Undergraduate English Courses
358:445 Seminar: Representing the Civil Rights Movement
01 MW6 CAC 18411 WALL MU-107
Seminar: Representing the Civil Rights Movement
By any measure, the Civil Rights Movement was a watershed event in twentieth-century American history. It challenged existing definitions of U.S. democracy and catalyzed the transformation of the South from the region of Jim Crow to the Sun Belt. It forced the enactment of laws that completed the “Reconstruction” of American begun almost a century earlier. It became a model for nonviolent protests among oppressed people in Africa, Asia, and Europe. At the time of their occurrence, images of the bus boycotts, sit-ins, the “Freedom Rides,” the March on Washington, and the protests in Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, Alabama, were widely circulated. So were the words and music of movement activists. Playwrights, poets, and novelists later reflected on the meaning of the movement and explored the gap between rhetoric and reality. We will pay special attention to the ways representations of the movement redefine concepts that are the traditional province of literature: heroism, courage, and beauty.
Texts for the class will include some of the following: James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems, Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun, Charles Johnson, Dreamer, Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait, Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, and Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.
Two essays (8-10 pages) and three thought papers (1 page) are required. Topics will be distributed well in advance of the date a paper is due. Students may also develop their own topics in consultation with the instructor. Regular attendance is required. Class participation is expected.