Course Syllabus

Required Books

  • Foner, Eric. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.  New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.
  • Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery, 1619-1877.  New York: Hill & Wang, 2003 ed.
  • Oakes, James. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.

Featured Resources

Additional Articles & Studies

  • Beale, Lewis. “Totality of Slavery Made Mercilessly Clear in ’12 Years A Slave.’” LA Times, November 7, 2013 [WEB]
  • Beard, Rick. “A Promise Betrayed.” Civil War Times. June 2017. [PDF]
  • Blackmon, Douglas. “Slavery By Another Name,” [video clip]
  • Bombaro, Christine and John M. Osborne. Forgotten Abolitionist:  John A.J. Creswell of Maryland.  Smashwords E-Book, House Divided Project at Dickinson College, 2015. [WEB]
  • Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Lost Cause Rides Again.” The Atlantic. August 4, 2017. [WEB]
  • Kimball, Roger. “College Formerly Known As Yale.”  Wall Street Journal.  8, 16 [WEB]
  • Oakes, James. “Capitalism and Slavery and the Civil War.” Review essay in ILWCH (Spring 2016) [PDF]
  • Roberts, Blain and Ethan J. Kytle. “America Needs a National Slavery Monument.” New York Times. December 5, 2015. [WEB]
  • Schuessler, Jennifer. “Confronting Academia’s Ties to Slavery.” New York Times, March 5, 2017 [WEB]
  • Sellers, Charles Coleman. Dickinson College: A History.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973. [WEB]
  • Slotten, Martha C. “The McClintock Slave Riot of 1847,” Cumberland County History 17 (2000): 14-35. [WEB]

Review Essay

By Monday, October 9 (revised), students will be required to submit a 5- to 7-page review essay concerning a recent addition to the scholarship on American slavery or antislavery.  Students should select their book from a list provided by Prof. Pinsker (covering major monographs published since the original release of Peter Kolchin’s American Slavery (1993).  The best review essays will deftly summarize the work in question while also explaining how the book attempts to expand knowledge about either the institution of American slavery or the nature of the resistance to it.  To demonstrate the key historiographical contributions, students must cite both Kolchin’s book and other reviews of their chosen work, in addition to providing their own original insights.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Slave Narrative Map

By Monday, November 6 [REVISED], students will be required to post a custom-made Google map or a StorymapJS, which they’ve designed to help illustrate the story of a published American slave narrative.  Each map should be embedded within a short blog post (about 800-1,000 words, or 4-5 pages) at the course website that describes the biography of the enslaved subject within the context of American slavery or antislavery, using citations to multiple secondary sources.  The maps themselves should contain about 8-10 place marks with each one including brief excerpted text from the published narrative (properly cited) along with supporting images or video clips (properly credited).  The place marks should be positioned in correct geographical position and should be arranged in chronological order on the left-hand navigation column. Primary source material for this project should come from North American Slave Narratives at the Documenting the American South website.  Late maps will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Dickinson & Slavery Exhibit

By the semester’s end (Monday, December 11), students will be required to build an online multi-media exhibit analyzing Dickinson College’s connections to slavery or antislavery.  Exhibits may approach the topic from almost any relevant perspective or period, but students should discuss their plans in advance with Prof. Pinsker.  The first official stage of the project, however, will be a 10- to 12-page paper due by Wednesday, November 29 2017 [REVISED]. This paper should be submitted by email and include a descriptive title page and Chicago-style footnotes (bibliographies are not required).  This paper will count for one-third of the final exhibit grade (or 10% of the course grade). The best papers will include a sophisticated combination of primary and secondary sources that can help put the particular Dickinson experience or connection under study into broad historical context.  Students should then build their online exhibits in the free platform Weebly, incorporating revised text from their initial paper as well as various new multi-media elements, such as self-produced image slideshows, maps, timelines, videos or podcasts.  Students may use multi-media elements produced by external sources, but these elements must be clearly labeled and properly credited.  All exhibits must fully acknowledge and properly credit all of their sources wherever they appear.  The best exhibits will provide well-written and well-produced multi-media content designed to help classroom teachers and students understand how the rise and fall of American slavery affected an institution such as Dickinson College.  Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.  The best exhibit projects will be incorporated into a special House Divided public exhibition on Dickinson’s ties to slavery and antislavery in spring 2018.


Grade Distribution

Class Participation                              30 percent

Review Essay                                         20 percent

Slave Narrative Map                           20 percent

Dickinson & Slavery Exhibit            30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 8/29 Methods & Expectations Who do we owe?
Thursday 8/31 Colleges and Slavery Schuessler article + Sellers
Tuesday 9/5 African Slave Trade Kolchin, ch. 1 + Voyages
Thursday 9/7 Colonial Slavery Kolchin, chap. 2 + Brown
Tuesday 9/12 Constitutional Slavery & Antislavery Kolchin, 3 + Wilentz debate
Tuesday 9/12 Lecture:  Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz ATS, 7pm // VIDEO
Thursday 9/14 Antebellum Masters Kolchin, ch. 4 + Georgetown
Tuesday 9/19 Antebellum Slaves Kolchin, chap. 5 + Harvard
Thursday 9/21 NO CLASS
Tuesday 9/26 Sectionalism Kolchin, chap. 6 + Columbia
Thursday 9/28 NO CLASS // Peer Meetings
Tuesday 10/3 Destruction of Slavery Kolchin, chap. 7 + Visualizing
Thursday 10/5 Slavery & American Capitalism Oakes review
Monday 10/9 Review Essays due By 5pm (via email)
Tuesday 10/10 Northern Slavery Foner, chaps. 1-2
Thursday 10/12 Vigilance Foner, chaps. 3-4
Tuesday 10/17 FALL PAUSE
Thursday 10/19 Fugitive Slave Law(s) Foner, chap. 5
Tuesday 10/24 Underground Railroad Foner, chaps. 6-8
Thursday 10/26 McClintock Riot and the Border War Slotten + Video
Tuesday 10/31 Hollywood on Slavery & Resistance Beale and Coates essays
Thursday 11/2 College Archives Fall 2016 methods course
Monday 11/6 Slave Narrative Maps due By 5pm (via post)
Tuesday 11/7 Federal Consensus Oakes, chaps. 1-2
Thursday 11/9 Contrabands & Confiscation Oakes, chaps. 3-4
Tuesday 11/14 Emancipation Oakes, chaps. 9-10
Thursday 11/16 Abolition Oakes, chap. 12 + Creswell
Tuesday 11/21 NO CLASS  
Thursday 11/23 THANKSGIVING
Tuesday  11/28  Reconstruction Prince Rivers + Beard
Tuesday 11/28 Honors Presentation: Sarah Goldberg Denny 317, 12pm
Wednesday 11/29 EXHIBIT PAPERS DUE By 5pm, by email
Thursday 11/30 Peonage & Lynching Blackmon + An Outrage
Tuesday 12/5 Monuments & Memorials Roberts-Kytle essay
Thursday 12/7 Lessons & Legacies
Monday 12/11 FINAL EXHIBITS DUE By 5pm (via emailed link)