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The Long Black Freedom Struggle in the U.S. since 1865 - HIS00122I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. James West
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module explores the long black freedom struggle in the U.S. from emancipation through to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. Engaging with a wide range of primary and secondary texts, it rethinks the ‘traditional narrative’ of the civil rights movement, uncovering the breadth and diversity of African American politics. We will examine the variety of strategies African Americans employed to resist segregation, disenfranchisement, racial violence and economic inequality, and how their struggles profoundly impacted on U.S. politics and culture. We will also consider how white supremacy, and resistance to it, has been shaped by factors such as gender, class, sexuality and region. Through studying a range of cultural and political sources, including speeches, newspapers, organisational records, autobiographies and film, we will learn about key black activists and thinkers, from household names like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, to lesser-known figures such as Amy Jacques Garvey, Bayard Rustin and Johnnie Tillmon. Ultimately, the module will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the major trends in African American politics and culture from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. It will also consider the relationship between history and contemporary racial justice struggles, and why the stories we tell about the civil rights movement matter today.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth;
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material; and
  • To combine seminar preparation and discussion of the topic being studied with extended independent work on a project devised by the student.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching
  • Gain experience of working collaboratively through an assessed group project

Module content

This 30-credit module is taught through a weekly two-hour seminar run from weeks 2-10 in the spring term and a four week period of project work undertaken in weeks 1-4 of the summer term. Students will complete their group project work within that period and tutors should arrange to be available for consultation with students twice during that time. There will be no formal seminar teaching during this period.

Seminars will likely cover the following areas:

  1. Black History Matters: Civil Rights Memory and African American Protest Today
  2. Early Challenges to Jim Crow: Race Leaders and Everyday Resistance
  3. WWI and the Rise of Black Nationalism
  4. The Harlem Renaissance
  5. Black Radicals and the International Left
  6. The ‘Classical’ Civil Rights Movement
  7. Black Power and Grassroots Protest
  8. African American Feminisms and Queer Black Politics and Culture
  9. The Price of a Black President: Racial Justice Struggles in the Twenty-First Century

Group project work will consist of further study of one aspect of the course, using a collection of primary sources creatively to offer insights on an issue or debate related to the history of the black freedom struggle.


Task Length % of module mark
3,000 word group project
N/A 33
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - The Long Black Freedom Struggle in the U.S. since 1865
8 hours 67

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative assessment will be a group presentation between weeks 5 and 7 of the spring term.

For summative assessment students take a 24-hour open exam in the summer term assessment period, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. For those taking two Explorations modules the 24-hour open exams are held on consecutive days, with both papers released at 11:00 on day 1 and both due for submission on 11:00 of day 3.

Students also submit a piece of written work for their group project of no more than 3,000 words in week 5 of the summer term.

The exam carries 67% of assessment and the project element 33% for this module.

Students who need to be reassessed in the project component of this module (for example due to Exceptional Circumstance) will be required to submit in the summer reassessment period a shorter individual project (2,000 words) which should include a short reflection (500 words max) on group work, considering how this project could be expanded if a team of three to four people were working on it. Students should consider how they would divide up the research tasks, and reflect briefly on problems which might arise and how they would manage them. Module tutors will advise on the content and design of this project.


Task Length % of module mark
3,000 word group project
N/A 33
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - The Long Black Freedom Struggle in the U.S. since 1865
8 hours 67

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Theoharis, Jeanne. A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018.

Tuck, Stephen. We Ain’t What We Ought To Be: The Black Freedom Struggle, From Emancipation to Obama. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.

Williams, Rhonda Y. Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century. New York: Routledge, 2015.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.