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The American Civil Rights Movement


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


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 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

Students will acquire a good understanding of the debates regarding the American civil rights movement, gain insight into the relationship between politics and popular protest, and develop the ability to analyze primary sources.


See timetable

Mode of instruction

Research seminar

Assessment method

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


Blackboard gives access to syllabus, bibliography, documentary sources, and additional texts.

Reading list

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

  • Clive Webb, ed., Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction (2005)

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

  • Hugh Pearson, The Shadow of the Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America (2005)


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte

More information in Dutch can be found here
Information in English can be obtained via email.


Email: Prof.dr. A. Fairclough