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. The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.

Additional Readings  & Resources

  • Bombaro, Christine and John M. Osborne. Forgotten Abolitionist:  John A.J. Creswell of Maryland.  Smashwords E-Book, House Divided Project. 2015. [WEB]
  • Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic. June 2014. [WEB]
  • Foner, Eric. “Confederate Statues and ‘Our’ History.” New York Times, 8/20/17. [WEB]
  • Goldberg, Sarah and Matthew Pinsker, eds. The Prince of Emancipation. Google Arts & Culture, House Divided Project. 2016. [WEB]
  • Huebner, Timothy B. “Roger B. Taney and the Slavery Issue: Looking Before –and Beyond—Dred Scott.”  Journal of American History 97 (June 2010): 17-38. [JSTOR]
  • McCurry, Stephanie. “Who Freed the Slaves?” Review of Sinha’s The Slaves’ Cause.  The Nation.  September 13, 2016. [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew, ed. Dickinson & Slavery. House Divided Project. 2018-19 [WEB]
  • Schuessler, Jennifer. “Confronting Academia’s Ties to Slavery.” NYT, 3/5/17. [WEB]
  • Sinha, Manisha. “The Forgotten Emancipationists.” Disunion.  February 24, 2013. [WEB]
  • Sinha, Manisha. “What Those Monuments Stand For.” NY Daily News. 8/18/17. [WEB]
  • Staples, Brent. “South’s White Terror Will Never Be Forgotten.”  NYT. 4/25/18 [WEB]
  • Wilkerson, Isabel. “Mike Brown’s shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common. It’s time for America to own up.” The Guardian.  August 25, 2014 [WEB]

Slave Narrative Map

By MONDAY, FEB 25 [UPDATED], students will be required to post a custom-made Google Map or StorymapJS, which they’ve designed that helps illustrate the story of a published, first-person 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 autobiography of the enslaved subject within the context of American slavery or antislavery, using citations to Peter Kolchin’s American Slavery (2003 ed.) as a key starting point for scholarly insights.  The maps themselves should contain about 8-10 place marks with each one including brief excerpted text from the narrative (properly cited) along with supporting images or video clips (properly credited).  The place marks should be positioned in correct geographical location and should be arranged in chronological order. Primary source material for this project should come from North American Slave Narratives at Documenting the American South website.  Late maps will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Review Essay

By MONDAY, APRIL 1 (REVISED), students will be required to submit a 5- to 7-page review essay analyzing how Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom contributes to the historiography on the Underground Railroad.  The best review essays will deftly summarize the work in question while also explaining with particular examples 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 Foner’s book and additional outside sources, such as reviews, historiographical essays or other academic studies of the Underground Railroad.  All essays should have a title page and Chicago-style footnotes.  No bibliography is required.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Dickinson & Slavery Exhibit

By Thursday, May 9, 2019, students will be required to build an online multi-media exhibit analyzing an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century Dickinsonian with connections to slavery or antislavery.  Students will find many promising leads at the Dickinson & Slavery website.  Some students may also choose to focus on a historical figure from outside the college, but regardless, everyone should email a summary of his or her plans to Prof. Pinsker by April 17 [revised].  The first graded stage of the project, however, will be an 8- to 10-page biographical paper due by Monday, April 29 [REVISED]. This paper should be submitted by email and include a descriptive title page and Chicago-style footnotes.  This paper will count for one-third of the final exhibit grade (or 10% of the course grade). The best biographical papers will include a sophisticated combination of primary and secondary sources that can help put the particular subject’s experience with slavery or anti-slavery into broader historical context.  Students should then build their online exhibits in the free platform Weebly, incorporating revised text from their initial papers as well as various new content and multi-media elements, such as self-produced slideshows, maps, timelines, videos or podcasts.  All text content should be original, but students may use some images and multi-media elements developed by external sources, as long as these elements are clearly labeled and properly credited.  For text content, students should use Chicago-style footnotes for any required citations.  The best exhibits will provide well-researched and well-produced content designed to help classroom teachers and students understand the rise and fall of American slavery.  Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.  The best online exhibits will then be featured at the Dickinson & Slavery website.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                              30 percent

Slave Narrative Map                            20 percent

Review Essay                                     20 percent

Dickinson & Slavery paper                  10 percent

Dickinson & Slavery Exhibit                  20 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/22 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 1/24 Dickinson & Slavery:  Background Schuessler article, Exhibit site
Tuesday 1/29 African Slave Trade Kolchin, ch. 1
Thursday 1/31 Colonial Slavery Kolchin, chap. 2
Friday 2/1 Exhibit Opening: Dickinson & Slavery 10am to 4pm, 61 N. West St.
Tuesday 2/5 Constitutional Slavery & Antislavery Kolchin, 3
Tuesday 2/5 Lecture:  Nikole Hannah-Jones ATS, 7pm
Thursday 2/7 Antebellum Masters Kolchin, ch. 4
Tuesday 2/12 NO CLASS
Thursday 2/14 Antebellum Slaves Kolchin, chap. 5
Tuesday 2/19 Sectionalism Kolchin, chap. 6
Thursday 2/21 Destruction of Slavery Kolchin, chap. 7
Thursday 2/21 Lecture: Jacqueline Jones Stern, 630pm
Monday 2/25 Slave narrative maps due By 5pm (via email)
Tuesday 2/26 Rethinking Resistance Foner, chap. 1
Thursday 2/28 Northern Slavery Foner, chap. 2
Tuesday 3/5 Rise of Vigilance Foner, chaps. 3-4
Thursday 3/7 Defining Abolitionists Sinha 2013 Disunion essay, McCurry review
Tuesday 3/12 SPRING BREAK
Thursday 3/14 SPRING BREAK
Tuesday 3/19 Fugitive Slave Law Foner, chap. 5
Thursday 3/21 Underground Railroad Foner, chap. 6
Saturday 3/23 REQUIRED: Workshop or Public Lecture Denny 317, 10am to 12pm, 2-4pm, ATS, 7pm
Tuesday 3/26 Coming of War Foner, chaps. 7-8; Huebner article
Thursday 3/28 NO CLASS
Monday 4/1 Review essays due By 5pm (via post)
Tuesday 4/2 Frederick Douglass Oakes, chap. 1
Thursday 4/4 Lincoln and Slavery Oakes, chap. 2-3
Tuesday 4/9 Understanding Emancipation Oakes, chap. 4-5
Thursday 4/11 Politics & Abolition Oakes, 6 + Bombaro E-Book
Tuesday 4/16 Race & Reunion Oakes, chap. 7
Wednesday 4/17 Exhibit proposals due By 5pm, via email
Thursday 4/18 Prince Rivers and Legacy of Reconstruction Goldberg & Pinsker exhibit
Tuesday 4/23 Lynching & Terror Staples and Wilkerson op-eds
Thursday 4/25 Arguing Over Reparations Coates article
Thursday 4/26 Lecture:  Steve Luxenberg on Plessy ATS, 7pm
Monday 4/29  Exhibit papers due By 5pm (via email)
Tuesday 4/30 Debating Monuments & Memory Foner and Sinha op-eds
Thursday 5/2 Dickinson & Slavery:  Our Lessons Exhibit website
Thursday 5/9 FINAL EXHIBITS DUE By 5pm (via email)