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HIS2315 : Violence in the American South: From the Colonial Era to Civil Rights

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Susan-Mary Grant
  • Lecturer: Professor Bruce Baker, Dr Benjamin Houston
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module seeks to introduce students to the central roles that violence (and nonviolence) played in the social and political history of the American South from the colonial era through Reconstruction after the Civil War (1865-1877) to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and after.

The American South is an unusual region in many ways, not least because of its perceived (and actual) relationship with violence. On the one hand, observers during the antebellum period noted that the South was exceptionally violent, a situation clearly based on the region’s dependence on slavery and later continued in the form of lynching. On the other hand, during enslavement itself and Reconstruction, non-violence on the part of African Americans functioned as a challenge to the overt aggression of some aspects of the white South.

This module places the American South and its violent history in the larger context of violence in America from the nation's inception to the present day. It revolves around three main focal themes/subjects:

1. Race and violence: Colonial Beginnings

2. Indigenous society and violence: creating the racial divide

3. White society and violence: political and personal

4. Violent transitions: from slavery to freedom

5. The opposition to violence: resistance and resilience

Outline Of Syllabus

The following are some of the central topics included in lectures and non-synchronous materials:

1. Introduction to the Histories of Violence and Nonviolence in the United States

2. The Antebellum South: A Culture of Honour, Violence, and Slavery

3. Violence on the Plantation

4. Violence in Congress

5. Resisting Violence: Rebellion and Running Away

6. Violence During the Civil War and Reconstruction

7. Guerrilla Warfare and Extra-Legal Violence

8. Post-War Violence: Legal Codes and Lynching

9. Reconstruction: Riots, Pogroms, and Feuds

10. Labour Violence

11. Civil Rights: the politics of non-violence

12. Voices from the Civil Rights era

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:00Preparation for end of module long essay; ongoing weekly.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Lecture
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Asynchronous support materials (document analysis Etc). Part of student contact hours.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:00Seminar preparation: ongoing weekly.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study351:0035:00General consolidation activities; drop-in sessions etc.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline for further knowledge acquisition by the students themselves. They explain key historical concepts and identify historical debates and points of contention. They introduce a range of source materials and images appropriate to the module, and facilitate the critical appreciation of such sources.

4. SEMINARS encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills, research skills and adaptability.

5. LECTURE MATERIALS (under Structured Guided Learning): Documentary Analyses to aid students in working through and using primary material. They introduce and take students through either an individual primary document or a particular source collection to enhance research skills. The material analyzed will come into seminar dicussion(s), when students are expected to assess the extent to which the historiography (book or article(s)) is supported or contradicted by the primary documents looked at.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A602500 words.
Research paper1M401000 words. Primary source research paper linking to final essay.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

1. The first piece of SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT submitted during the module forms a means of determining the student’s progress.

2. SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT tests knowledge outcomes and develops skills in research and reading.


1. The research paper will aid students in handling original material and deploying this successfully in the end of module essay. Feedback as to how to best use the chosen research material in the final essay will be provided.

2. The summative essay questions will be handed out at the start, so that students may work on their selected topic weekly throughout the module. It will be comparative across chronological time and themes, and will have components relating to both violence and nonviolence. It will assesses the student’s understanding of the key themes and ideas in the module, the ability to research around a topic, and the capability of building a sustained argument, supporting it with evidence, and expressing it clearly.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists