The Course is designed in three cycles: Double Consciousness, How We Got Here, and False Restarts. Each cycle has six lessons, for a total of 18. The reason: I wanted to first connect with the kids and show them how race is relevant in their lives today, then give them a sense of how the African story and the American story originally intersected, and finally offer a look at the uneven progress earlier generations have made.

Cycle 1: Double Consciousness

We start with a concept from noted thinker and civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois: Double Consciousness. Put simply, it’s the idea that it’s tough being Black and American at the same time, feeling that one doesn’t belong entirely to Africa or America. I use this idea to find points of connection to the current generation’s thoughts and questions about race, gender and cultural pressures. (Six lessons: The Souls of Black Folk, Othello, The Bluest Eye, Masks, Internalized Racism, Secret Identities.)

Cycle 2: How We Got Here

From there we move to history. In How We Got Here we go back to ancient civilizations in south, east and west Africa to understand what rich cultures existed before the transatlantic slave trade. We then look at the economic conditions and political pressures that allowed slavery to take root in America, and why the process of the country’s founding exposed the hypocrisy of slavery and put us on course for civil war. (Six lessons: Forgetting, Good Trade, Bad Trade, What Slavery Stole, Created Equal, Fighting Back.)

Cycle 3: False Restarts

Finally, in False Restarts, we examine the pattern of leaps ahead in the cause of justice for African Americans followed by staggering setbacks. The triumph of the Civil War slid into the disappointment of Reconstruction. The advances of the Civil Rights Movement hit the reality of limited integration. And the promise of multiculturalism didn’t deliver as expected under the microscope of measurement. But we end on a hopeful note: With the knowledge of the Black thinkers and leaders who helped bring us to this point, we’re better equipped to chart our path into a better future. (Six lessons: Reconstruction, Renaissance, Civil Rights, Multiculturalism, The Microscope, What’s Next?)