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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2003

AMS 321 • African American History to 1860

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
26355 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
WEL 2.312

Course Description

This course surveys the history of Blacks in the United States from the West African Heritage to the Civil War and Reconstruction and provides a critical examination on central issues under scholarly debate in the examination 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. Also, the course will assess the institutional development of the free black community, with emphasis on antebellum black protest activities, organizations, and leaders, both slave and free blacks. Information is also provided on both slave and free black business activities and entrepreneurship before the Civil War, including African American economic motives for emigration to and colonization in West Africa. The various ways in which slave and free black women responded to slavery and racism before the Civil War are also emphasized, while considering 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 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. 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. Recognizing the difference between what might have happened and what those who have written have said happened is the focus of the course.


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