Harlem Semester

Now in its fourth year, the Harlem Semester Program continues to be an ambitious public humanities initiative that reflects the commitment of Africana Studies faculty to collaborative involvement with Harlem's social, political, intellectual and artistic work past and present. In 2017, the program received a generous endowment form Denise Jackson-Lewis (class of '66). Students from across disciplines are introduced to the complexities of Harlem’s histories, its past and current leaders, its culture, its arts, and artists. 

The curriculum of the Harlem Semester critically examines Harlem not as an inert site or abstract concept, but as an intensively peopled place of complex interaction and rich history, alive today. Pairing faculty from Barnard and other colleges with Harlem-Based institutions, these place-based courses teach Harlem’s diverse cultural and political legacy through participatory, interdisciplinary, multi-directional learning modules.

Barnard faculty have collaborated with artists, thinkers, and cultural workers to design courses that integrate collaborators at partner institutions, with a minimum of three class sessions held on-site. For example, students will work with archivists at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on digital archiving; participate in a movement workshop with famed choreographer Diane McIntyre; learn about artistic and curatorial practice at the Studio Museum in Harlem; and engage in a multi-media production at the Harlem Stage.

The Harlem Semester Program offers a critical intervention in approaches to diversity, inclusion, and inequality on campus. This program takes the lead in shaping new pedagogical models that directly engage controversial issues and actively develop learning spaces where social issues can be debated openly and students’ capacity for interpersonal awareness, solidarity, and respect can change and grow.

Central to this program’s intervention is an engagement with Harlem’s cultural institutions as sites of community activism; spaces that continue to be crucial to exploring thorny questions of inequality and social justice. Students participating in the program will gain a unique perspective on the extraordinary contributions of Harlem’s residents through the institutions and community workers who have sustained it, through frank discussions of topics such as access, prejudice, recognition, and respect.