24.912 | Spring 2017 | Undergraduate

Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies

Instructor Insights

Instructor Insights

"So why #StayWoke for the course?  Well, I love it because it’s one of these phrases that take a very complex concept and make it accessible to the larger public. (It’s) a way to talk about critical consciousness . . . (and) it means to be alert to the kind of propaganda that passes for history."
— Michel DeGraff

In the following videos, Professor Michel DeGraff describes various aspects of how he teaches 24.912 Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies.

Guest Speaker Insights

"Any interchange with the world that will improve it, that will deal with the innumerable problems that exist, has to be based on an understanding of social, political, and economic realities—otherwise you can’t act in any serious way."
— Noam Chomsky

Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky was a featured guest lecturer in 24.912 Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies. Prior to facilitating a classroom discussion with students, he sat down with the OCW Educator Project Manager to share his insights about contemporary language issues and the value of the course materials for learners. The following videos capture excerpts of their conversation.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied




This course can be applied toward a Bachelor of Science in Women’s and Gender Studies, but is not required.


Every spring semester


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 15% Oral presentations
  • 30% Essay 1 (PDF) & Essay 2 (PDF) (15% each)
  • 40% Essay 3 (PDF) & Revision (20% each)
  • 15% Attendance and participation

Instructor Insights on Assessment

A rubric was used to assess student writing.

Student Information


19 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly juniors and seniors, a few freshmen and sophomores

Breakdown by Major

Students were concentrating in a variety of majors.

Typical Student Background

A few students in the course were children of undocumented migrant workers. The sharing of their personal biographies enriched the course because it allowed students who had not had this experience to begin to deconstruct the notion of “illegal immigrants.” Through discussions with their peers, they came to understand that there are acts that are illegal, but that people cannot be illegal.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Students participated in discussions and made presentations during class sessions. Sessions also included lectures from the instructor and other guests.

Out of Class

  • Students prepared readings, wrote essays, and worked on their presentations outside of class.
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments with Examples
Lecture Videos
Instructor Insights