African Americans during the Twentieth Century

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History 757.03

African Americans during the Twentieth Century

Instructor: Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries Office: 348 Dulles Hall

Email: Office Phone: (614) 688-4120


This reading intensive and discussion driven graduate seminar examines the African American experience during the 20th century. Each week we will read and discuss a text on African American life and culture during a particular era in the 20th century. The readings are arranged chronologically, beginning with W. E. B DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk, his classic text on the color line published in 1903, and concluding with a recent book on the politics of contemporary African American cultural productions. In addition, we will study in detail the multiple manifestations of the African American struggle for civil and human rights, from Garveyism in the rural South, to Black Power in the urban North.


This course is designed for graduate history and humanities students, especially those preparing major and minor fields in African American and American history. Upon completing this course, students should have a clear understanding of the general history of African Americans during the 20th century; African American life during the Jim Crow era; African Americans’ transition from farm to factory; and African American protest during the conventional civil rights and Black Power eras. Students should also have gained keen insight into the diverse array of questions, sources, and methods that have helped uncover African American history, and developed the skills necessary for critically reading and reviewing any work of history.


Class Participation

Since this course is a discussion seminar, you are expected to participate regularly in all class discussions by sharing your thoughts on the readings, answering questions posed by the professor and your classmates, and asking questions of your own design. This class can only work if everyone participates.


Your presence is required at every class. Failure to show for class will result in a severe grade deduction. In the event that you cannot attend class, notify the professor as far in advance as possible. Also, make every effort to arrive in class on time; lateness is both distracting and disruptive. If you are tardy, please enter as unobtrusively as possible. Similarly, if you know you will need to leave early, please notify the professor before class and seat yourself close to an exit so that you can leave without disrupting class.

Student Presentations

Each student will be required to make one presentation on an assigned reading during the quarter. This presentation must be 15-20 minutes in length and ought to include a summary of the author’s main arguments, an analysis of the author’s evidence, a critique of his or her conclusions, and an overall impression of the book. Presenters must also field questions from the class at the end of the presentation and initiate the class conversation by posing discussion questions. On those occasions when more than one person is presenting, the presenters must coordinate their presentations in advance.

Book Reviews

Each student will be assigned to one of three groups (A, B, or C) and will write a book review for each of the three books assigned to his or her group. The reviews ought to be from 750 to 1,000 words in length. They are due no later than 5:00 pm the night before class and must be uploaded to the course website (Carmen) as an MS Word document. Each review ought to address the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose and scope of the work under review?

  2. On what principle(s) does the author select and arrange the material included, and how appropriate and effectual is this method of presentation?

  3. What, specifically, are the work's strengths and weaknesses?

  4. How does this work compare to others that address similar or related subjects?

  5. For what audience / readership is this work most useful?

  6. Does the work achieve its objectives to the reviewer's and / or the reader's satisfaction?

The following information should precede each review in the following format:

Full Title: Subtitle , Author’s Name. City of Publication, State of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication, xxx pp. $xx.xx, cloth or paper.

Weekly Reflections

On those weeks when a student is not writing a book review, he or she is to write a stream-of-consciousness reaction to the week’s reading that is not to exceed one single spaced page. The reflection should include a general impression of the book. These assignments are due no later than 12:00 pm the day of class and must be uploaded to the course website as an MS Word document.

Historiographical Essay

An historiographical essay of approximately 15-20 pages is due during finals week. The essay must be uploaded to the course website as an MS Word document. No paper will be accepted after the due date unless prior agreement has been reached with the professor. Failure to deliver the paper and/or to make alternative arrangements with the professor will result in a failing grade for the paper. The essay must be based on one of the weekly discussion themes, such as the African American experience during the Nadir, or the African American experience during World War II. The assigned reading for the weekly discussion theme that you select will serve as the starting point for a detailed analysis of the way scholars have examined the African American experience during a particular moment in time. You will also include in your essay a close look at the way scholars have addressed one or more of the key characteristics of the African American experience in the 20th century such as black protest or black political participation. Further instructions will be given at a later date.

Student Evaluation

Grades for the course will be calculated as follows:

Class Participation (including attendance): 20%

Student Presentation: 20%

Book Reviews: 30%

Historiographical Essay: 30%

Grading Scale:

A: 93 and above C+: 77-79

A-: 90-92 C: 73-76

B+: 87-89 C-: 70-72

B: 83-86 D+: 67-69

B-: 80-82 D: 63-66

E: 62 and below
Required Texts

All books listed below are required and are available at local textbook sellers and through most online retailers. The books are listed in the order that we will read them in class. Remember to bring all books to class on the day they are discussed.

1. W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (Norton Critical Editions) [Henry Louis Gates, editor]. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. $12.80.
2. Paul Ortiz, Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920. University of California Press, 2005. $17.33
3. Robin D. G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. Free Press, 1996. $19.95
4. Robert Rodgers Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South. University of North Carolina Press, 2003. $27.50
5. Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Post War New York City. Harvard University Press, 2003. $36.40
6. Thomas F. Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. $26.37
7. Charles Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. University of California Press, 1995. $24.95
8. Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. $18.97
9. Jelani Cobb, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip-Hop Aesthetic. New York: NYU Press, 2007. $15.61



All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter. No requests to add the course will be approved by the department chair after that time. Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of each student.

Academic Honesty

This course adheres to The Ohio State University’s Academic Misconduct Policy. All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute acts of academic misconduct. The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct. For additional information, see the OSU Code of Student Conduct at: For a discussion and explanation of what constitutes plagiarism see: If you need assistance with writing, visit the OSU Writing Center homepage at:

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform Dr. Jeffries as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue; telephone 292-3307, TDD 292-0901;


Group A Group B Group C

1. 1. 1.

2. 2. 2.

3. 3. 3.

4. 4. 4.

5. 5. 5.


Week 1. Introduction and course overview

Week 2. African Americans at the start of the 20th Century

Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk

Book Review: Group A


Week 3. African Americans during the Nadir

Ortiz, Emancipation Betrayed

Book Review: Group B


Week 4. African Americans during the Depression and the New Deal Era

Kelley, Race Rebels

Book Review: Group C


Week 5. African Americans during World War II

Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism

  Book Review: Group A


Week 6. African Americans during the Cold War

Biondi, To Stand and Fight

Book Review: Group B


Week 7. African Americans during the Civil Rights Era – Part I

Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights

Book Review: Group C 


Week 8. African Americans during the Civil Rights Era – Part II

Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom

Book Review: Group A



Week 9. African Americans during the Black Power Era

Joseph, Waiting ‘Till the Midnight Hour

Book Review: Group B

Week 10. African Americans during the Post-Black Power Era

Cobb, Till the Break of Dawn

Book Review: Group C



Turn of the 20th Century

Hahn, Steven. A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration

Litwack, Leon. Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery

Mandle, Jay. Not Slave, not Free: The African American Economic Experience Since the

Civil War

McGlynn, Frank and Seymour Drescher eds., The Meaning of Freedom: Economics,

Politics and Culture After Slavery

McMillen, Neil R. Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow

Rabinowitz, Howard. Race Relations in the Urban South, 1865-1890
The Nadir

Anderson, James D. The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

Ceceskli, David and Tim Tyson, eds. Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot

of 1898 and its Legacy

Cronon, Edmund David. Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal

Negro Improvement Association

Harlan, Louis. Booker T. Washington: the Making of a Black Leader 1856-1901 and

Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1895-1915

Gottlieb. Peter. Making Their Own Way: Southern Blacks’ Migration to Pittsburgh

Grossman, James. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration

Gilmore, Glenda. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in

North Carolina

---. Jumpin Jim Crow

Hunter, Tera. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the

Civil War

Litwack, Leon. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow

Meier, August. Negro Thought in America, 1880-1915: Racial Ideologies in the Age of

Booker T. Washington

Meier, August. Negro Thought in America, 1880-1915.

Neverdon-Morton, Cynthia. Afro-American Women of the South and Advancement of

the Race, 1895-1925

Shaw, Stephanie. What A Women Ought To Be and To Do: Black Professional Women

Workers During the Jim Crow Era.

Taylor, Ula. The Veiled Garvey: The Life and Times of Amy Jacques Garvey

The Depression and the New Deal Era

Anderson, Jervis. This Was Harlem: A Cultural Portrait, 1900-1950

Carter, Dan T. Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South

Cohen, Lisabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago

Hamilton, Charles V. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Political Biography of an

American Dilemma

Harris, Robert. African American Reactions to the war in Ethiopia, 1936-1941

Hart, R. Douglas. African American Life in the Rural South, 1900-1950

James, Winston. Holding Aloft the Baner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early

Twentieth Century America

Jones, James. Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Kelley, Robin D.G. Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great


Naison, Mark. Communists in Harlem During the Depression

Painter, Nell Irvin. The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in

the South

Sitkoff, Harvard. A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National


Sullivan, Patricia. Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era

Wolcott, Victoria W. Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar


Wolters, Raymond. Negroes and the Great Depression: The Problem of Economic

World War II

Dalfiume, Richard M. Desegregation of the United States Armed Forces: Fighting on

Two Fronts, 1939-1953

Garfinkel, Herbert. When Negroes March: The March on Washington Movement in the

Organizational Politics for FEPC

McNeil, Genna Rae. Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Phillips, Kimberly. AlabamaNorth: African American Migrants, Community and Working Class Activism in Cleveland, 1915-1940

Wynn, Neil. The Afro-American and the Second World War.

The Cold War

Burk, Robert. The Eisenhower Adminstration and Civil Rights

Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights

Plummer, Brenda Gayle. Rising Wind: Black Americans and US Foreign Affairs,


Von Eschen, Penny. Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism,1937-


Whitfield, Stephen. A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till

Civil Rights and Black Power

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America During the King Years, 1954-1963

---. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65

---. At Canaan’s Edge

Carmichael, Stokely and Charles Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Black

Liberation in America

Carmichael, Stokely with Michael Thelwell. Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

Carson, Clayborne. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s

Chafe, William. Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro North Carolina and the Black Struggle for Freedom

Collier-Thomas, Bettye, and V. P. Franklin, eds. Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights – Black Power Movement

Crawford, Vicki L., Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, eds. Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers & Torchbearers, 1941 – 1965

D’emilio, John. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

Davis, Angela. Angela Davis: An Autobiography

de Jong, Greta. A Different Day: African American Struggles for Justice in Rural Louisiana, 1900-1970

Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

Eskew, Glenn T. But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle

Gaines, Kevin. Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics and Culture in the

Twentieth Century

Garrow, David. Protest at Selma: Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Horne, Gerald. Fire This Time : The Watts Uprising and the 1960s

Honey, Michael K. Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers

Jones, Charles E., ed. The Black Panther Party [Reconsidered]

Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown vs. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality

Lawson, Steven. Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969

McAdam, Doug. Freedom Summer

Meier, August and Elliott Rudwick. CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement,


Morris, Aldon. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities

Organizing for Change

Ransby, Barbara. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision

Robinson, Armstead L. and Patricia Sullivan, eds. New Directions in Civil Rights Studies

Strain, Christopher. Pure Fire

Theoharis, Jeanne F. and Komozi Woodard, with Matthew Countryman. Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980

Tyson, Timothy. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black Power

Van Deburg, William. New Day in Babylon: The Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975

Woodward, Komozi. A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics

The Post Black Power Era

Baker, Lee. From Savage to Negro

George, Nelson. The Death of Rhytmn and Blues

Gilroy, Paul. Small Acts

---. There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack

Gwaltney, John. Drylongso: A Self-Portrait of Black America

Holt, Thomas. The Problem of Race in the Twentieth-First Century

James, Joy. Transcending the Talented Tenth

Jennings, James. The Politics of Black Empowerment: The Transformation of Black

Activism in Urban America

Landry, Bart. The New Black Middle Class

Loury, Glenn. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality

Lusane, Clarence. Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs

Massey, Douglas S. and Nancy Denton. American Apartheid: Segregation and the

Making of the Underclass.

O’Neill, Timothy. Baake and the Politics of Justice

Reed, Adolph, Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America

Wilkinson, J. Harvie. From Brown to Baake:the Supreme Court and School Integration,


Scott, Daryl. Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black

Psyche, 1880-1996.

West, Cornel. Race Matters

Wilson, William Julius. The Declining Significance of Race

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