Course Details

01:512:268 Plantation to White House

  • Academic Credits: 3
  • SAS Core: CCD, HST, SCL
  • Mode of Instruction: Lecture
  • Syllabus:  Fall 2021

    Syllabus Disclaimer:  The information on this draft syllabus is subject to change. For up-to-date course information, please refer to the syllabus on your course site (Canvas, etc.) on the first day of class.

  • Course Description

    How did a black man become President of the United States? How did a people who were, such a short time ago, on the margins of citizenship move to the center of political power in a land where their color and ascribed status marked them as outsiders. And what does Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 say about race and race relations in this country? These are just some of the questions that this course will address.  But there are many more.  Obama’s interracial and international heritage prompts us to explore “who is black in America?” Can someone choose to be black or is blackness thrust upon one? “What does it mean to be brown in America today?” Can a person choose their race?  To answer these question students will explore America’s early legal and social history. We will explore the history of intermarriage for clues that reveal how American and African American identity is, and has been, forged. It is actually Michelle Obama’s heritage that takes us from American slave plantations to the White House. Her ascendancy to the position of First Lady provokes a series of interrogations about the intersection of a history of slavery, race, women, and gender in America. There is also an institutional history that must be examined. What institutions, developed along what models, sustained black people and their allies in their quest for inclusion? What institutions, developed during enslavement endured after slavery and continue to haunt black freedom today? Of course, there is always the counterfactual “what if.” What if African Americans had chosen to opt out, to relocate or repatriate en mass or to repudiate American citizenship in large numbers? Why didn’t they? The issue of resistance is one that emerges with enslavement and continues to the present with the Black Lives Matter Movement. And what of racism? When and how did it begin here in America; how was it sustained; what groups have been its victim and has it disappeared? What did the election of Donald Trump, and America’s general swing to the right say about race in America and the African American struggle for inclusion and equality? This class will address these issues and many others by linking the American past and present in a broad interdisciplinary discussion.