African American History: Emancipation to Obama (HIST-282)

Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, ca. 1864. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Instructor: Professor Morgan

This second semester of African-American history is designed to acquaint students with the experiences and cultures of African-American peoples since emancipation.

Emphasis will fall on the North American example, but the wider world context will also receive attention and will inform a more detailed study of North America. The course will address the process of culture–its development and change over time. Fundamental to our study will be the careful attention paid to African Americans as historical actors.

Some major themes to be covered include:

  • the legacy of emancipation; 
  • Reconstruction, one of the most misunderstood eras of American history; 
  • sharecropping and debt peonage; 
  • disfranchisement and the rise of and response to segregation; 
  • the Great Migrations and urbanization; 
  • the Harlem "Renaissance"; 
  • the social construction of race; 
  • the World Wars and the Depression; 
  • the civil rights movement; nationalism and Pan-Africanism; 
  • family history; 
  • electoral politics between the 1970s and the present; 
  • some educated speculation about race in the twenty-first century. 

We will place emphasis on understanding these years as the “long civil rights movement” or, alternatively, “the long Reconstruction,” coming to appreciate how profoundly we remain caught up in Reconstruction’s long historical arc.