Civil Rights and Social Movements in U.S. History
General Catalog Course Title:
Civil Rights and Social Movements in U.S. History
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Spring 2014
Spring 2013
Course Thread: 
Law & Humanities
Instructor: 
Cardyn, Lisa

This course will examine the diverse movements for equality that have transformed the political, legal, social, and cultural landscape of the United States from approximately 1940 to the present. Unlike many standard textbooks that portray a single coherent "Civil Rights Movement" aimed at eliminating race-based discrimination against African Americans, we will begin with the premise that there have been, indeed still are, multiple overlapping movements striving to attain equal rights for citizens irrespective of such real or perceived characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual identity. During the early portion of the semester we will look closely at the arguably archetypal struggle for civil rights undertaken on behalf of Americans of African descent, taking a backward glance at its antebellum origins and early twentieth-century manifestations before delving into the postwar decades, when the scope of the movement expanded dramatically and some of its most enduring achievements were realized. Next we will turn our attention to some of the other landmark civil rights movements of the mid-to-late twentieth century, notably those seeking to advance the causes of women's, GLBT, Native American, Asian American, and Chicano rights, which will be assessed in conjunction with the roughly contemporaneous student, communitarian, and antiwar movements. Towards the end of the semester we will broaden our discussion to include the equality strivings of economically oppressed and disabled citizens, as well as emergent demands for the elimination of discriminatory treatment of individuals on the basis of appearance, be it the "correction"of congenitally intersexed bodies or the similarly subjective attributions of ugliness and beauty that are often silently determinative of relative status. We will conclude with a retrospective and prospective assessment of what has been and remains to be accomplished in the name of equality across all of these domains. Our inquiry throughout will be both comparative and interdisciplinary, drawing on a range of historical writings complemented by illustrative primary sources meant to convey the richness and intricacy of the sociocultural and politicolegal contexts  in which these events unfolded.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.