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American Slavery

Spring 2007
Dr. Michelle Kuhl                                                                     
U. of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Office:  Clow Faculty 307                                                         
Office Hours:  MWF 3-4 


Course Description

This course will begin with the historiography of slavery.  Then we will turn to the the culture and history of Africa.  We will pay particular attention to why and how Africans participated in the Atlantic slave trade.  Once we turn our focus to America, we will learn about regional variations in slavery.   From the tobacco culture of Virginia through the rice swamps of South Carolina and the cotton fields of Mississippi, you will investigate how land, work, society, and culture all grew and intertwined together.  By studying slave narratives, we will attempt to understand the complex power relationship between masters and slaves.  We will also explore how slavery affected the gender identities and sexual practices of all Southerners, white and black.  By comparing our knowledge of African culture with slave practices in America, we will examine the transmission of African culture to America, and debate the extent of its contribution to African American culture.   Throughout the course, we will ponder the nature of resistance to oppression, and look at the varied ways slaves maintained their humanity in the face of inhuman circumstance.

The senior seminar is restricted to senior history majors and is intended to be both a challenge and an opportunity.  Up till now you have largely been a consumer of history:  that is, someone who reads and listens to other people’s interpretations of history.  Now, with all your requirements under your belt and (presumably) a working knowledge of 19th century America, you will be a producer of history.  You will examine primary documents, analyze them, and write a 15-20 page paper that argues and defends your interpretation of history.  The skills you have learned in previous history courses should help you to meet this challenge.


Course Objectives

  • To gain a basic knowledge of American Slavery
  • To understand some of the major debates historians have about aspects of slavery.
  • To engage in a high level of scholarly discussion during class meetings.
  • To strengthen research skills by finding primary and secondary sources on a particular topic.
  • To produce history.


Required Reading

At Campus Bookstore:

  • Ira Berlin  Many Thousands Gone
  • John Blassingame, The Slave Community
  • Slave Narratives
  • Rampolla  A Pocket Guide to Writing in History


On Traditional Reserve:

  • Hine  The African American Odyssey vol.1 (2 copies)


On E-Reserve:

  • Franklin “The History of African American History”
  • Phillips  American Negro Slavery
  • Stampp Peculiar Institution
  • Rawick  From Sundown to Sunup
  • White  Ar’n’t I a Woman
  • Stevenson  Life in Black and White
  • African Americans in the U.S. Economy  ch.36-38



  • Floris Barnett Cash  “Kinship and Quilting:  An Examination of an African-American Tradition”  The Journal of Negro History, 1995


Course Requirements

  • Students are expected to attend class.  See attendance policy for more details.
  • Students should complete the day’s required reading, and come to class prepared to discuss the reading.
  • There will be one short historiographical paper.
  • There will be one exam with short identifications and essays.
  • There will be one research paper with many stages:  proposal, outline, rough draft, peer reivew, final draft, and oral presentation.  It is graded holistically.
  • There may be additional assignments or in-class exercises


Attendance Policy

Attendance records will be kept in this class.  To have an absence excused, you must write down your name, the date of class you missed, and attach appropriate documentation.  Bring those items to the next class period, and turn them in to me after class.  Only the following reasons and documents will be accepted:

  1. Medical illness.  A Doctor’s note testifying to the date and seriousness of incident.
  2. Family death.  I must receive:  the name of the deceased, the name of the funeral parlor, and your parent’s address so that I may send condolences.
  3. Religious holiday.  You must have a note by February 10 from your faith leader verifying your good standing in a faith community and all the dates of conflict in the semester.
  4. University related event such as soccer game, debate tournament, etc.  Bring in the schedule at the beginning of the semester.


Office Visits

Professor Kuhl holds office hours every week MWF from 3-4 and by appointment.  Please feel free to drop by to ask questions about the readings, clarify points from lecture, challenge my interpretation of history, or hold other sorts of intellectual conversations.

Policy on Scholastic Dishonesty

Students who violate University rules on scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from The University. Since such dishonesty harms the individual, all students and the integrity of The University; policies on scholastic dishonesty will be strictly enforced.   For more information on The University policy see



Course grades will be determined as follows:

  • Class Participation  20%
  • Short paper and Homework exercises  10%
  • Research Paper  50%
  • Exam  20%


Value of a Liberal Arts Education

One of the goals of a liberal arts program is to produce educated people, not just people trained to do one sort of task.  Ask yourself:  “Would I rather be well-trained, or well-educated?”  This history course can help you become well-educated in two ways.  One, it can provide you with a basis of knowledge about how race and slavery helped to shape this country.  So when you hear news reports about a specific region of the country, such as New Orleans, or about racial tensions, such as the fractured response to Hurricane Katrina, your mastery of the economy, culture, and race relations of that region from the 17th thru the 19th century will give you a solid foundation from which to analyze and understand the current tragedy.  That sort of knowledge is timely, and will help you better understand this country.  The second way this course will further your education is by honing critical thinking skills.  Making sense of history involves looking for patterns, learning to read and interpret documents, imagining a different sort of world, and thinking about the choices people have made.  Those skills are timeless, and will serve you well in whatever career you choose.

**All items on syllabus are subject to change at the discretion of the instructor**



Week 1

mon. 1/29          Introduction

weds. 1/31        Rampolla ch.1, 3b-5; On e-reserve:  Franklin, Phillips

fri. 2/2              Rampolla ch.4; On e-reserve:  Stampp, Rawick

Week 2

mon. 2/5           On e-reserve:  White, Stevenson

weds. 2/7          Short Paper Due

Rampolla ch.2, 3b-2

fri. 2/9              On reserve:  Hine ch.1-2

Week 3

mon. 2/12          Countryman:  Berlin     

weds. 2/14        Countryman:  Washington, Higginbotham

fri. 2/16             Countryman:  Jordan/Morgan

Week 4

mon. 2/19          Berlin Prologue and Section One

weds. 2/21        Library Instruction:  Meet in the library lobby in front of the glass                                                 case.  Bring 1 or 2 topics to research.  Read Rampolla ch.5, App.B

fri. 2/23             Narrative:  Olaudah Equiano

Week 5

mon. 2/26          Berlin Section Two

weds. 2/28        Narrative:  Sojourner Truth      

fri. 3/2              Berlin Section Three

Week 6

mon. 3/5           Narrative:  Sojourner Truth

weds. 3/7          Blassingame ch.1-2

Rampolla ch.6, ch.7a, 7b, 7c

fri. 3/9              Proposals Due

Week 7

mon. 3/12          Blassingame ch.3-5

weds. 3/14        Blassingame  ch. 6-8

fri. 3/16 Narrative:  Nat Turner

Week 8 Spring Break!!

Week 9

mon. 3/26          Narrative:  Harriet Jacobs        

weds. 3/28        Narrative:  Henry Bibb

fri. 3/30             Meet at Paine Art Museum to view Gee’s Bend Quilts

JSTOR:  Floris Barnett Cash  “Kinship and Quilting”

Week 10

mon. 4/2           Outlines Due; Wm & Ellen Craft

weds. 4/4          Narrative:  Frederick Douglass first 1/2

fri. 4/6             Finish Douglass

Week 11

mon. 4/9           Exam

weds. 4/11        No class meeting – work on your papers!

fri. 4/13             No class meeting

Week 12

mon. 4/16          No class meeting

weds. 4/18        No class meeting

fri. 4/20             Rough Drafts due

Week 13

mon. 4/23          Rough Drafts returned;

weds. 4/25        No class meeting

fri. 4/27

Week 14

mon. 4/30          Peer Review – bring in current draft

weds. 5/2          

fri. 5/4

Week 15

mon. 5/7         

weds. 5/9          Final Drafts Due

fri. 5/11             E-reserve reading on reparations

by linnm37 — last modified Jun 08, 2012 01:57 PM