Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3240 : Civil Rights in America, 1948-1975

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Benjamin Houston
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



It took almost 100 years before a sustained and coordinated challenge was mounted against the Reconstruction legacy of Jim Crow in the southern states. When it came, it was explosive, and radically altered race relations in the USA, both in the northern and southern states. In this module, we will look at the origins and early development of the civil rights movement, the relationship between civil rights and black nationalism, the strategies of both mainstream and marginal organisations, and how the era forced Americans to reconsider key issues of equality, racism, liberty and nation.

The module aims:
•To enable students to investigate in depth these complex themes in history
•To introduce students to historical research and guide them in the analysis of primary documents and texts
•To encourage students to read widely and critically in the secondary literature, and to develop the capacity for independent study
•To enable students to focus on specific issues of their own interest and develop their own interpretations of aspects of the historical period

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus is intended as a guide only: week-by-week topics may be slightly different to the following:

1.       Segregation and early efforts towards desegregation
2.       Impact of lynchings and violence
3.       Education as a theatre for desegregation
4.       Role of religious organising
5.       Activist judges: the importance of the Supreme court
6.       The legal route: Martin Luther King
7.       The ballot or the bullet?
8.       Freedom summer
9.       Double jeopardy: black and female
10.       Black power, race riots
11.       Legacy of civil rights
12. Nonviolent direct action
13. Grassroots organising
14. Presidential politics

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

- Students will gain knowledge of the range of sources available for the study of civil rights in twentieth century America, and the current debates within the field.
- Students will acquire knowledge of the principal movements and key individuals involved in the civil rights movement in the USA.
- Students will develop a critical awareness of the historiography, and will construct their own interpretations from a combination of primary and secondary readings.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students are expected to:
- create sophisticated written arguments based on wide reading of the subject area.
- improve their bibliographic and library skills.
- plan their time and manage their reading in order to fully participate in seminar discussions.

The emphasis will be on independent study and critical judgement.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching113:0033:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study561:0056:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This structure has three strands embedded within each weekly seminar: one on primary sources, one on secondary literature, and one on public history and memory. These will each be addressed in the final exam. Seminars will provide opportunities for individual and group work to refine analysis and understanding of both content and skills.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination992A10048hr Take Home Exam (3500 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Report2Meach student will in an assigned week generate an analytical synopsis of the secondary readings to share with the class. 500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 48hr take home exam test acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided and to write clearly and concisely.

Ability to compare and contrast related source texts on a common subject.

Ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly, succinctly and with relevance in a relatively brief space, and, in an exam, under pressure of time.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

The formative assessment will help students learn how to zero in on the essential components of given readings; the results will be circulated within class to provide study guides for the entire class for revising.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.