HIST-LIT 90EI: Islam in Early America

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Instructor: Arianne Urus
Meeting time: Wednesday, 3:00-5:45

Islam in Early AmericaMuslims first arrived on the shores of the Americas at the turn of the sixteenth century, yet their long history in the western hemisphere has been largely forgotten. For centuries Islam was the second-most widely practiced monotheistic religion in the Americas, after Catholicism; some Muslims came from Spain to escape persecution at the hands of the Inquisition for continuing to practice their religion, while others were taken captive and forcibly crammed into the hulls of ships on the West African coast and transported across the Atlantic, where, in 1522, they participated in the first uprising of enslaved men and women in the Americas on a sugar plantation on the island of Hispaniola (the site of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). From the very beginning of European imperialism in the Atlantic World, Muslims were integral to the history of what scholars call “Vast Early America.” Their stories are entwined with the larger threads of early American history including those of missionary work, European interimperial conflict, slavery, the genocide of Native peoples, and capitalism. This course unfolds in four units that will take us from the first early modern European encounters with Islam to the stories of Muslim agents of European conquest and Muslim resistance to enslavement in the Caribbean and US South, to how the Founding Fathers thought about Islam and the status of Muslims in the early Republic. We will work with sources ranging from Laila Lalami’s 2014 novel, The Moor’s Account, to Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, as well as the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said written in Arabic from a jail cell in South Carolina and Rhiannon Gidden’s new opera based on Said’s story.