LAW2012: Created Equal?

Race, Law, Citizenship and the Long Civil Rights Movement


Crosslisted as LAW2012

The assertion that “all men are created equal” gave force to the movement for American independence and became what Abraham Lincoln termed “the electric cord” that “links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together.” While the idea of natural rights animated the Revolution and creation of the Republic, Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed in 1963—the centennial year of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—that the promise of those rights contained in the Declaration of Independence had proved to be “a bad check” and it was time to “make real the promises of democracy.” This struggle for equality under law is the focus of “Created Equal? Race, Law, Citizenship, and the Long Civil Rights Movement.” From the founding of the Republic to more recent developments, students will have the opportunity to take a long view of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States by examining race relations, activism, and conceptions of citizenship from a variety of historical and legal perspectives. 

Course topics include:
• Slavery and the American Founding
• The First Emancipation: slave rebellions; abolition and African American activism in the North
• Free but Not Equal: the Underground Railroad; emergence of Abraham Lincoln; Dred Scott decision; Frederick Douglass; John Brown
• The Civil War: Emancipation Proclamation; African American soldiers and citizenship
• The First Reconstruction: Amendments to the Constitution; first civil rights acts; violent opposition; efforts to crush the KKK and other white supremacist paramilitary groups
• Reconstruction and the Courts: Slaughter-House Cases; Cruikshank decision; Civil Rights Cases
• The Nadir of Race Relations: the high price for sectional reconciliation; state civil rights statutes; disfranchisement; the establishment of Jim Crow; Plessy v. Ferguson; Cummings v. Board of Education.; the Berea College Case
• Civil Rights in the Forgotten Era: formation of the NAACP; Ida Wells; DuBois vs. Washington; civil rights during and after the First World War; the New Deal and civil rights; anti-lynching bills in Congress
• Votes for Women: suffrage and Equal Rights Amendment; Progressive Era reform
• Civil Rights and the Second World War
• Cold War Civil Rights: Truman, Eisenhower, and civil rights; Brown v. Board of Education; Civil Rights Act of 1957
• The Second Reconstruction: Emmett Till; the Montgomery Boycott and emergence of Martin Luther King; March on Washington; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Selma; Freedom Summer; Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its impact; shifting objectives; divisions within the movement
• Contemporary Issues: Affirmative Action and its Discontents; the meaning of civil rights; contemporary voting-rights controversies. sex and gender discrimination; sexual orientation discrimination