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AFAM 101: Dr. Livingston: Research Essay

This course guide is intended as a starting point for research assignments in AFAM 101.

Research Essay Assignment

Note: Please review assigment guidelines posted on  Canvas.

You are required to write an 8 page essay on an area of African American history or culture based on the materials covered in our texts for the course or on other subjects related to the Black experience in the Americas. Your essay must reference a minimum of eight sources. Choose one topic from one of the following categories: 

a) Critical Biography;   b) Critical Book Review; c) Research Paper on a particular theme. 

Research Paper

Topics for the Research Paper - Mininmun 8 Sources

  • The Role of Slavery in the Making of the United States or the Americas
  • Naming and the Identity of African Americans
  • Blacks and Education in the United States
  • The Black Experience in the Americas: Beyond the United States
  • African American Studies and the Academic Curriculum

Critical Biography

Choose one of the following persons for this assignment.

  • David Walker
  • Arthur Ashe
  • Shirley Chisholm
  • James Baldwin
  • W. E. B. Du Bois
  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Audre Lorde
  • Maria W. Stewart
  • Ida B. Wells
  • Malcolm X
  • Angela Davis
  • C(yril).L.R. James
  • Zora Neale Hurston

An example of a critical biography is Making Malcolm : the myth and meaning of Malcolm X.

Critical Book Review

  • Cornel West - Race Matters (1993)
  • Bell Hooks - Black Looks (1992)
  • Robin Kelley - Race Rebels (1994)
  • Toni Morrison - Sula
  • Marsha Houston & Olga Davis - Centering Ourselves (2002)
  • Michele Norris - The Grace of Silence (2010)
  • Shelby Steele - Content of our Character (1990)
  • Franz Fanon - Wretched of the Earth (1963)
  • C.L.R. James - Black Jacobins (1963)

To find some models of critical book reviews, search JSTOR.

Critical Book Review Search Tips

General tips for searching book reviews

  • When searching for a book review, you need to know the author, title and date of publication. The latter is is generally found on the back of the title page.
  • Always choose a database's advanced search for more searching options
  • Put book titles within quotation marks to obtain title words in a particular order. 
  • For common titles that bring up too many records, add the author's last name in the 2nd search box to pair the title with the author.
  • Book reviews generally appear within two years of the book's publication.
  • Not every database will have a review for your book. If you have used the following vendor/database techniques and did not find a review, check another database.
  • Not all books have been reviewed.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option to getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

You'll need to set up an account the first time you use it and log in subsequently.

Once you have an account, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your  article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived. If it's delivered in paper, you'll receive it right in your campus mailbox.

Search for Articles in these Databases


Primo is a good starting point for finding books and some articles on your topic.

Primo Search Widget Code

Reference Books

These books provide background information. They are shelved on the main floor.