Dutchman and the Power of images

Bogle_bookFor Tuesday 10/8 read the “Black Beginnings” chapter from Donald Bogle’s book Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks on Black stereotypes, which is a PDF on the Readings page. We’ll use it (partly) as preparation for Dutchman and the Slave and Assata Shakur’s autobiography (which we’ll read later in the semester). Think about the following while you read:

  • What does it say about the emergence of stereotypes and how we view popular images?
  • How might this affect how we read/ see/ view images in the city and popular culture?
  • Are there any current examples from the news or popular media that fit the descriptions?
  • Are these categories still relevant or are we past this point?
  • For Thursday the 10th, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). We will also have a special guest speaker, Don Ramon of Rutgers University, to facilitate the discussion and present the play. For today, read only the first half of the book: the play Dutchman. (We’ll read the second half — The Slave — next.) Even though it’s short, you need to read it slowly and carefully.

    Pay attention to the following to guide your reading:

  • What are the key themes or topics that you think the play talks about?
  • How does the setting of the play affect the action? What role does the subway train play?
  • What does it say about life in the city or urban environments?
  • There are crucial points in the play where the plot (action) turns that decide the outcome. What do you think they are?
  • Read the final few pages of the play more than once. What’s the significance of Clay’s final speech?
  • Watch the following short YouTube video with Baraka discussing the context of the play and some of what influenced him to write it.


    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University
    Donavan Ramon of Rutgers University
    Donavan L. Ramon earned his B.A. in English and the Special Honors Curriculum at Hunter College (CUNY), where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. A specialist in African American Literature, he earned his M.A. in English at Rutgers University in 2012 and is now writing a dissertation that traces a genealogy of twentieth-century narratives of racial passing. Donavan coordinates the African American Graduate Interest Group at Rutgers where he is also a graduate assistant at the Center for Race and Ethnicity and he serves as the Member-at-Large for Diversity with the Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA).