How does play shape our humanity and national identity? We often define people by the work that they do, whereas we tend to think of leisure and after work playfulness as a release from that identity. This course takes up a particular form of play--nightlife--to reckon with how it shapes what it means to be human and how it impacts nationhood, particularly around matters of race and oppression. Spanning from slavery to the present, this course examines how nightlife has been used to deny black people's humanity and been a vital site of playfulness, manifest as joy, resistance, self-making, and aesthetic innovation. Using performance studies to make sense of the world, our explorations will range from cakewalk dance competitions on plantations to queer night clubs. Once students better understand how nightlife is vital to the making and the unmaking of black people's humanity, they will grapple with play as a meaning-maker in their own lives and in our democracy.