Higher Education in the Age of Coronavirus: Teaching African American Literature During COVID-19

May 21, 2020

I have been teaching African American literature to college students for almost three decades. This year my students in Introduction to African American Literature started the semester in a lecture hall on the campus of Columbia University and ended it scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Some had to quarantine for two weeks after returning to their countries. Others remain in rooms and apartments in New York, an epicenter of the pandemic. Some have lost family members; others have themselves been sickened by the virus. Some turned out to be more comfortable talking on Zoom than in a physical classroom; others find it alienating and prefer instead to reach out through email or on WhatsApp. Yet and still they keep reading, they keep thinking. They have shown up, continuously, week after week. Teaching them in this pandemic has shed new light on the power of learning, community, and this extraordinary literature.

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