Debra Schultz | Civil Rights as Civic Engagement, Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science 

This 20th century US history course engages students in using historical and contemporary evidence to explore whether we are living in a “post-racial” society.   The course focuses on teaching a more accurate history of racism and the ongoing fight for civil rights in the United States.  An emphasis on primary sources enables students to develop critical thinking skills and grapple with the complexities of how social change happens over time.  Intensive study of the organizational infrastructure of the movement; debates about strategies and tactics such as nonviolent resistance and self-defense; the importance of grassroots leadership; and the role of women as “bridge” leaders all seek to demystify how social change happens.  Documentary film footage emphasizing the role of student leadership highlights young people’s potential to catalyze social change.  Students engage in reflective writing about how to make choices and take action in contexts of injustice.  The final project requires students to watch Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke,” and write an extended essay on the demographics of New Orleans and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  Given students’ recent experience with Hurricane Sandy, they find the film both disturbing and powerfully thought-provoking.

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