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Between White and Black in American History: New Insights From a Mixed Perspective


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


In the United States concepts such as ‘racial mixing’, ‘mixedness’, ‘the colour bar’, and ‘the one drop rule’ were part of endless debates about ‘black’ and ‘white’ and mixed relationships. In 1967, the court case of Loving vs the State of Virginia led to a triumph for the Civil Rights Movement. The ‘black’ Mildred Loving and the ‘white’ Richard Loving were incarcerated because they violated the rules regarding mixed relationships. A judge of the American supreme court rejected the sentence on appeal and with that act he ended the racial limitations on mixed relations. In this seminar, we are going to examine mixed relations in the US, the relations that were considered ‘mixed’ and by whom that judgment was done.

Besides that we are looking at the phenomenon ‘passing’, through which people were categorised as ‘black’, but who were passing for ‘white’ and to ‘masquerading’, what means that you hide your real identity with a particular goal in mind. A well-known example of this last phenomenon is the controversy around the white Rachel Dolezal in June 2015, who represented herself as an African American woman and even could become president of a NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of coloured people) -chapter. She became the target of various threats after her white parents had revealed her true identity. Eventually Dolezal declared in a public television-interview in November 2015 that she was born white but identified as black.

Furthermore we are looking at ‘othering’, which means thinking in ‘we’ vs. ‘them’, and how in that process gender, religion, class and sexuality play a role. We are comparing the ideas around ’miscegenation’ in the US with similar ones in the European colonies, which connects the course to the theme of Seminar 2 ‘Global Connections’. Questions are covered such as: How boundaries were drawn between population groups in the US and overseas, by whom these boundaries were drawn, what was accepted and what not? Next to scholarly articles we are using newspaper articles, novels and movies.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) divise and conduct research of limited scope, including
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 3) reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;

  • 4) write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the first year Themacolleges, including
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 5) participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 6) The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation Social History: of the explanation(s) of differences between groups from a comparative perspective (local, regional or international; of class, gender, ethnicity and religion) and the role of individuals, groups, companies and (intenational) organisations (including churches) in processes of inclusion and inclusion from ca. 1500 until the present day.

  • 7) The student has knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically in the specialisation Social History: of the application of concepts from the social sciences and the acquisition of insight in the interaction in social processes ased on research in both qualitative and quantitative sources.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

  • 8) The student acquires an overview of the consequences and causes of racial separation, racial limitations on mixed relations and emancipation in American history with references to European colonial systems.

  • 9) The student acquires insight into the development of theories and concepts such as ‘passing’, ‘mixedness’, ‘masquerading’ and ‘othering’.

  • 10) The student acquires experience in giving a joint presentation about the given literature in the first six weeks of the course.

  • 11) The student acquires experience in individually presenting his or her own research about a self-chosen case from American history or in comparative perspective with a European colonial case.


The timetable is available on the BA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (attendance required)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending class: 2 hours x 12 weeks= 24 hours.

  • Preparation tutorials: 10 hours x 12 weeks= 120 hours,
    Divided in: reading literature for six weeks (appr. 100 pages per week) = 100 hours.
    Preparing a joint presentation (with two or three people)= 10 hours.
    Preparing an individual presentation= 10 hours.

  • Paper: writing 6000 words and reading appr. 500 pages = 136 hours.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 6000 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 2-4, 7

  • Oral presentation (both individually and jointly)
    measured learning objectives: 1, 3-4, 10

  • Participation
    measured learning objectives: 1, 5

  • Assignment: 6 x criticial literature reviews of appr. 1000 words
    measured learning objectives: 3, 6-9


  • Written paper: 60%

  • Oral presentations (individual): 10%

  • Oral presentation (joint): 10%

  • Particiation: 20 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • The course outline

  • Seminar readings (or links to the literature)

  • Submission of assignments.

Reading list

  • A. Piper, "Passing for White, Passing for Black", in: Adrian Piper, Out of Order, Out of Sight, Volume I: Selected Essays in Meta-Art 1968-1992 (Cambridge 1996) (available online)

  • Further reading will be announced during the course


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Mw. E.W. Rosen Jacobson MA