Skip to main content Skip to navigation

America in Black and White? Contemporary US Race and Racism in Historical Context (HI2B1)

This module aims to equip students with the ability to make use of the past to understand the present through a study of African American history, culture, and politics. Students on this module will take contemporary racial issues, such as mass incarceration or the Black Lives Matter movement, and trace their historical antecedents through both primary and secondary sources. In doing so, students will examine how race in the United States has been, and continues to be, socially constructed. The module will include some discussion of whites, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asian Americans (as well as other groups), but it will prioritise the voices of African Americans in its use of source material. The module will encourage students to consider the role of historians and other scholars in contemporary racial activism, and will allow students to articulate their findings in a range of ways, including through class participation, social media and podcasting, in order to develop their transferable skills.

The topics discussed will vary year-to-year and will be decided in the first week of term by the students on the module. This module is taught via 2-hour weekly seminars.

Student Reviews
  • "Engaging discussions in seminars where discussed the reading and our thoughts on the weeks topic. The seminars were consistently engaging and were usually enlightening. I would often come away from the seminar with lots to consider."
  • "I thought the module was great, I really enjoyed it ... I did appreciate the variety of readings and formats, such as documentaries, podcasts and blog posts... I also appreciated the variety of authors among the readings. I enjoyed and felt it was important to explore readings from African American scholars, particularly black women."
  • "As we could choose the topics we would study over the ten weeks, we were all excited and engaged in the readings and discussions. The class participation also meant that our small and large group discussions were informative and interesting"
  • "Its reminded me of why it is important to study history, and why i chose this degree. The idea that the present can be explained by looking at the past, almost everything has a historical grounding. Every week by looking at a contemporary issue and looking at its historical context has aided my understanding of why some things happen or are repeatedly happening."
Learning Outcomes
  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the key themes and issues in US race relations in the present, and to evaluate them in historical context.
  • Communicate ideas and findings about US race relations in historical context, adapting to a range of situations,
    audiences and degrees of complexity.
  • Generate ideas through the analysis of a body of primary source material, including online sources.
  • Analyse and evaluate the contributions made by existing interdisciplinary scholarship on US race relations.
  • Act with limited supervision and accept responsibility to interact effectively within a team, giving and receiving information and ideas.
  • 1500 word group project (50%)
  • 2000 word blog posts (40%)
  • Seminar Contribution (10%)
Module Convenor: Dr Lydia Plath
General Reading
Talis Aspire Reading List

In 2022-23 HI2B1 runs in Term 2, Mondays 2-4 or 5-7.