African American History History 318 Section A02 Fall 2009, Thursday 6: 30-9: 20 University of Victoria, Clearihue C110 Instructor

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African American History

History 318 Section A02

Fall 2009, Thursday 6:30-9:20

University of Victoria, Clearihue C110
Instructor: Dr. Alisa Harrison

E-mail: Telephone: (250) 709-9640

Office hours: Thursdays, 5:00-6:00 or by appointment, Clearihue B125

The election of President Barack Obama in November 2008 has prompted widespread attention to the meaning of race and the place of African Americans in American society. Many commentators and pundits have claimed that as of Obama’s election, Americans are living in a “post-racial” age. They suggest that his ascension to the highest national political office is proof that anyone can live the “American Dream,” and that race is no longer a factor in determining a person’s social, political, cultural or economic standing. What do we make of these sorts of claims? How can studying the history of black people in the United States—from the earliest importation of servants and slaves to the colonies in the 17th century up to the present day—help us to unravel and examine their logic?
This course offers African American history as a lens through which to explore the meaning of American national mythology and the abstract notions of freedom, equality, individualism, and democracy. It asks to students to investigate the paradoxes at the heart of American society—a society that has, from its inception, relied on both liberty and oppression—and to confront the long term implications of these paradoxes in both domestic and international contexts. Using a variety of primary and secondary sources, and following a chronological narrative structure, students will examine selected topics including the development of ‘race’ and racism in America; slavery and abolition; Jim Crow segregation; resistance; regionalism; nationalism; memory; and representation.
The principle learning objectives for this course are:

  • To explore the changing meanings of some key terms associated with American mythology, such as democracy, freedom, and equality.

  • To understand ‘race’ as a historical term and as a relationship of power.

  • To examine the themes of oppression and resistance in African American communities from the colonial period to the present.

  • To become acquainted with major historiographical interventions in African American history and to investigate how these interventions have changed over time.

Course Requirements and Breakdown:

  • Reflection papers: (10% each, 20% total) Two 4-pp. papers responding to/reflecting on assigned secondary readings, due at 6:30 p.m. on the day the reading has been assigned. You may not submit papers after the reading has been discussed in class. The first paper is due on or before October 15; the second is due on or before December 3. See instructions for more information.

  • Take-Home Midterm exam: (30%) 10-pp. essay. The exam question will be distributed in class on October 15; due date is October 22.

  • Final exam: (40%) 3-hour in-class exam covering the entire course. December 7-21 (TBA).

  • Participation: (10%) Adequate participation in this course means regular attendance at lectures and discussions; willing engagement with the readings both on your own and with your colleagues; respectful and critical responses to your instructor and other students; and ongoing, quality verbal contributions to discussions. Oral participation is a requirement of this course.

  • Attendance at lectures, discussions and film screenings, and completion of all assigned course work (readings and written assignments) is mandatory.

Course Structure and Readings:

We will meet each week for approximately three hours. The first half of the class is generally an interactive lecture, throughout which students have opportunities to ask questions and offer comments on the material they are learning. The second half of the class is generally a class discussion about assigned readings, structured around small- and large-group work, debates, and other activities. In several classes, we also watch relevant films and documentaries. All films and documentaries are shown in class; if you miss a screening, you must make it up on your own time by borrowing the DVD from me or from the library.

Books and the course readings package are available for purchase at the University of Victoria bookstore. All readings that are noted with a single asterisk (*) are available in the course readings package. All readings that are noted with a double asterisk (**) are available on our website, You can link to the rest via the URL listed on the syllabus after the title. Please print out the readings at your convenience. Students must bring copies of all assigned readings to class for discussions.
Reading tips: Leave yourself ample time to complete your reading in full before each class. Read closely, in a way that allows you time to think about the material before coming to our discussion. When you are reading, among other questions, always ask yourself: What is the author’s main point? What sources does he/she use to make this point? Is it convincing? Why or why not? What does this reading teach you? How? When and why did the author write this? You won’t be able to find conclusive answers to all of these questions, but attempting to answer them will help you develop a better understanding of the work.
Required books:

Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth (Harper Perennial,

reissue edition, 1993).

Steven F. Lawson and Charles Payne, Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1968 (Rowman

and Littlefield, 1998).

History 318 Course Pack.

Recommended book:

Darlene Clark Hine, et al. African Americans: A Concise History, Combined Edition, 2nd Edition

(Prentice Hall, 2006).
Reading and Class Schedule:

**The instructor reserves the right to change the syllabus at any time.**
Sept. 10: Introduction and the Meaning of Race

Watch Slavery and the Making of America: The Downward Spiral (Vol. 1)

Sept. 17: Origins of American Slavery

**Winthrop Jordan, “Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery.”

**Edmund S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox.”

Olaudah Equiano, “The Middle Passage.”

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia: Query 14, Laws: pp. 264-70;

Query 18, Manners

Hine, Chapters 1-4

Sept. 24: Development of Antebellum Slave Society

*Walter Johnson, Introduction and “The Chattel Principle.”

*Eugene Genovese: “The Legal Basis for Mastery.”

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Chapters 1, 2, 5, 6

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Preface by author, and Chapter 4:

“The Slave Who Dared to Feel Like a Man”

Hine, Chapters 5-7.

Oct. 1: Slavery and Resistance in the 19th Century

*Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “An Unthinkable History.”

*Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "Women Who Opposed Slavery.”

Frederick Douglass, “The Rights of Women.”

Lydia Marie Child’s appeal: Preface and Chapter VIII.

David Walker’s appeal.

The Confessions of Nat Turner: Part 2, History of Motives; and Part 5: The


Hine, Chapters 8-9.

Oct. 8: The Civil War

Watch Slavery and the Making of America: The Challenge of Freedom (Vol. 4)

*Ira Berlin, “Who Freed the Slaves?”

*Berlin, et al., “Slaves No More: Civil War and the Coming of Freedom.”

Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address.”

Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address.”

Emancipation Proclamation, 1863.

Hine, Chapters 10-11.

Oct. 15: Reconstruction and the Meaning of Freedom

Watch Slavery and the Making… (Vol. 4)—conclusion

*Thavolia Glymph, “’Liberty Dearly Bought’: The Making of Civil War Memory

in Afro-American Communities in the South.”

**Eric Foner, “The Meaning of Freedom in the Age of Emancipation.”

Hine, Chapters 12-13

  • Last date to submit Reflection Paper #1

  • Take-home midterm to be distributed, 9:20 p.m.

Oct. 22: The Birth of Jim Crow: Disfranchisement, Terror and Segregation

*Tera Hunter, “Domination and Resistance: The Politics of Wage Household Labor

in New South Atlanta.”

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk: Chapter 2, “Of the Dawn of Freedom,”

and Chapter 3, “Of Booker T. Washington and Others.”

Booker T. Washington, “The Atlanta Address.”

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, “Lynch Law in America”:

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, “A Red Record”:

Without Sanctuary photo exhibit (images).

Hine, Chapters 14-15.

  • Take-home midterm due, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 29: Migrations, the “New Negro,” and the Harlem Renaissance

Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger).

*Stephanie Shaw, “Black Club Women and the Creation of the National Association

of Colored Women.”

Hine, Chapters 16-17.

Nov. 5: The Roots of 20th-Century Resistance

*Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, “The New Negro in the American Congo: World War I

and the Elaine, Arkansas Massacre of 1919.”

*Harvard Sitkoff, “Blacks and the New Deal.”

**Timothy Tyson, “Robert F. Williams, ‘Black Power’ and the Roots of the African

American Freedom Struggle.”

Hine, Chapters 18-20.
Nov. 12: Freedom Movements

Steven Lawson, “The View From the Nation,” and Charles Payne, “The View From the

Trenches,” in Lawson and Payne, Debating the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-68.

John Lewis, speech at the March on Washington.

Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet.”

Stokely Carmichael, “Black Power.”

Hine, Chapters 21-22.

Nov. 19: Art and Popular Culture at the End of the 20th Century

*Robin D.G. Kelley, “Looking to Get Paid: How Some Black Youth Put Culture

to Work.”

**Kara Keeling, “’A Homegrown Revolutionary’?: Tupac Shakur and the Legacy of

the Black Panther Party.”

View Kara Walker’s exhibition:

Ice-T, “Cop Killer” lyrics

NWA, “Straight Outta Compton” lyrics

Hine, Chapter 23

Nov. 26: Watch Bamboozled

Dec. 3: Legacies of Slavery: Confronting the Past

*Peter H. Wood, “Slave Labor Camps in Early America: Overcoming Denial and

Discovering the Gulag.”

**Martha Biondi, “The Rise of the Reparations Movement.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), “US Apology for Slavery, Jim Crow” (July 29, 2008)

“Senate Backs Apology for Slavery” (June 19, 2009)

“What We Are In Justice Entitled To: 1865 Letter From a Freedman.”

Randall Robinson, “America’s Debt to Blacks.”

Randall Robinson, “Reparations—More Than Just a Check.”

David Horowitz, “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks—and Racist Too.”

”Ten Reasons: A Response to David Horowitz by Robert Chrisman and Ernest

Allen, Jr.”

Hine, Epilogue.

  • Last date to submit Reflection Paper #2

Dec. 7-21: Final exam, date TBA

Note: First term examinations take place between December 7th and 21st. Instructors do not control the exam schedule. The University calendar states: “Students should wait until the final examination timetable is posted before making travel or work plans.”
Course Policies

Submitting Written Work

Unless otherwise specified, written work should be typed in 12-point font, double-spaced on one side of each page, and placed on a page with 1” margins on all four sides. All pages after the first must be numbered, and your paper should have a separate title page. All papers must be stapled in the top left hand corner. Please do not submit work in any kind of folder or cover, or held together by clips of any sort. Citations must conform to the Chicago Style Manual (a.k.a. Turabian).

I encourage you to save trees and submit work by e-mail to Copy yourself (“cc”) on all submission messages: in the unlikely event that your paper gets eaten by cyberspace, you will have proof that you submitted it.
If you need assistance with your written assignments, you are welcome to consult with me. You may also want to take advantage of the free resources offered at UVic’s Writing Centre: To book an appointment online go to:
Late Papers Policy

All papers must be handed in on time. Extensions will only be granted in the case of serious illness or other emergencies. You are required to provide relevant professional documentation (i.e. doctor’s or counselor’s note) in order to qualify for an extended deadline. Unexcused late papers will lose five points per day late (including weekends), no exceptions.


You will be penalized harshly if you submit plagiarized work. The University’s official policy on plagiarism is attached to this syllabus. If you are still in any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, please see me or consult the following useful document:

  • From the University of British Columbia:

Classroom Conduct

It is absolutely crucial that every student feels able to express him or herself freely in this class. It’s a cliché, but to my mind there truly are no stupid questions; chances are, if you are wondering about something, others are (or have been), too. I encourage you to challenge me, each other and yourselves as we explore topics that are provocative and often difficult. All of us will work toward a better understanding of what critical thought is and how to engage in critical debates with other people. Note that there is a major difference between disagreeing with another person’s opinion or perspective and denigrating that person or his or her input: we all need to be vigilant about understanding and respecting this difference. There is no place for any demeaning, disrespectful or hateful speech in this class. If you ever believe that you have been mistreated by another student or by me, I encourage you to report this to me privately so that we can confront and learn from such experiences.

Office Hours

In addition to scheduled office hours each week, students are welcome to make additional appointments or to consult with me via e-mail. I encourage you not to wait until the day before a due date or an exam to rush in for a last-minute meeting; the earlier you seek assistance, the more helpful I can be, the more you will learn, and the more successful you will be in this course. I’ll also remind you that you need not be having trouble with the material to schedule a meeting. I am happy to see any students who wish to discuss the course content, whether this is due to problems understanding it or to a particular interest the student wishes to explore in more depth than regular class time allows.

Enjoy the semester! 

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