature in the field.
• Students will learn to listen and to read sonic and visual materials.
• Students will develop an understanding of African American history by Black authored materials – songs and music, painting and photography.
• Students will develop a critical understanding of the history and historiography of selected
archival projects in 20th century US
• Students will develop a deeper understanding of how African Americans fashioned subjectivities and formed identities through archival projects

Intended Skill Outcomes

Subject-specific or Professional Skills:

• Students will develop critical, analysis and independent thinking
• Students should become more proficient in interpreting varied source materials
• Students will develop collaborative, peer-reviewed working habits
Cognitive or Intellectual Skills:

• To improve their research skills, developing their ability to collect and process visual, sonic and textual information,
with analytical skills being developed through analysis of multiple texts with differing viewpoints
• Students should develop their ability to present arguments clearly and succinctly both on paper
and orally

Key Skills:

• Students will learn to manage their time
• Communication skills will be developed
• Group work skills will be developed through small group activity during seminars
• Students will be able to demonstrate an ability to challenge received conclusions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching113:0033:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study561:0056:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars encourage students to analyse the assigned primary and secondary documents through the sharing of ideas and responses to the readings. Preparation for seminars requires students to do independent reading, requiring good time management and personal responsibility for learning.

The large share of independent study promotes self-directed learning and the effective use of primary and secondary sources. The small group seminars encourage collaborative learning that includes the process of close analysis of primary source material and the development of critical thinking

Formative assessment, in the form of oral presentations in pairs, will allow students to lead source discussions which will deepen their understanding of the source base as a whole and develop their confidence both in public speaking and in posing questions to other students, skills which are important for the job market as well as for personal development.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj1A75creative project and reflective log 1000 words
Written exercise1M25Source commentary 1000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1M10 minutes
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Throughout the semester, students will be asked to study and introduce sounds and images relevant to the weekly archives and readings. For mid term assessment, they would write a 2 source commentary of 1000 words.

For their final projects, students will revise the accumulated material and create in pairs or small groups (max three people) - textual, visual or sonic archives dedicated to a concept, a topic or a question of their choice.

Using excerpts from different texts, archival documents, sound or/and images, students are invited to conceive their own archive as a collage of existing, missing and transformed voices - fictional, theoretical, or historical.

The final format of this assessment can be a visual essay, an exhibition, a podcast, or a new musical composition. This creative project should be accompanied by a 2-page statement to explain your project in relation to course key themes and terms and about a few micro-decisions you had to take during the collaborative process.

Formative assessment, in the form of oral presentations in pairs, will allow students to lead source discussions which will deepen their understanding of the source base as a whole and develop their confidence both in public speaking and in posing questions to other students, skills which are important for the job market as well as for personal development.

Keep in mind that the intention is to allow you to work through what you have learned this semester. The assignment is intentionally open-ended so that you can shape it to your interests and time frame.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.