An Activist History Syllabus

Week 1 – What is activist history?

Keri Leigh Merritt, Foreword: “Transform the Profession,” xiii-xvii in Demand the Impossible.

Horne and Wuertenberg, “Introduction: Doing Activist History,” xiii-xvii in Demand the Impossible.

Karl Marx, “Theses On Feuerbach.”

Week 2 – In the beginning — American origin stories.

Nathan Wuertenberg, “This Really is Your America,” 23-36 in Demand the Impossible.

James Baldwin, “Unnameable Objects, Unspeakable Crimes.”

David Silverman, “Racial Walls,” in Anglicizing America (2015).

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President.”

Assignment: Discuss why our national origin stories are so important. Create a short video explaining their relevance to us today and post it to the class blog.

Week 3 – The price of giving — Poverty and systems of relief.

Thomas Barber, “From Moral to Political Economy,” 185-199 in Demand the Impossible.

Bruce Dorsey, Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City, 11-49.

Daniel Zamora, “The Case Against a Basic Income.”

Eric Firth, “Charity or Justice? Pope Francis Revisits Liberation Theology.

Patrick Stall, “Seize the Charities.”

Week 4 – Policing Blackness — Race and power in the U.S.

Sarah Senette, “Ferray vs. Pompeyo the Free Black,” 55-68.

American Police, Throughline.

Department of Justice, Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, 1-16.

Paul Butler, “When Black America Was Pro-Police.”

Ronald Wright, “Prosecutor Institutions and Incentives.”

Stephen Thaman, “Fines and Repression: Penal Orders and the Saint Louis Blues.”

Week 5 – Mental health

Jade Shepherd, “Treating Mental Illness in Victorian Britain,” 141-155 in Demand the Impossible.

Laura Horne, “Racism is Making Us Sick.”

Norm Ornstein, “How to Fix a Broken Mental-Health System.”

Rupa Jose and John Hipp, “Mental Illness as an Ecological Factor of Neighborhood Crime.”

Assignment: Read and prepare to discuss student stories from the Active Minds BlogClass will apply readings to brainstorm policy solutions for mental wellbeing. Write up a short 500-word reflection on the class blog.

Week 6 – Public health

Kathleen Brian, “Inheriting Expulsions from the Insurance Industry,” 157-174 in Demand the Impossible.

Tim Wise, “Racism, Discrimination, and Healthcare,” in Colorblind (2010).

Karen Rowlingson, “Does Income inequality Cause Health and Social Problems?, “Inequality and Health.”

Ezra Klein, “Is Singapore’s “Miracle” Health Care System the Answer for America?

Week 7 – Race and American urbanity

Kyla Sommers, “Hands Off DC,” 39-53 in Demand the Impossible.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations.”

Anthony Bayani Rodriguez, “Food Insecurity & the Revolutionary Democracy of Urban Food Sovereignty Struggles in the Early 21st Century.”

Assignment: Pick a local monument or government building and do a 5 minute presentation on its relationship to the history of race. What message is its design and use intended to send? Then write a brief 750-word blog post on the class blog incorporating your research and peer feedback on the monument or building.

Week 8 – Capitalism, work, and rights

William Horne, “Bring Back Our Jobs,” 125-140 in Demand the Impossible.

Michael Denning, “Wageless Life.”

Joelle Renstrom, “Should Robots Have Rights?

Joanna Bryson, “Robots Should Be Slaves

Week 9 – Gender and intersectional inequalities

bell hooks, “Understanding Patriarchy.

Kimberly Springer, “Et tu, Public Radio?” and “The Design of the Everyday Diversity Industrial Complex.”

C. Chic Smith, “Business as Usual.”

Lauren Angel, “Not another Weinstein: Peter Martins, Ballet, and the Reluctance to Speak.”

Week 10 – Property, policy, and power

Tessa Davis, “Taxing Values,” 175-184 in Demand the Impossible.

Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking Recognition.”

Marshall Steinbaum, “The Tax Debate We Need.”

Emma Goldman, “What I Believe.”

Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, “Manifesto of the Communist Party.”

Huey Newton & Bobby Seale, “The Ten-Point Program.”

Assignment: Write a 1000-word piece on the class blog on the optimal uses of wealth and power. Be sure to incorporate the readings, points from discussion, and your own thoughts.

Week 11 – Gun violence

Kathleen Brown, “Muskets, Manhood, and Honor,” 174-185, in Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs (1996).

Patrick Sauer, “The Story of the First Mass-Murder in US History.

David Silverman, “Epilogue,” in Thundersticks (2016).

John Donohue, “How US Gun Control Compares to the Rest of the World.”

Jill Lepore, “Battleground America: One Nation Under the Gun.”

Week 12 – Energy, the environment, and how our story ends?

Tom Foley, “Energy and the Trump Administration,” 115-124 in Demand the Impossible.

Nicolas Robins, “Connecting the Drops,” ch. 4 in Mercury, Mining, and Empire (2011).

Kent Lightfoot, “European Colonialism and the Anthropocene,” Anthropocene (December 2013), 101-115.

U.N. Statement on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples.

Week 13 – How we remember history

Douglas McRae, “Monuments, Urbanism, and Power in Urban Spaces,” 71-88 in Demand the Impossible.

David Rotenstein, “Producing and Protesting Invisibility in Silver Spring, Maryland,” 89-114 in Demand the Impossible.

Lucy Ferriss, “The Language of Enslavement.

Gabriella Angeloni, Alexander Burns, and James Feenstra, “The Barton Lies.”

Assignment: Brainstorm ways to create a more diverse commemorative landscape. Write a short, 500-word reflection on a local historical figure who ought to be remembered in a public space and the importance of these figures to public discourse.

Week 14: Back to the future: history and strategies of change

Ben Feldman, “Be Realisitic: Demand the Impossible!,” 3-21 in Demand the Impossible.

Cory Young, “Policing Patriotism and the Responsibilities of Activist History,” 201-206 in Demand the Impossible.

Yascha Mounk, “America Is Not a Democracy.”

Final project: Write a 2000-word essay on the class blog applying a topic from the course to a contemporary issue. Be sure to explain how a knowledge of the history behind the topic might inform the way we approach it.