Spring 2010 Course Description

Politics and Process

Section Title: American Race Policy
Instructor(s): Edwin Dorn
Course: P A 383C - Politics and Process
(previously Policy Development)
Unique Number: 62340
Day & Time: Tuesdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.220
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information

This course fulfills requirements for the following specialization(s):

Description: This graduate level seminar traces the evolution of race policy in the United States from the development of the color line, through the struggle for equal rights, to alternative forecasts about the role of race in America’s future. Strong emphasis will be placed on understanding the circumstances that led to particular policies and policy changes. Students will be encouraged to read and develop their own interpretations of primary sources, such as Supreme Court cases, rather than to rely solely on the interpretations of scholars.

The term “race policy” appears to be of recent vintage – the past decade or so. There is a huge amount of literature about race as viewed through the lenses of a particular discipline – history, sociology, psychology, politics and economics – but there is not much literature about race as a policy arena. This is an interesting contrast with other topics such as health, education, the environment, and national security, all of which have well-established bodies of policy literature. One of the revelations of the course will be the point at which the United States established its first national race policy.

Because this is a course about policy making, not just about a specific policy arena, we will spend time discussing the steps in a policy-making process, the components of policy, and the relationship among policy, politics, and personal identity.

Principal Texts:


Themes: The development and evolution of race policy in the United States will be followed more-or-less chronologically. Mid-way through the semester, however, the emphasis each week will depend partly on the content of students’ presentations. The principal themes are:
  1. Original Intent. When, how and why did race become such an important feature of American society? Readings include The Original Constitution and selections from The Federalist Papers.
  2. The Racialization of America. How were laws and lawsuits used to determine who fit into which racial category and thus to determine rights and citizenship? Readings include the Dred Scott decision and chapters from Gross’s What Blood Won’t Tell.
  3. Emancipation, Separate-But-Equal, and the Dawn of Protest. How did the Civil War Amendments answer the Dred Scott decision? What did Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois disagree about? Readings include Yick Wo. v. Hopkins, Plessy v. Fergkuson, Washington’s Atlanta Exposition speech, and selections from The Souls of Black Folk.
  4. The Exclusion of Non-whites. How did immigration laws affect the racial composition of the country? Readings include Lopez’s White By Law.
  5. The Civil Rights Movement. What was the role of the black intelligentsia? How was the position of black Americans affected by the two world wars? Which branch of government proved to be most reliable in the advance of civil rights? Readings include Martin Luther King., Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters.
  6. The New Policy Regime. What did people expect to happen as a result of the new civil rights laws? How effectively did the new policies address discrimination in education, housing and other areas? Why, with so much apparent progress, was there so much frustration? Readings include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Johnson’s 1965 Howard University speech.
  7. Comparisons. How do the experiences of black Americans compare with those of other groups – the internment of Japanese-Americans, and the “Caucasian cloak” that concealed discrimination against Mexican Americans? How does American race policy compare with that in other countries? Readings include Telles’ Race in Another America.
  8. Outcomes and Controversies. How much better off are African-Americans today than they were before the passage of the civil rights acts? How did affirmative action become such an important part of the policy debate? Readings include selected Oliver and Shapiro’s Black Wealth, White Wealth.
  9. Forecasts and Policy Options. Where do we go from here? What are the alternative policy paths? Readings include Hochschild’s Facing Up to The American Dream.


Requirements and Expectations: Graduate students should be active participants in a process of discovery. My responsibilities include getting the conversation started, guiding students toward existing knowledge and points of view, and assessing students’ contributions to the class. I place great value on clear, concise writing and speaking, so students will be given ample opportunities to work on their communications skills. Course requirements include:
  1. Class attendance and participation – 10%
  2. Short paper about expectations for class – 10%
  3. Lead discussion of class readings – 20%
  4. Book review (briefing and paper) – 30% each

Discussions of race can be intellectually stimulating; they also can be emotionally challenging. Some issues may turn out to be more complicated than they initially appear. I expect us to show respect for one another’s views, to offer constructive criticism, and to observe high standards of academic integrity.

Class Size: up to 15.

Return to Spring 2010 Course Schedule