Application for Engaging the World, American Diversity Course Designation



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Application for Engaging the World, American Diversity Course Designation

History 141 (African American History 1877-present)



  1. Date of Application: 9-28-12

  2. Name/Department of Proposer: Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, History

  3. Name of Department Housing Course: History

  4. Name of Chair: Myrna Santiago

  5. How Often is the Course Taught: every other year

  6. Course Prerequisites: None

  7. Unit Value of Course: 1

  8. Normal Class Size: 25

  9. Number of Sections Expected Fall 2013: 0

  10. Number of Sections Expected Spring of 2014: 1

  11. Is the course appropriate for first year students : no, but it is appropriate for sophomores

  12. Relevant learning goals: American Diversity

  13. Chair will oversee submission of student work: yes

  14. Chair will oversee instructor participation in norming/asst.: yes

  15. Teaching: Learning outcome #1 of American Diversity courses is to “analyze aspects of social diversity (e.g., ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, political identity).” This course concentrates on African American history from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the present. Although focusing on racial constructs and the policies, institutions, practices, and resistance that they engendered, the course also asks students to examine how class, gender, religion, and political identity shaped the African American experience. Class readings, films, debates, role playing exercises, discussions, and lectures all underscore the complexity and dynamism of black identity, and the intersection of race, class, gender, and other aspects of social diversity. For example, in exploring Jim Crow-era resistance, we examine women’s activism, the role of the black church, and the class-based assumptions embedded in various coping and protest strategies. In discussing the Harlem Renaissance, we examine women’s cultural contributions, interrogate the movement’s class-based limitations, explore the influence of Marcus and Amy Garvey, and discuss the emergence of a pan-African identity. Similarly, our discussion of the Great Depression highlights gender differences, shifts in political affiliation, and the rise of the Nation of Islam. Learning outcome #2 for American diversity courses is “to explain how social categories and structures of power may affect the human person.” This course is taught from the bottom up, with emphasis on how African Americans experienced and resisted institutionalized race, class, and gender discrimination. Although students learn about the origins, evolution, and varied expressions of white supremacy, and are able to identify major movements and leaders, they also develop an understanding of how ordinary citizens were affected by structures of power. Most important, they explore individual and collective resistance to those structures. For example, we deal at length with structural educational inequalities, including de facto and de jure school segregation, but we also discuss the real-life impacts of such disparities. When we arrive at the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we examine all of principal actors, including the parents and children who risked their lives and livelihoods to bring their cases to court. Course readings and documentary films, featuring many first-person narratives help bring this history alive on a personal level.

  16. Learning: American Diversity learning goals are assessed in several ways. Essay exams (midterm and final) ask students to provide an in-depth analysis of each major turning point in African American history. For example, one midterm question asks students to describe how white southerners reasserted control over black citizens following the Compromise of 1877, and how African Americans resisted the restoration of white “rule.” In doing so they must examine the economic political, social, and ideological contours of racial subordination, and all forms of resistance: collective, individual, cultural, political, economic, formal, and informal. On the final, one question asks students to describe how World War Two and the immediate postwar period set the stage for the second Reconstruction. In their response, they must examine a series of complex and interrelated developments (the profound contradiction between democratic ideals and practice, the new militancy that emerged from this contradiction, black migration out of the South, increasing significance of the black vote, liberalization of the Supreme Court, the black baby boom, postwar prosperity and rising expectations, the Cold War struggle for the “hearts and minds” of newly independent, non-aligned African nations, and the rise of televised national news media). Three thesis and interpretation papers, focusing on monographs that explore the Age of Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance, and World War II-era black migration and protest, ask students to identify the authors’ thesis, evaluate sources, and assess the validity of their arguments. The theses are complex, pushing students beyond superficial generalizations about a period, and requiring a thoughtful analysis of the interplay among social categories. Finally, a ten page interpretive essay asks students to discuss and link together all of the course readings around the theme of white supremacy and black resistance. Here they must detail what each book reveals about the dynamics and expression of white racism over time, and the varieties of black resistance, including institution building, self-help, migration, the arts, economic independence, civil disobedience, education, and armed self-defense.

  17. Syllabus:


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