The way you demonstrate our course outcomes, and the way you earn a grade, is by completing our course assignments. Each assignment is designed to provide you an opportunity to demonstrate your evolving understanding and ability with respect to one or more of our course outcomes. And so, to better understand the goal of each assignment, consult the course outcomes.


1. “Who Are YOU?” (5 points).
Our first assignment is short biography to tell me a little bit about yourself. Don’t worry about the poetics of it. I’m more interested in the content. Who are you? Or, in the words of famed organizer Ella Baker—Who are your people? Tell me a little something about where you come from, what frames your perspective and values, and what brings you to our class.

Unlike all other assignments in our class, this assignment will be turned in via email. Type your response into the body of an email and send it to Please write “Who are YOU?” in the subject line. It is due no later than Friday, January 20th at 12:00 noon.


2. Discussion Participation (5 points; 15 points total).
An evolving opportunity designed for you to demonstrate your skills and understandings with respect to Outcome 1.

Our class is a collective. As such, we will seek to learn from and with each other on a regular basis. We mostly do this through weekly discussions based on the readings. Every Tuesday (unless otherwise specified), we will have a structured discussion on the readings. Each is an opportunity for you to provide evidence of your abilities with respect to our first course outcome.

Our discussions require you to come to class prepared in three ways: 1) by doing the reading; 2) by preparing to verbally analyze the readings; and 3) by preparing and printing out THREE to FIVE analytical questions or discussion prompts related to the readings.

Your questions/prompts should be answerable with the text, rooted to specifics, and interesting to you. I will collect your prompts even when you have not been selected to participate in the discussion. Because these are your preparation for the collective work that will happen in that day’s class, I will only accept printed prompts brought to class (or, in uncommon cases, digital submissions made via email before the start of discussion).

On the day of our discussion, SIX to SEVEN students will be chosen at random to discuss the readings in a seminar format in front of the rest of the class. Over the course of the semester each of you will participate in our seminar THREE times. Each time you are selected to participate in the discussion (and turn in your typed/printed questions/prompts) you will receive up to FIVE final grade points. If you are selected and are not present you will receive an automatic late deduction of 10% the next time you are selected to participate (unless I was informed of your absence in advance, or it was unavoidable).

The discussion is a chance to engage with other selected students by sharing our collective understanding of the readings; emphasizing what is important or essential to know from the readings; and connecting the readings to larger themes. (See Appendix 1 of our syllabus for more advice.) While it might seem like not being selected means you have nothing to do, nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the hardest skill to master in academia is the skill of active listening. When you are not selected to participate in the discussion, your obligation is to learn from it by immersing yourself in the words and ideas of your classmates. This requires your prepared attention, as well as your active critical thinking skills.


3. Document Analysis Exercises (10 points each; 20 points total).
A recurring opportunity designed for you to demonstrate your skills and understandings with respect to Outcome 2.

Twice during the semester, you will write a short (2-3 page) analysis of a historical primary source. Your goal is to show how the document illuminates some aspect of the past, with an awareness of the larger context of which the document is a part. It should be written in accordance with our “Guidelines for Written Assignments” (Appendix 2).

Your writing should do three things: 1) identify the document and its larger context; 2) briefly summarize its content and purpose (what it “says” or “does”); and then 3) present an analysis of what the source can teach us about its particular past. This last step is the heart of the exercise. It requires you to engage with the text to show (or “substantiate”) how you arrive at your conclusions.

This is NOT a paper. It’s a write-up of your historical meaning-making skills. Your goal should be to present an analysis of the document by focusing on one or two things we can learn about the past from it. Quotes and specific engagement with the text are the proof of your argument and analysis. A successful write-up also engages the text empathically, that is, on the author’s own terms. Evaluate it as someone else’s “truth.” Frame your analysis by exploring how it gives us a glimpse into how others made sense of their time and place, instead of judging it from your position in the present.

  • CE1 Exercise (due January 26)
  • CE2 Exercise (due February 23)


4. In-Class Tests (15 points each; 30 points total)
A recurring opportunity designed for you to demonstrate your skills and understandings with respect to Outcome 1.

Two in-class tests will assess your historical knowledge based on our readings, films, and lectures.

  • Test 1 (March 9)
  • Test 2 (April 27)


5. Teaching the Freedom Struggle (30 points total).
A creative opportunity designed for you to demonstrate your skills and understandings with respect to Outcome 3.

Our “Teaching the Freedom Struggle” project is a cumulative assignment, one we’ll build (and revise) in a series of assignments that will find a more developed expression at the end of the semester. At heart, it will harness your skills of historical research and analysis while giving you a chance to teach high school-level students about mid-20th century racial movements.

STEP 1 of the project asks you to identify TWO historical primary documents related to two different movements; and design a list of analytical questions to frame an inquiry of those documents, in relation to each other. The documents must relate to two distinct movements led by “nonwhite” people in the era.

STEP 2 requires you to compose a cogent and comparative analysis of the primary documents in relation to the era. Your analysis will be exactly like the Document Analysis assignments you’ve already done, except this time you’ll be analyzing two documents which you selected yourself. Because your writing should be meant for a typical high school audience, you should employ a radically-accessible diction and syntax.

STEP 3 is your finished project, a revision of the previous assignments packaged together for presentation online as a teaching activity for a high school classroom. A detailed assignment sheet will be passed out in class describing the specifications for this and the other steps. Each will be turned in via Sakai.

  • STEP 1: 10 points total (due March 23)
  • STEP 2: 10 points total (due April 13)
  • STEP 3: 10 points total (due May 11; May 3 for graduating seniors)