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History of the Black Experience

Thanks to all who attended this course. The playlist of classes can be viewed on YouTube. See below for more information archived from each class.

Leonard Moore headshot
Dr. Leonard Moore

For University of Texas Faculty and Staff
July 2–August 6, 2020
Thursdays, 10:00-11:30 a.m. (CDT) via Zoom

Instructor: Dr. Leonard N. Moore
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
George W. Littlefield Professor in American History

This abbreviated offering will look at the Black experience in America, with a particular emphasis on the period from 1865 to the present. Since we will have just six 90-minute sessions I’ve chosen to highlight the historical issues/themes that best connect to contemporary Black life in America. This will allow us to put recent events into a much-needed historical context.

The webinars will be conducted for registrants on ZOOM but will also be streamed at our YouTube channel if you have any trouble joining, or want to share with others: youtube.com/user/DDCEUT. It will appear at the top once each class begins and the stream is initiated. It will remain available and be captioned afterward.

History of the Black Experience, syllabus screenshot
Download the syllabus (PDF).


Books (all available via Kindle)

  • Lynch Law in Georgia by Ida B. Wells-Barnett
  • Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams
  • The Revolt of the Black Athlete: 50th Anniversary Edition by Harry Edwards

Thanks to UT Libraries for putting together this page of class resources available through the library.

Course Outline

July 2: Freedom? (1865-1877)

  • The Legacy of Slavery and White Supremacy
  • Making Freedom
  • Constitutional Amendments
  • The Criminalization of Black Life

Read: 1619 by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Watch: Black Codes (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

    • Laws to Criminalize Black Life
    • The Origins of Black Codes
    • Pig Laws and Imprisonment
    • New Systems of Exploitation

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

    1. Dr. Moore mentioned that he would like to draw our attention to the horrors of slavery. Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave contains an account of his beating following his kidnapping (p. 43-46 in the linked resource). Reflect upon how the competing accounts of truth, torture, and power in this violent scene compound Northrup’s horror.
    2. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act prohibited runaway slaves from claiming freedom once they reached the North, mandating that Northern marshals had to return runaway slaves to their owners or be subject to prosecution. This Act also states in Section 6: “In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence,” making it impossible for seized black people to assert their freedom. Reflect upon the linguistically roundabout ways this Act refers to “alleged” runaway slaves and their owners–“person held to service or labor,” “fugitive,” “person or persons to whom such service or labor may be due,” “claimant”–against its incredible specificity in ensuring that black people captured under this Act would surely be sent to the South without recourse to self-defense or sympathetic support.

July 9: The Nadir (1877-1940s)

  • The Necessity of Jim Crow
  • Convict Leasing
  • Sharecropping
  • Disenfranchisement
  • Lynching
  • Black Institution Building
  • The Lost Cause and Confederate Remembrance

Read: Lynch Law in Georgia by Ida B. Wells

Watch: Convict Leasing (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

    • What it Means to be a Convict
    • Reflections on Child Convict Labor
    • Reflections on Convict Leasing

Watch: Sharecropping (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

    • Sharecropping as Slavery
    • The Complication of Sharecropping

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

    1. Several times in this session, Dr. Moore highlighted the fuzzy distinction between complicity in and incitement of racist violence on the part of white institutional authority figures: the Compromise of 1877, convict leasing, and the culture of lynching. As Detective Louis P. Le Vin writes in his report on Sam Hose’s lynching (included with Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s report), “The Governor of the State acquiesced in the burning by refusing to prevent it.” Reflect upon the different meanings of inaction and silence in different racial contexts and perspectives: what are some motivations behind silence?
    2. To respond to proponents of the Lost Cause, Dr. Moore recommended pointing to what the seceding states said as they left the Union. In 1861, to convince the remaining eight Southern states to join the Confederate States of America, CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that the new government’s “foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” What benefit does the Lost Cause offer its proponents by denying a race as the central reason for the Southern states’ secession?

July 16: The Great Migrations and the Transformation of Urban America (1920-1965)

  • Push/Pull Migration Factors
  • White Flight and the Making of Modern Conservatism
  • The Making of a Black Underclass
  • Red-Lining and Housing Discrimination
  • Employment Bias
  • De-Facto School Segregation in the Urban North
  • Police Brutality

Read: “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Watch: Redlined: A Legacy of Housing Discrimination (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

    1. In this session, Dr. Moore discussed the impact of educational segregation in the North following the Great Migration, where some black schools were so overcrowded that students took turns attending half days of school. Placing this educational disparity next to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s report last year that the financial return on a college education has risen steadily over time (currently, 14%, while long-term return on stocks is 7%), reflect upon the compounding effects of practices like redlining and educational segregation on generational wealth-building for black Americans.
    2. In his discussion of redlining and subsequent gentrification, Dr. Moore used Austin to illustrate how long-time black residents are no longer able to afford their homes. Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a plan to end poverty in a generation, to undo the effects of redlining and educational segregation. Reflect upon Mayor Lightfoot’s plan and consider what recommendations you might make to address similar problems we face in Austin today.

July 23: The Civil Rights Movement (1954-1965)

  • Economic Roots of Black Protest
  • Cold War, Civil Rights
  • Violent White Resistance
  • The Debate over Violence vs. Non-Violence
  • Local Movements
  • Civil Rights Legislation

Read: Negroes with Guns by Robert F. Williams

Watch: Emmett Till 1955, from Eyes on the Prize (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

Watch: Fannie Lou Hamer Interview, 1965 (Slavery By Another Name, PBS), with subtitles

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

    1. In this session, we discussed the Civil Rights Movement and violent white resistance to the movement. Last week, Students for Fair Admissions filed a suit claiming that the University of Texas’ consideration of race in admissions violates the 14th Amendment. Reflect upon the ways that SFFA is using the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War and is behind landmark cases such as Brown v. Board, to claim that UT is discriminating against white students. What are some questions you’d like to ask the SFFA?
    2. Last weekend, a group of armed black protesters marched in Louisville seeking justice for Breonna Taylor’s death, for which no criminal charges have been filed. In Negroes with Guns, Robert Williams emphasizes that he believes in the right to arm for the purposes of self-protection. What would Williams have to say to/about the Louisville protesters?

July 30: The Black Power Movement (1965-1972)

  • Northern Urban Frustration
  • The Impact of the Nation of Islam
  • The Revolutionary Nature of the Black Panther Party
  • Black Power and the College Campus
  • The Rise of Black Political Power

Read: The Revolt of the Black Athlete by Harry Edwards

Watch“The Rank and File Women of the Black Panther Party and Their Powerful Influence,” by Janelle Harris 

Watch: Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

      1. Dr. Moore mentions in this session that he believes it’s easier to have open conversations about race in the South than in the North. Why do you think this may be? Reflect upon some strategies that can help all of us have more open conversations about race, both in the North and in the South.
      2. In this session, we explored the implications of the Black Panther Party’s prioritization of black masculinity to address the intersection of racism and poverty in the U.S. Look at this 2018 New York Times data visualization of black male social mobility. What factors could be driving this trend?

August 6: Black Life and the Conservative Counterrevolution (1980s-present)

  • The Privatization, Segregation, and End of Public Education
  • Gentrification
  • Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow
  • Voter Suppression in the Age of Trump

Watch: 13th

Read: Austin’s Gentrification Problem: How We Got Here

Read: “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander

Read: “They Don’t Really Want Us to Vote,” in the New York Times 

Class Recordings

Questions for Reflection

    1. In this session, Dr. Moore argues that current standardized tests primarily measure cultural intelligence rather than predict college academic success. We see in this article in The Atlantic that the University of Texas instituted standardized test score requirements for admissions shortly after Brown v. Board with the implied effect of excluding black students. In the absence of standardized test scores, what are some effective ways that universities can assess an applicant’s likelihood of future success?
    2. In talking about what black students gain by attending HBCUs, Dr. Moore draws a distinction between value and return on investment. Is it possible that the value of an HBCU experience could impact the return on investment for black college students?