This upper division course examines the history of Blacks in the United States from the West African Heritage to the Civil War and provides a critical examination on central issues under scholarly debate in the reconstruction of the Black experience in America. The course thus engages the debate on the evolution of African-American slavery as a social, economic and political institution, with a special focus on antebellum slavery, including plantation slavery, industrial slavery, and urban slavery in addition to slave culture.
Also, the course assesses the institutional development of the free black community, during the age of slavery, with emphasis on free black protest activities, organizations, and leaders. Equally important, information is provided on the business and entrepreneurial activities of both slave and free blacks before the Civil War to underscore the long historic tradition of black economic self-help. Invariably, those slaves who purchased their freedom were slaves involved in various business enterprises. Also emphasized in the course are the various ways in which slave and free black women responded to slavery and racism before the Civil War, giving consideration to gender issues within the intersection of the dynamics of race, class, and sex.
The course format is primarily lecture, with informal class discussion, utilizing in part the Socratic method of teaching/pedagogy (especially useful for students who are pre-law), as we examine topics that broaden historical consciousness and critical thinking skills, such as: the role Africans played in the Atlantic slave trade; the historical forces that contributed to the origin of racism in Colonial America; the anomaly of black plantation slave owners in a race-based slave society; how white economic disparities and hegemonic masculinities were played out in class subordination and racial oppression; why race takes precedence over class in assessing the black historical experience; the extent to which judicial cases provide a pragmatic assessment of the realities of slave life; the extent to which American law supported the racial subordination of slave and free blacks; whether or not the economic and political imperatives that prompted antebellum African American settlement in West Africa can be considered colonialist in design and intent.
These and other questions will bring to the forefront the central issue of the agency of African Americans in their attempts to survive racism and slavery in attempts forge their own political and economic liberation. This course, consequently, emphasizes both the deconstruction of prevailing assessments and interpretations of the African American experience as well as provides information for a new reconstruction of the Black Experience from slavery to freedom. In each instance, emphasis will be on exploring different historical interpretations of the Black Experience.
African American slaves did not lead a monolithic slave experience. They shared life-time, hereditary, involuntary servitude, racial oppression and subordination. But many manipulated the institution and slave codes in attempts to mitigate that oppression. Others, such as Nat Turner and Dred Scott used other means to bring about an end to their servitude, while free blacks also fought to end slavery as well as improve their economic, societal and legal status.
The primary purposes of this course, then, are 1) to develop an understanding of the nature of historical inquiry and 2). to heighten historical consciousness 3), encourage critical thinking and analysis of historical material and 4) to recognizing the difference between what might have happened and what actually happened to blacks, both slave and free blacks during the age of slavery to the Civil War.
Franklin, John H. and Alfred Moss, FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM, 9th ed
Holt, T. and Barkley-Brown, E. MAJOR PROBLEMS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY, vol 1
Owens, Leslie, THIS SPECIES OF PROPERTY: SLAVE LIFE AND CULTURE IN THE OLD SOUTH
Tyler, Ron and Lawrence, R. Murphy, The Slave Narratives of Texas
Walker, Juliet E. K., FREE FRANK: A BLACK PIONEER ON THE ANTEBELLUM FRONTIER
Walker, Juliet E. K., THE HISTORY OF BLACK BUSINESS IN AMERICA: CAPITALISM, RACE, ENTREPRENEURSHIP
White, Deborah G. AREN’T I A WOMAN: FEMALE SLAVES PLANTATION SOUTH
MID-TERM EXAM 35%
RESEARCH PAPER 30%
EXAM 2 (TAKE-HOME) 35%