African-American History




OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday 2-3, Wednesday 3-4, Thursday 3-4, and by appointment, in Holland Hall 532. I can also generally consult after class too. I tend to read in the Cage and elsewhere and welcome interruptions.

PHONE NUMBER: 3162 (leave message), or try the history department number 3167.  My home number is in the book, but try not to call me at home unless it is urgent.

E-MAIL: fitz (I try to check my e-mails frequently on weekdays, and sometimes on weekends too. Also, e-mail me promptly if you see a problem with the syllabus or with the assignments).

Some students have questions, or are afraid to speak up in class on some sensitive topic. Feel free to e-mail me privately and I'll do my best to respond.

You might do well to check your e-mail daily, sometimes something comes up and I have to communicate something to the class quickly.

Finally, the course e-mail alias "history-277" is yours to use, if you care to communicate to the class, or take issue with something I said in class. Just be polite about it.


COURSE OBJECTIVE: This class is intended to provide a broad overview of the African-American historical experience, from the origins of the transatlantic slave trade to the present day. The readings are largely autobiographies or collections of primary documents illustrating the felt experience of African Americans.  The class is focused on three major topics: slavery, the Jim Crow South, and the civil rights movement.  The lectures mostly provide the "big picture" of the wider sweep of historical change, and how the black experience intersects with the direction of American life.



Peter Wood, Strange New Land

Frederick Douglass, Narrative

Deborah Grey White, Aren’t I A Woman

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery and Other Documents

John Smith, When Did Segregation Begin?

Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality


TENTATIVE READING SCHEDULE  (This isn't a contract, I can change it as needed)

Feb. 8: Class Introduction and Overview of Broad Themes in African-American History


Feb. 10: Overview of African history and the Transatlantic Slave Trade                                    

Reading: Selection from Equaino's Narrative; Start Wood, Strange New Land


Feb. 15: Colonial Slavery in the Western Hemisphere

Reading: Wood, Strange New Land, all


Feb. 17: Liberty and Slavery in Revolutionary America

Reading: Selection from Jefferson, Notes on Virginia.

Also, Advertisements for Runaway Slaves, to be distributed in class


Feb. 22: Slavery as Lived Experience

Reading:  Narrative of Frederick Douglass, all


Feb. 24: Resistance and Rebellion

"Confessions of Nat Turner"


March 1:  Slavery as Lived  Experience

Reading: First half of White, Aren't I a Woman?

Mar. 3: CLASS DISCUSSION--Women and Community under Slavery

Reading: Second half of White, Aren't I a Woman?

Short Black History Month Assignment Due

Mar. 8: Origins of the American Civil War

Reading: John Calhoun, Slavery as a Positive Good

Selections from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Selections from Secessionist speeches, to be handed out in class


Mar. 10: Emancipation and Reconstruction

Read Emancipation

Southern White Views of Black Freedom

Also Read Union League Documents and Ku Klux ritual

Mar. 15: Redemption, the Restoration of White Supremacy

Reading: Start reading Booker Washington, Up From Slavery, (Chapter I-VIII)



Mar. 22 and 24: SPRING BREAK


March 29: Segregation and Disfranchisement: the Solidification of White Supremacy

Reading: Finish Reading Washington, Up From Slavery, and other readings



Mar. 31: Jim Crow: The South at the Turn of the Century


Reading: Smith, When Did Southern Segregation Begin?, intro and pages 1-83

April 5: Jim Crow and Where it Came From


Reading: Smith, When Did Southern Segregation Begin?, finish.

Apr. 7: World War I, the Great Migration


No Reading, Second Paper Due



Apr. 12:  Origins of the Civil  Rights  Movement

Reading: Read handouts on Garveyism, Start Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, 1-36


Apr. 14:  No Reading: In Class Films on the Beginning of the Movement

Apr. 19: From Depression to World War Two—Origins of the Movement

Reading: Read Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, pp. 37-87.


Apr. 21: The Civil Rights Movement  at  Floodtide

Reading: Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, pp. 87-154.


April 26: No Reading--Evening Film Approximately Here on Civil Rights American Meltdown: Civil Rights at Full Tide


April 28: The Success and Failure of the Movement

Reading: Finish Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality, pp. 155-235


May 3: Black Power and the Urban Uprisings

Reading: Glascow, "From Futility to Rebellion"

Stern, "Call of the Black Panthers"

Other Readings to be announced

May 5: Nixon and the Aftermath of Civil Rights



May 10: From Black Power to Contemporary Race Relations


May 12: From Black Power to Contemporary Race Relations







First Major Paper =15%

Midterm =10%

Second Major Paper=15%

Third Research Paper=15%

Fourth Short Paper=10%


Participation =15%

Class participation means is that you've read the material, on time, and are ready to talk intelligently about it. I tend to call on people, because it makes for a livelier class and helps me do a better job. If you are wholly unable to speak up, fine, but take it upon yourself to speak to me about the readings outside class, or e-mail me to demonstrate mastery of the material. 

Anything more than three absences during the semester is a problem. Save yours for when you really do get sick.  And e-mail me if you have to miss more than one class what’s going on.


GRADING POLICY: If you are one of those people who absolutely cannot talk in class, come see me.  We can work something out, but this is a seminar, you need to work on this.


PLAGIARISM: My wife is one of the primary authors of the campus plagiarism policy, so I’m obliged to honor it.  Plagiarism is using somebody else’s words, or their exact ideas, without acknowledgement.  Please consult me if an issue comes up.


SPECIAL ACCOMODATIONS: Students who have a certified disability probably already know the procedure for informing professors.  Please tell me early in the semester, with the appropriate documentation, and remind me periodically (especially before exams) that I need to respond to your situation. 


PERSONAL ISSUES: Professors get a lot of excuses from students, but if something is going on in your life that affects your classroom work, you probably should let me know privately.


OTHER NOTES: Attendance is mandatory, as is class participation and keeping up with the reading. Attendance is taken periodically, and unexcused absences (more than three times per semester) can effect the final grade. You are expected to be prepared by doing the reading for the day specified, ready to talk about it intelligently.  This isn't a lecture class; you do most of the talking.


BLACK HISTORY MONTH ASSIGNMENT: By March 3rd, all students should watch a TV show, recent movie, or some other assignment dealing with African American life or history.  Write a one to two page summary and reflection on the themes.


E-MAIL: E-mail is an excellent way to ask questions or follow up on issues that you don't want to raise in class, or think of after class. It can help with paper assignments too, when you need clarification. Feel free also to email to the class list, "history-165," if you'd like to do so. Just be polite when you criticize other people's ideas.

Also, check your e-mails regularly, because sometimes I have to communicate to class when something important comes up.


FINAL OBSERVATION: Everybody has his virtues: here's mine. I tend to be pretty good about not getting upset about people disagreeing with me, especially given the nature of the subject matter. It just means you've been paying attention. So speak your peace; I won't grade you down for it--either in class or via e-mail. But don't get upset if I disagree with you either, or if your classmates disagree (politely).