The 2014 common text is W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Education of Black People: Ten Critiques, 1906-1960. Du Bois’s book, like immediately previous Freshman Seminar common texts by Wole Soyinka (Of Africa) and Ngugi wa Thiongo (Something Torn and New), explores Africana ways of knowing and being in a multilateral engagement with Africa, its Diaspora, and the larger world. Curriculum and instruction grounded in the consideration of Du Bois’s text affords a uniquely Howard approach to this work, inspiring and instructing students to collaborate with faculty mentors to link their developing ideas to original research.
In a series of ten essays first delivered largely as talks at HBCU commencement exercises, Du Bois considers the process, value, and purpose of education as a liberating practice of human freedom. His articulation of uniquely African American approaches to the role of the university in the development of free people is unparalleled in the annals of Africana and modern world educational philosophy.
Each class session considers and tests Du Bois’s assumptions on the relation of liberal education to vocational education, the “field and function” of HBCUs and the “post-Jim Crow” future of African Americans in a perpetually contested American cultural landscape.
In doing this work, the Common Text initiative seeks to encourage entering freshman to pursue a lifetime of independent discovery and to transmit to them a living tradition in reading and writing as liberating practice.