Syllabus and Course Readings

The South in Black and White:
Southern History, Culture and Politics

Spring 2017
Tuesday evenings, 7:00-9:30 pm
Center for Documentary Studies/Full Frame Theater                                                                       320 Blackwell Street #101, Durham, NC 27701

“If, in moving through your life, you find yourself lost, go back to the last place where you knew who you were, and what you were doing, and start from there.”                                                                   —Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

“Let us begin by discussing the weather.”                                                                                                             ––U. B. Phillips

“The past is never dead.  It isn’t even past.”                                                                                                           —William Faulkner

“The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”     —Czelaw Milosz

Tim Tyson
Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mary D. Williams                                                                                                                         Adjunct Professor, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University                       (919) 305-5511

Phyllis Dooney                                                                                                                                                     MFA/EDA 2018 Candidate, Duke University                    

Office hours

Office hours (Professor Tyson): Tuesday afternoons, 3:00-6:00 and by appointment.  Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, 1317 W. Pettigrew Street, Durham, NC 27705  Meetings with Professor Williams or Phyllis Dooney are by appointment.

Course Format

      “The South in Black and White” is a lecture and discussion course open to students at Duke, Durham Tech, NCCU, NCSU, UNC, and to the larger community.  This is a class on public and civic life in the past, conducted as an expression of public and civic life in the present, and ultimately exploring the future of our past.  The unusual breadth of the course makes a quilt the most sensible metaphor for our approach to the subject matter; something useful and beautiful, patched together from many fabrics by a working community-in-progress. This course provides a kind of front porch on Southern history, where we will join those whom Zora Neale Hurston calls “the big picture talkers” and hear their stories.  We meet Tuesday evenings from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at Full Frame Theater (ATC) American Tobacco Campus Theater in downtown Durham.  ( There will be music, poetry, history, documents, stories, films and opportunities for discussion.  We will entertain guests—activists, musicians, scholars, writers.  We will explore a history as rich and complicated, painful and delightful as the South itself.


     Occasional articles, the syllabus and helpful information will be available on the course website.  The required texts below are at the campus bookstores at Durham Tech and at Duke, but it is faster and cheaper to get them online.

Mc Guire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance: a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power.             Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.                                                                                                                               Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name.                                                                                                   Cecelski, Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War                                Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Assignments, Expectations and Grading

     Students will be expected to attend all class meetings.  This is vital for a class that only meets 15 times.  Please do not forget to sign in so that you can get credit; you are responsible for signing yourself in each week. Participation grades include attendance and weekly written responses.   We read these week by week but do not formally grade them; we review each student’s complied responses at semester’s end for your participation grade.  Deep understanding of the reading and engagement with the discussion questions that our TA will post each week are the heart of the matter.

The participation grade accounts for 20% of the final grade.  A take-home essay that weaves together themes from all of the readings will be distributed on March 7 and due on March 28; these essays will account for 30% of the final grade.  A short research and analysis assignment (see below) due on April 4 will account for 10%. The final exam on Friday, May 5 from 7:00-10:00pm will require both objective mastery of the factual material, especially the reading, and an in-class essay, and will account for the remaining 40% of the final grade.


Every week we will open our time together with music.  Professor Williams, will both perform songs and also teach us songs.  By running this music through our bodies, we immerse ourselves in Southern culture, much the same as we do by reading history or analyzing poetry.  Please focus when the music begins.  Please note: These songs are as much a text for the course as any of the readings and the exams will reflect that fact.

Course Schedule

Week 1

January 17:  Introduction: What are History, Culture, Politics and the South?

Week 2

January 24: Southern Gumbo: Ralph Ellison’s Blues, Gospel and Jazz Impulses, “The Invisible Church,” and the Magnificent “Miscegenation” of Country Music                                                                                                                                                                                                    Assigned readings: Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion, 211-321; Tyson, “Creolization and Culture” , Werner, “Blues, Gospel and Jazz” Supplemental Reading: Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 142-156, all available on course website.

Assigned songs (available on Hank Williams songs: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Move It On Over,” “I Saw the Light.”  Charlie Pride songs:  “Anybody Goin’ To San Antone,” “Lovesick Blues,” “Roll On, Mississippi,” “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin.’”

Week 3

January 31: Abraham Galloway and the Race Rebel Tradition in Southern Politics                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Assigned reading: David S. Ceceslski, The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War.                    Q&A with David Cecelski (Tentative)

Week 4

February 7: “Fusion” Politics versus White Supremacy: 1898 and the Birth of Jim Crow

Assigned reading: Glenda E. Gilmore, “Murder, Memory and the Flight of the Incubus,” available on course website. Tyson, “Ghosts of 1898: Wilmington’s Race Riot and the Rise of White Supremacy,” Raleigh News & Observer, November 17, 2006. (Class Handout) “Nineteen Negroes Shot To Death,” New York Times, November 11, 1898. “The Carolina Race Riots,” New York Times, November 12, 1898. “Race Riots,” New York Times, November 13, 1898.  No Title-Wilmington, NC, New York Times, November 13, 1898, “To Suppress Race Wars,” New York Times, November 18, 1898, all available on course website. Assigned film: (Available on “The Third Reconstruction.”

Week 5

February 14: Blues, Gospel, and Jazz Impulses in the Age of Jim Crow

Assigned reading: Payne, I’ve Got the Light of Freedom, 1-28.  William Faulkner, “Dry September” and Richard Wright, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man,” both on course website. You may wish to start reading Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  “Without Sanctuary,”

In-class film: Bernice Johnson Reagon, “The Songs Are Free.”

Week 6

February 21: Blues, Gospel and Jazz in Southern Literature 

Assigned reading: Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Week 7

February 28: The African American Freedom Struggle and the Global South:  World War II, the Cold War, and the Struggle in Dixie

Assigned Reading” Glenda E. Gilmore, Defying Dixie, 346-444.  on website.  Payne, Light of Freedom 413-441.  Payne, Light of Freedom, 29-102.

Week 8

March 7: Emmett Till and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Assigned reading: Danielle McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street, xv-130. Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters, 120-205, on website.

(Take-home essay distributed)

Week 9

Spring Break: No Class March 14

Week 10

March 21: The Freedom Rides

Assigned reading: McGuire, Dark End of the Street, 156-173.  In-class film, Stanley Nelson, “Freedom Ride.”Midterm Assignment Due

Week 11   

March 28: The Sit-Ins, SNCC and Ella Baker

Assigned reading: Payne, Light of Freedom, 102-337.  McGuire, Dark End of the Street, 131-155. Tyson “’Give Light and the People Will Find a Way’: Ella Baker and Her Radical Democratic Vision for America.” both available on website.

Week 12- 

April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Politics of Mass Mobilization Assigned reading: McGuire, Dark End of the Street, 174-201.  Payne, Light of Freedom, 338-441.

Short Research and Analysis Assignment Due

Week 13

April 11: Black Power and White Backlash

Assigned reading: Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name.

Week 14

April 18: North Carolina in the Age of Black Power

Assigned reading: McGuire, Dark End of the Street, 201-233.

In class performance by Mike Wiley, play: “Blood Done Sign My Name.” (

Week 15

April 25   Fusion Possibilities in the Nuevo South

In-class film on Moral Monday movement.


FINAL EXAM: Friday, May 5 @ 7:00pm-10:00


Notes and Suggestions

Like physics or Shakespeare, historical understanding requires a great deal of hard labor, some of it boring memorization, like learning the table of elements for a Chemistry class, and other parts quiet contemplation, energetic debate, and moments of revelation.  This class will repay your labors by making the world (and your mind) a more interesting place to be, but it is a demanding discipline.  Do not expect this to be an easy class.  The reading load is heavy, which is the nature of history and culture.  You should always do the reading before the class for which it is assigned.  In-class writing exercises will require you to have done the reading.  Not doing the reading will cause you to do poorly on exams and get less from the course.

Please seek assistance from the teaching team at any time.  We want you to enjoy and to benefit from this course, and welcome your questions, suggestions, or concerns.  If questions are about the subject matter of the course, we encourage you to ask them in class, since your classmates will also benefit, but by all means ask.  In a class our size, with our range of students, any question that springs to your mind will be in the minds of several of your classmates; you should ask questions as much for them as for yourself.

Students are responsible for all material covered in the course, whether it is a film, a lecture, a song, a play or a reading.  The lectures build upon rather than duplicate the readings, so it is important to keep up.  It will also be impossible to pass the in-class written responses without having done the readings.

Please note that class will meet for a longer period on .  Mark your schedule now.

Woody Allen once said, “eighty per cent of success is showing up.”  It is important that you attend class meetings.  If you miss class, please get notes from someone in the class.

Never hesitate to raise your hand and offer a brief question or a comment during lecture; in fact, the success of this course depends upon your willingness to do so.  We may even call on you.  Please do not feel that we are picking on you; we intend no disrespect whatsoever.  This is intended to be a democratic conversation.

If you are not actually participating in the class session—asking a question, making a comment—please use good manners and do not disturb me or your classmates by chatting, reading the newspaper, etc.  Please turn off your cell phone before class. Please do not open your laptop during class; take notes in a notebook.  As long as you do not disrupt class or distract the instructor, please be at your liberty.

Short Research Assignment

Note due date: Tuesday, April 5.   Please FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY.  Got questions?  Please ask them in class so that I can respond to the whole class at once; many people will have the same questions or will be glad that someone else thought to ask.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, more than a hundred American cities burst into flame.  Washington, D.C. witnessed 700 cases of arson that night.  U.S. Army units in full combat gear took battle positions around the White House; the Capitol was ringed with barbed wire and machine gun nests.  King’s murder marked the nation as deeply as his life.

One purpose of this research assignment is to help us figure out what happened across the United States in the wake of the King assassination and what it meant for the country. A second point of this exercise is to allow you to look at the kinds of sources historians use to write about the past and to try your own hand at the historian’s craft.  This will give you a more sophisticated understanding of what you read in history books.  This is not a full-blown research paper and should only take you a few hours.

Here’s what you do.  Go find at least two accounts of what happened after Dr. King’s assassination.  We suggest that you try to use your hometown newspaper as one of the sources, though it is not absolutely necessary, if you have trouble finding it at the library or simply prefer a different one.  For the other source, you may be at your liberty.  We will reward particularly obscure or interesting sources.  (Was there a riot in Salt Lake City, Utah?  Did fraternities at Notre Dame celebrate?  You tell me.)  Get at least two written sources, preferably on events in the same place.  Magazines, newsletters from labor unions or churches, letters, editorials, radical Black Power publications or the local Republican Party or the women’s tea circle, as long as it is someone responding to the assassination or its aftermath.  The more interesting, the better.  Any place you like is fine.  PHOTOCOPY THE ARTICLES, MARKING THE NAME OF THE PAPER, THE DATE AND PAGE NUMBER ON THE CLIPPING, AND STAPLE IT TO YOUR PAPER.  PUT YOUR NAME ON THE ARTICLES, TOO.

You can also use one oral source, if you like: your own memory, if you are old enough to remember the King assassination, might be one.  Better still, you could call and interview an older friend or relative—someone old enough to remember what was happening—and then read the newspaper of the town they describe to you.  You could ask them for other people to call and interview.  You could try to interview someone with a particularly interesting point of view or one whose testimony might connect in some way with your written source.

Your paper should only be two or three pages long—900 words at most.  You do not need to compose a full written account of what happened in Amarillo or Evanston or Hanging Dog.  Summarize in one or two paragraphs what generally happened.  Then discuss in an informal way what we might be able to learn from the sources you have examined.  Is there anything about the news coverage that strikes you as odd or revealing or engaging?  Finally, write a closing paragraph or so about what the enduring meaning of these events might be—what you might focus on if you were a historian writing a book about the King assassination’s effect on America.
We will discuss the various things we have learned about history and historical sources from doing this assignment.  I think you’ll find it really interesting in the end, and we will have created an archive of sorts, and in future years of this course it can be expanded and used as a resource for still deeper understandings.


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