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HIS3240 : Civil Rights in America, 1948-1975

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Benjamin Houston
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 40 student places

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

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study561:0056:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This structure has three strands embedded within the lectures and seminars: one on primary sources, one on secondary literature, and one on public history and memory. These will each be addressed in the final exam.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination14402A10024hr Take Home Exam (3500 words)
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

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 24hr 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.

Reading Lists