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The American Civil Rights Movement


Admission requirements

Acceptance into M.A. programme


This course examines the struggle waged by black Americans and their white allies against white supremacy and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. Focusing on the southern states, students will examine how the civil rights movement used non-violent protest, legal challenges, and armed self-defence to advance its goals: the abolition of racial segregation, protection of the right to vote, and the establishment of a society based upon freedom and equality. They will also study white opposition to civil rights, and the and the actions of the federal government (president, Congress, Supreme Court, FBI) in obstructing and assisting the movement. The leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. forms a central theme, but students will also consider his competitors and critics. Using documentary sources and secondary works, students will gain an understanding of the dynamics, achievements and limitations of the civil rights movement.

Course objectives

The participant will acquire a good understanding of the debates regarding the American civil rights movement, an insight into historiographical controversies in this field, and gain research abilities in primary sources, as well as experience in presentation and discussion in expert groups.

Time Table

See course-schedule

Mode of Instruction

Research seminar

Assessment method

Entry exam; oral seminar presentation; class participation: 25%
Long essay: (max. 7.500 words): 75%



Reading list

  • Robert J. Cook, Sweet Land of Liberty? The African-American Freedom Struggle in the Twentieth Century. Longman, 1998.

  • Clive Webb, ed., Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 019517786X

  • Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. University of Georgia Press, 2001

  • Glenn Eskew, But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle. University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

  • Hugh Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America. Da Capo Press, 1996. ISBN 0201483416


See enrolment-procedure

Contact Information

With the tutor: Prof. dr. A. Fairclough


This seminar is a one-semester course that consists of twelve meetings of two hours. Students are expected to both prepare for and participate in every class. Attendance is compulsory