FYSM 1405C: The Long Civil Rights Movement
Fall 2022-Winter 2023

Professor Pamela J. Walker

photo of black women marching for desegregation of schoolsAre you tired of being in front of a screen? Are you hoping to collaborate with other students, ask big historical questions, and figure out university life?

This course uses Reacting to the Past (RTTP) games to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and develop intellectual and academic skills. Students will take on historical roles but unlike those in a play, there is no fixed script or outcome. Students will be obliged to adhere to the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they have been assigned to play and they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively, in papers, speeches, or other public presentations. Students must also pursue a course of action they think will help them win the game. Students will collaborate and compete with others. They will work to understand historical documents and to develop their response to the central problems of the game. Together they may create debates, engage in skullduggery, or plot to sabotage their opponents. After the game, we will look at how the historical events differed from the way the game unfolded and reflect on the big historical questions we asked.

This seminar will introduce students to historical thinking and help them to develop skills in persuasive speech, research, critical analytical thought and academic writing. These key skills are not only fundamental to success in university but are also essential to a successful professional career.

Class Format: This seminar will be taught in person with a maximum of thirty students.

We will explore the long history of American racial segregation and the activists, movements and campaigns that challenged this injustice.

This course begins in the early twentieth century when urbanization, racial segregation, industrialization and immigration shaped American life. We will learn about the campaigns against racial injustice and the many ideas and strategies that shaped these movements.

In the second half of the course, students will examine the young people of the 1960s who brought race segregation to an end by defying its laws and conventions. They challenged southern law by seeking admission to all white public universities, asking to be served at segregated lunch counters, and creating their own political organizations. They faced mob violence, jail and even death. What inspired people to challenge the social order and risk their own lives? We will read primary source texts, articles and a book about these events. Students will discuss, debate, and write about the ideas and challenges of this time and reflect on how those events shape our understanding of the world today.

Assessment: Students will be graded on their participation in the historical games and class discussions. They will submit frequent short essays that will examine key historical questions. The papers will require independent research using techniques that will be taught in class. Students will also write longer essays on topics of their choice. There is no examination in this course.

Texts will include:

Mary Jane Tracey Greenwich Village 1913
Timothy Tyson Blood Done Signed My Name

Read about this unique course:


Student comments about this course:

My experience with Reacting to the Past was truly one I will carry throughout the remainder of my undergraduate studies. Reacting to the Past was a great introduction to the exploration of historical arguments through an interactive game, which gave me the opportunity to develop analytical and communication skills while creating personal relationships with my other classmates. This experience taught me to use skills I didn’t know I had and is something that continues to generate interest from employers when listed on my resume.

I took The Long Civil Rights Movement FYSM and I can confidently say this class was beneficial in many ways. Not only did I make amazing friends because of the formulation and size of class, but I also learned valuable skills that helped me excel in every course. I highly recommend. PS: it’s very fun if you get into it.

Questions? Email pamela.walker@carleton.ca