History 4950C: Race in the American South
What exactly is race? Why has it been so central to the society we know as “the South”? How has race changed over time—what is its history? How have these changes been intimately connected with the changes of Southern history? This class explores these questions (and others we will collectively develop) by dividing Southern history into three eras and seeking to understand racial configurations in each of these eras. Though we will meet many different people in the course of the semester, the class is not a history of European-Americans or African-Americans per se, but rather a history of how a certain element of difference between them came to take on such meaning and power.
This is a discussion-based class, with mini-lectures from the professor woven into the give-and-take of discussion. The class not only invites your vocalized thoughts; it requires them. We’ll develop this style, as a group, in the first few weeks of class. The course is also reading- and writing-intensive, but these activities center around the focal point of class discussion: your close and thoughtful reading of different texts prepares you for the discussions, and your numerous short writing assignments (and also the 3 longer essays) prepare you for the discussions, as well as offer a venue for critical reflection on discussions after they have happened.
Note: Let’s be candid at the outset: what we are studying in this class is very close to home. We live in a sizable city in the South, and that city, like the South as a region, has a long history of contentious, emotionally-charged dynamics around the theme of race. Our class discussions do not happen in a vacuum—we live in, and may have a strong emotional stake in, the society whose history we are studying. It is critical to be aware of this, and to realize that the class may take on an at-times uncomfortable atmosphere. There is no way around this if we want to truly explore the subject-matter of the class.
1. Syllabus: Bring this syllabus to class every day. We will consult it often.
2. Attendance: Simply showing up is the foundation for doing well in the class. In the course of the semester, you can miss 3 class sessions without penalty. Every absence after 3 automatically deducts 3 points from your final grade (6 total absences would subtract 9 points from your final grade, for example). I do not differentiate between “excused” and “unexcused” absences—except in extreme cases of a death in the family, a long-term illness, or something of similar magnitude, in which case you should notify me. This policy is not flexible, so make sure you understand it at the outset.
3. Make-Ups/Missed Class: If you miss class, it is up to you to find out what you missed, and how you can make it up. Talk to me, or to another student, so that you can get caught up.
4. Taking Attendance: I will call roll for the first few weeks of class. After that, an attendance sheet will be passed around at the beginning of each class session. Make sure that you sign the sheet, especially if you arrive late, or you will be counted as absent for the day.
5. Classroom Manners: No eating or drinking in the classroom. No texting or Internet use. When another member of the class—the professor, or another student—is speaking, no one else should be speaking. Students who leave early will be marked absent.
6. Class Participation: You are expected to be an engaged, active member of the class—discussion is the centerpiece of most class sessions. After each class period, I will make notes on who made good comments (speaking simply for the sake of speaking does not count as making good comments). I will also note who spent the period texting, staring into space, dozing off, etc. The sum total of these notes will determine your class participation grade: good comments 75% of the class periods or more (A), 50-75% (B), 25-50% (C), 1-25% (D), no participation (F).
7. Short Writing Assignments: You will hand in a short (paragraph or half-page) writing assignment in most class sessions, based on questions or comments I have made in the previous session. These do not need to be typed. The short writing assignments may ask you to reflect on the content of the previous class, and they may ask you focused questions about the reading assignment you are working on. Often, they will do both. These do not need to be polished masterworks, but they should display your best, most considered thoughts at that point—before the collective class discussion.
8. Essays: There are three essays for the class, evenly spaced throughout the semester. They are open-note, open-book, and are set up as longer (8-9 pages double-spaced) reflections on racial configurations in different periods of Southern history. The essays are not cumulative, and they are not research papers. Use the common property of the class—the readings, films, lectures, and what we collectively have had to say about them—to craft your essay.
9. Books and Reading: There is no overarching textbook for the class. Rather, we will read 3 more specific types of book—a monograph, an edited collection, and a contemporary analysis—and a few essays and book excerpts (and, together, a number of film excerpts). The 3 books are available in the campus bookstore; I will hand out copies of the essays and book excerpts, and we will watch the film excerpts in class. You are expected to buy the 3 books, and to read them on the assigned schedule. You are welcome to buy the books through online merchants, but do not get caught empty-handed. The campus bookstore will not keep the books on its shelves after about a month into the semester. Read the assigned portions of the books closely and carefully, marking in the book and making notes in the margins. Bring the book to class if we are discussing it that day, and be ready to locate specific places in the book during the class discussion.
Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom ($18.95 new/$14.25 used)
10. Desire2Learn: There is very little on the class website. The collective, face-to-face meetings twice a week are the core of the class experience. Images used in the mini-lectures, and some other pertinent material, will be put on the site, but no grades, readings, or the syllabus.
I. Getting Started
Th 1/10: Introduction
Tues 1/15: discuss W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of the Coming of John”
Tues 1/22: discuss Barbara Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History” excerpts
II. Race and Slavery
Tues 1/29: discuss Morgan, American Slavery
Tues 2/5: discuss Morgan, American Slavery
Tues 2/12: discuss Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia excerpts
Tues 2/19: discuss David Walker, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World excerpts; Thornton Stringfellow, Brief Examination of Scripture Testimony excerpts
II. Race and Segregation
Tues 2/26: watch “Glory” excerpt; first essay due
Tues 3/5: discuss Dailey, Jim Crow
Tues 3/12: discuss Dailey, Jim Crow
Tues 3/19: discuss Dailey, Jim Crow
III. Race in the Contemporary South
Tues 3/26: watch “Eyes on the Prize” excerpt; second essay due
Tues 4/2: discuss Dyson, Hell or High Water
Tues 4/16: discuss Dyson, Hell or High Water
Tues 4/23: watch “The House I Live In” excerpt
Tues 4/30: discuss Chanelle Rose, “Yes We Did? From King’s Dream to Obama’s Promise”
Final Essay due Tuesday, May 7 by noon