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SLAVERY IN U.S.

POPULAR CULTURE
HIST 7399-501 – Fall 2009

Professor Natalie J. Ring


Phone: 972-883-2365
Email: nring@utdallas.edu
Office: JO 5.424
Office Hours: Thurs. 3-5 p.m. or by appointment

Course Description
This course will explore the cultural production and reproduction of images of slavery in American popular
culture with a focus on four historical periods: the antebellum era, the New South, the Civil Rights
Movement/post-Vietnam War era, and contemporary America. The class will pay particular attention to the
politics of historical memory and how it has shaped both white and black understandings of the African-
American experience in slavery.

Required Texts
The following books can be purchased at the UTD bookstore or at Off Campus Books.

David W. Blight, A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom Including Their Own
Narratives of Emancipation
Frederick Douglass, ed. by David Blight, Autobiography of Frederick Douglass
Kenneth Greenberg, Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory
James Oliver Horton and Lois Horton, eds., Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of Memory
Harriet Jacobs (ed. by Jean Fagan Yellin), Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Peter Kolchin, American Slavery 1619-1877
Alice Randall, Wind Done Gone
Annette Gordon Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: An American Controversy
Harriet Beecher Stowe (ed. by Jean Fagan Yellin) Uncle Tom’s Cabin
William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner

Required Articles/Documents
Most of the following articles/documents can be accessed on electronic reserves. You will need a password to
access reserves which I will email you. Some of the articles/documents will be sent to you via email as a PDF
file and will be noted in the syllabus as (PDF). There are two PDF files that you can download by website and
print for your self during the week we discuss Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Please print out all of
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the assignments and store them in a 3 ring binder. This will make it easier for you to refer to and examine the
material in class during our discussion. It is up to you to remember to bring your 3-ring binder to class each
time.

*Ira Berlin, “American Slavery in History and Memory and the Search for Social Justice, Journal of American
History 90 (March 2004): 1251-68

*“Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: A Brief Report”


http://www.monticello.org/plantation/hemingscontro/hemings-jefferson_contro.html

*Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings


http://www.monticello.org/plantation/hemingscontro/hemings_report.html
(download and print out the PDF file at this website for your binder)

*Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, “Jefferson-Hemmings Scholars Commission Report on the Jefferson-
Hemings Matter”
http://www.tjheritage.org/documents/SCReport1.pdf
(download and print out this PDF file for your binder)

*“ Robert Toll, “The Evolution of the Minstrel Show” in Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-
Century America, (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 25-57

* Eric Lott, “Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culture,” in Annmarie Bean and
James V. Hatch, eds., Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Black-Faced Minstrelsy
(Wesleyan University, 1994), 3-34.

*Alexander Saxton, “Blackface Minstrelsy,” in Annmarie Bean and James V. Hatch, eds., Inside the Minstrel
Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Black-Faced Minstrelsy (Wesleyan University Press, 1994), p. 67-85
(PDF)

*David Roediger, “White Skins, Black Masks: Minstrelsy and White Working-Class Formation Before the
Civil War,” in The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Verso,
Revised/Expanded Version, 2007).

*Marcus Gilmer, “The Controversy of Race in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled” www.notcoming.com

*Cynthia Fuchs, “Review of Bamboozled” n.d.


http://www.popmatters.com/film/reviews/b/bamboozled.shtml

*Cynthia Fuchs, “Interview With Spike Lee: Writer/Director/Co-Producer of Bamboozled, n.d.


http://www.popmatters.com/film/reviews/b/bamboozled.shtml

*David D. Kirkpatrick, “Court Halts Book Based on ‘Gone With the Wind,’” New York Times, April 21, 2001

*Lawrence Lessig, “Let the Stories Go,” New York Times, April 30, 2001

*Laura Miller, “Mammy’s Revenge,” Salon.com, May 2, 2001

*Michiko Kakutani, “A CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Within its Genre, A Takeoff on Tara Gropes For a Place,”
New York Times, May 5, 2001
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* Letter, “Parody or Plagiarism?” New York Times, May 11, 2001

* Lynn Casmier-Paz, “Heritage, Not Hate?: Collecting Black Memorabilia,” Southern Cultures 9 (Spring
2003), 43-61.

*M. M. Manring, “Aunt Jemima Explained: The Old South, the Absent Mistress, and the Slave in the Box,”
Southern Cultures 2 (Fall 1996), 19-44

* Edward C. Campbell Jr., “The South as National Epic, 1939-1941, Gone With the Wind,” in The Celluloid
South, University of Tennessee Press, 1981, p. 118-140

*“David Sleznick’s Film is World’s Greatest,” Hollywood Spectator, Dec. 23, 1939

*Carlton Moss, “An Open Letter to Mr. Selznick,” Daily Worker, Jan. 9, 1940

*Leonard J. Leff, “Gone With the Wind and Hollywood’s Racial Politics,” Atlantic Monthly, 284 (December
1999): 106-114

* Lerone Bennett, Jr. “Nat’s Last White Man” in John Hendrick Clark, ed., William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten
Black Writers Respond, Beacon Press, 1968, p. 3-16 (PDF)

*Alvin F. Poussaint, “The Confessions of Nat Turner and the Dilemma of William Styron,” in John Hendrick
Clark, ed., William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, Beacon Press, 1968, p. 17-22 (PDF)

*Charles V. Hamilton, “Our Nat Turner and William Styron’s Creation,” John Hendrick Clark, ed., William
Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, Beacon Press, 1968, p. 73-78 (PDF)

*Mike Thelwell, “Back With the Wind: Mr. Styron and the Reverend Turner,” John Hendrick Clark, ed.,
William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, Beacon Press, 1968, p. 79-91 (PDF)

*Eugene Genovese, “The Nat Turner Case,” New York Times Review of Books, Sept. 12, 1968

*Alex Haley, “My Furthest-Back-Person—‘The African,’,” New York Times Magazine, July 16, 1972

*Robert D. McFadden, “Some Points of ‘Roots’ Questioned: Haley Stands by Book as Symbol,” New York
Times, April 10, 1977

*C. Gerald Fraser, “Haley is Hoping to Debate Reporter,” New York Times, April 10, 1977
*Israel Sheker, “Some Historians Dismiss Report of Factual Mistakes in ‘Roots’,” New York Times, April 10,
1977

*Robert D. McFadden, “Novelist’s Suit Charges ‘Roots’ Copied Parts of Her 1966 Book,” New York Times,
April 23, 1977

*“Forum: A Symposium on Roots,” The Black Scholar, May 1977

*Philip Nobile, “Uncovering Roots,” The Village Voice, Feb. 22, 1993

Material on the questions of reparations and apologies to be announced. (PDF)


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Multi-Media

Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture: A Multimedia Archive


http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/

Films: Bamboozled, Gone With the Wind, Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, Roots, Confederate States of
America

Academic Calendar

Aug. 20 Introduction to Class

Aug. 27 Slavery as it Was


LECTURE: History of Slavery
READING: Kolchin, American Slavery

Sept. 3 Slavery and Historical Memory


READING: Horton, Slavery and Public History; Berlin, “American Slavery in
History and Memory”

Sept. 10 Slavery, Truth, and Public Controversy


LECTURE: The History of Minstrelsy
READING: Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: An American Controversy;
“Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings: A Brief Report”; Report of the Research
Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings “Jefferson-Hemmings
Scholars Commission Report (all three are accessible on the web—see above)

Think Piece #1 Due

Sept. 17 Slavery, Minstrelsy, and the Working Class


SCREENING: Bamboozled (watch at home before class)
LECTURE: Abolitionism in America
READING: Gilmer, “The Controversy Over Race,” “Fuchs, “Review of Bamboozled;
Fuchs, “Interview With Spike Lee,” Toll, “The Evolution of the Minstrel Show,” Lott,
“Blackface and Blackness,” “Saxton “Blackface Minstrelsy,” Roediger, “White Skins,
Black Masks,”

Think Piece #2 Due

Sept. 24 Slave Narratives and the Abolitionist Movement


READING: Blight, A Slave No More; Douglass, Autobiography of Frederick
Douglass, and Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (an optional but important
reading)

Oct. 1 Slavery and Sentimentalism


READING: Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; explore and read “Uncle Tom's Cabin and
American Culture: A Multimedia Archive” at http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/

Think Piece #3 Due


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Oct. 8 Slavery in the Age of Jim Crow


READING: Casmier-Paz, “Heritage, Not Hate?” Manring, “Aunt Jemima Explained
LECTURE: The Culture of Jim Crow

Oct. 15 The Plantation Romance


SCREENING: Gone With the Wind (watch at home before class)
LECTURE: Post WW II and the Reconsideration of Slavery
READING: Campbell Jr., “The South as National Epic”; Leff, “Gone With the Wind
and Hollywood’s Racial Politics”; “David Sleznick’s Film is World’s Greatest,”;
Moss, “An Open Letter to Mr. Selznick”

Think Piece #4 Due

Oct. 22 Gone With the Wind as Parody


READING: Randall, The Wind Done Gone, Kirkpatrick, “Court Halts Book Based on
‘Gone With the Wind,’” Lessig, “Let the Stories Go,” Miller, “Mammy’s Revenge,”
Kakutani, “A CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK,” Letter, “Parody or Plagiarism?”

Think Piece #5 Due

Oct. 29 Who Was Nat Turner?


SCREENING: Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (shown in class)
READING: Greenberg, Nat Turner

Nov. 5 Why Does Nat Turner Matter?


READING: Styron, Nat Turner; Lerone Bennett, Jr. “Nat’s Last White Man”;
Poussaint, “The Confessions of Nat Turner”; Hamilton, “Our Nat Turner”; Thelwell,
“Back With the Wind”; Genovese, “The Nat Turner Case,”

Think Piece #6 Due

Nov. 12 Civil Rights and the Postwar Rethinking of Slavery


SCREENING: Roots (Season 1, Episodes 1-5 —Watch at home before class)
READING: Haley, “My Furthest-Back-Person; McFadden, “Some Points of ‘Roots’
Questioned” Fraser, “Haley is Hoping to Debate Reporter”; Sheker, “Some Historians
Dismiss Report of Factual Mistakes”; McFadden, “Novelist’s Suit Charges ‘Roots’
Copied”; “Forum: A Symposium on Roots”; Nobile, “Uncovering Roots”

Think Piece #7 Due

Nov. 19 Slavery and Counter-Factual History


SCREENING: Confederate States of America (shown in class)

Nov. 26 THANKSGIVING

Dec. 3 Conclusion: Apologies and Reparations


READINGS: To be announced and sent by PDF file before the holiday.
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Assignments and Requirements

Class Attendance and Participation: The success of this seminar depends on your regular attendance and
active participation. This is not an undergraduate course and therefore you are expected to attend EVERY
class. We meet only once a week so attendance should never be an issue. We are here to exchange ideas and
learn from each other, thus lack of attendance or participation hurts the entire class. Your attendance grade
will be based on your presence in class, your contributions to weekly discussions, and your ability to listen to
the contributions of your colleagues.

Think Pieces: Throughout the semester at various times you will be required to submit a response to a
question. This should be no longer than 2 pages. The prompts are listed below. They are designed to allow
you to explore the significance of the material you have read/watched for that week. Please use Times New
Roman, 1 inch margins and 11 or 12 point font. You do not need to put the question at the top of your paper.
See the syllabus for when they are due. Think pieces must be turned in the day we discuss readings and/or
films. Faxed, e-mailed, or late think pieces will not be accepted.

1. The Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings controversy surrounding the question of interracial sex and lineage
has been an explosive one for the past two centuries. How did science change the debate over “truth”, if at all?

2. Was Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled a successful satire given what you have read on the history of
minstrelsy? Why or why not?

3. What do you think explains the popularity of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in film, theater, art, and advertising over
the past 150 years?

4. One of my undergraduate students once told me that Gone With the Wind has nothing to do with slavery.
Would you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain.

5. Alice Randall’s book The Wind Done Gone was criticized by the Margaret Mitchell estate for plagiarizing
from Gone With the Wind (Randall was ultimately sued). Has the Mitchell estate failed to see that Randall’s
book is a parody or do they have a legitimate claim? What exactly is at the heart of the issue?

6. Alvin Poussaint, M.D. writes that “The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron would be more
appropriately titled: ‘The Imaginations of William Styron on the Life of Nat Turner.’” What is at stake in the
disagreement over Styron’s “imagination” of Turner? Does William Styron have an obligation to be true to
the history of Nat Turner?

7. In your opinion does it really matter if Alex Haley did not have a relative named Kunta Kinte or some of
the basic historical facts of the story are incorrect? Why or why not?

Final Paper: You will submit a historiographical-like essay based on the question listed below. The paper
should be 15 pages.

QUESTION: Over the course of this semester we have focused on several controversies surrounding the way
in which slavery is portrayed in literature, film, and scholarship. In his piece entitled “American Slavery in
History and Memory and the Search for Social Justice” Ira Berlin states that ‘a good deal of the difficulty lies
in the confusion between the history of slavery and the memory of slavery…The similarities and differences
reflect the way historians have addressed the history of slavery and the way Americans have confronted the
memory of slavery.” Write an essay in which you explore this statement focusing on the material you have
reviewed in class this semester. First, explain what the difference is between recording the “history” of
slavery and the “memory” of slavery. How are they different? Who are the audiences for these two ways of
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thinking? What are the crucial areas of contention? Second, as way of example, explain how the debate
surrounding memory v. history expresses itself in at least 3 of the following controversies: Thomas
Jefferson/Sally Hemings, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (don’t forget to use material from the website “Uncle Tom's
Cabin and American Culture: A Multimedia Archive”), Nat Turner, and Alex Haley’s Roots.

Papers in electronic form (email attachments) will not be accepted. All work must be submitted in hard copy
form without cover pages or special folders. Please make sure your paper is stapled (no paper clips),
paginated, and double-spaced with 11-12 point font (preferably Times New Roman). You do not need to use
footnotes or endnotes on the think pieces. However, you will need to use them for the final paper. Consistency
is key. You might consult 1) Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and
Dissertations (6th ed., Chicago, 1996) 2) University of Chicago, preface by Margaret D. Mahen, The Chicago
Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (15th ed., Chicago, 2003). For help
with grammar and format also see William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style (4th edition,
1999).

All students will be required to turn their think pieces and final papers into www.turnitin.com. Please visit the
website and create an account. The ID for the course is # 2816318. The password is slavery2009.

Grading Policy
Course breakdown:
Course Attendance/Participation 20%
Seven Think Pieces 30%
Final Paper 50%

Incompletes and extensions: There will be no extensions unless you have suffered from serious illness (i.e.
hospitalization) or acute personal crises (i.e. death of relative). Please inform the professor as soon as you are
aware of a problem. Late work will be heavily penalized (1/3 letter grade per day, weekends included). If you
fail to complete any of the assignments you will automatically fail the course. For university rules about
incompletes please see below.

Course Policies
Classroom Protocol: First, please ensure that your cell phones are turned OFF during the class. Second,
please make an effort to arrive to class on time and avoid leaving early. Late arrivals and early departures are
distracting to both the professor and the students in the classroom. Frequently information regarding course
assignments and other matters is given at the start of class and tardiness will lead you to miss important
announcements.

Grading will be based on the following:

90-100 (A) Strong evidence of original thinking; good organization; capacity to analyze
and synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations;
evidence of extensive knowledge base.

80-89 (B) Evidence of grasp of subject matter; some evidence of critical capacity and
analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevatn issues; evidence of familiarity
with readings.

70-19 (C) Student who is profiting from his/her university experience; understanding of the
subject matter; ability to develop solutions to simple problems in the material.
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60-69 (D) Some evidence of familiarity with subject matter and some evidence that critical
and analytic skills have been developed.

0-59 (F) Little evidence of even a superficial understanding of subject matter; weakness
in critical and analytic skills; with limited or irrelevant use of literature.

(Source: University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science 2008-2009 Calendar)

Course Policies

Laptops: Computers will NOT be allowed in class unless you have permission from the professor. Permission
is typically granted if you have documentation of a disability.

Classroom Protocol: Please ensure that your cell phones are turned OFF during the class. Make an effort to
arrive to class on time and avoid leaving early.
Student Conduct & Discipline
The University of Texas System and The University of Texas at Dallas have rules and regulations for the orderly and efficient conduct
of their business. It is the responsibility of each student and each student organization to be knowledgeable about the rules and
regulations which govern student conduct and activities. General information on student conduct and discipline is contained in the
UTD publication, A to Z Guide, which is provided to all registered students each academic year.

The University of Texas at Dallas administers student discipline within the procedures of recognized and established due process.
Procedures are defined and described in the Rules and Regulations, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, Part 1, Chapter
VI, Section 3, and in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures. Copies
of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist
students in interpreting the rules and regulations (SU 1.602, 972/883-6391).

A student at the university neither loses the rights nor escapes the responsibilities of citizenship. He or she is expected to obey federal,
state, and local laws as well as the Regents’ Rules, university regulations, and administrative rules. Students are subject to discipline
for violating the standards of conduct whether such conduct takes place on or off campus, or whether civil or criminal penalties are also
imposed for such conduct.

Academic Integrity
The faculty expects from its students a high level of responsibility and academic honesty. Because the value of an academic degree
depends upon the absolute integrity of the work done by the student for that degree, it is imperative that a student demonstrate a high
standard of individual honor in his or her scholastic work.

Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, statements, acts or omissions related to applications for enrollment or the award of
a degree, and/or the submission as one’s own work or material that is not one’s own. As a general rule, scholastic dishonesty involves
one of the following acts: cheating, plagiarism, collusion and/or falsifying academic records. Students suspected of academic
dishonesty are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Plagiarism, especially from the web, from portions of papers for other classes, and from any other source is unacceptable and will be
dealt with under the university’s policy on plagiarism (see general catalog for details). This course will use the resources of
turnitin.com, which searches the web for possible plagiarism and is over 90% effective.

Email Use
The University of Texas at Dallas recognizes the value and efficiency of communication between faculty/staff and students through
electronic mail. At the same time, email raises some issues concerning security and the identity of each individual in an email
exchange. The university encourages all official student email correspondence be sent only to a student’s U.T. Dallas email address
and that faculty and staff consider email from students official only if it originates from a UTD student account. This allows the
university to maintain a high degree of confidence in the identity of all individual corresponding and the security of the transmitted
information. UTD furnishes each student with a free email account that is to be used in all communication with university personnel.
The Department of Information Resources at U.T. Dallas provides a method for students to have their U.T. Dallas mail forwarded to
other accounts.

Withdrawal from Class


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The administration of this institution has set deadlines for withdrawal of any college-level courses. These dates and times are published
in that semester's course catalog. Administration procedures must be followed. It is the student's responsibility to handle withdrawal
requirements from any class. In other words, I cannot drop or withdraw any student. You must do the proper paperwork to ensure that
you will not receive a final grade of "F" in a course if you choose not to attend the class once you are enrolled.

Student Grievance Procedures


Procedures for student grievances are found in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities, of the university’s Handbook of
Operating Procedures. In attempting to resolve any student grievance regarding grades, evaluations, or other fulfillments of academic
responsibility, it is the obligation of the student first to make a serious effort to resolve the matter with the instructor, supervisor,
administrator, or committee with whom the grievance originates (hereafter called “the respondent”). Individual faculty members retain
primary responsibility for assigning grades and evaluations. If the matter cannot be resolved at that level, the grievance must be
submitted in writing to the respondent with a copy of the respondent’s School Dean. If the matter is not resolved by the written
response provided by the respondent, the student may submit a written appeal to the School Dean. If the grievance is not resolved by
the School Dean’s decision, the student may make a written appeal to the Dean of Graduate or Undergraduate Education, and the deal
will appoint and convene an Academic Appeals Panel. The decision of the Academic Appeals Panel is final. The results of the
academic appeals process will be distributed to all involved parties. Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in
the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and regulations.

Incomplete Grade Policy


As per university policy, incomplete grades will be granted only for work unavoidably missed at the semester’s end and only if 70% of
the course work has been completed. An incomplete grade must be resolved within eight (8) weeks from the first day of the subsequent
long semester. If the required work to complete the course and to remove the incomplete grade is not submitted by the specified
deadline, the incomplete grade is changed automatically to a grade of F.

Disability Services
The goal of Disability Services is to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled
peers. Disability Services is located in room 1.610 in the Student Union. Office hours are Monday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30
p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The contact information for the Office of Disability Services is: (972) 883-2098 (voice or TTY)

Essentially, the law requires that colleges and universities make those reasonable adjustments necessary to eliminate discrimination on
the basis of disability. For example, it may be necessary to remove classroom prohibitions against tape recorders or animals (in the
case of dog guides) for students who are blind. Occasionally an assignment requirement may be substituted (for example, a research
paper versus an oral presentation for a student who is hearing impaired). Classes enrolled students with mobility impairments may
have to be rescheduled in accessible facilities. The college or university may need to provide special services such as registration, note-
taking, or mobility assistance. It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors of the need for such an accommodation.
Disability Services provides students with letters to present to faculty members to verify that the student has a disability and needs
accommodations. Individuals requiring special accommodation should contact the professor after class or during office hours.

Religious Holy Days


The University of Texas at Dallas will excuse a student from class or other required activities for the travel to and observance of a
religious holy day for a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property tax under Section 11.20, Tax Code, Texas Code
Annotated. The student is encouraged to notify the instructor or activity sponsor as soon as possible regarding the absence, preferably
in advance of the assignment. The student, so excused, will be allowed to take the exam or complete the assignment within a
reasonable time after the absence: a period equal to the length of the absence, up to a maximum of one week. A student who notifies the
instructor and completes any missed exam or assignment may not be penalized for the absence. A student who fails to complete the
exam or assignment within the prescribed period may receive a failing grade for that exam or assignment.

If a student or an instructor disagrees about the nature of the absence [i.e., for the purpose of observing a religious holy day] or if there
is similar disagreement about whether the student has been given a reasonable time to complete any missed assignments or
examinations, either the student or the instructor may request a ruling from the chief executive officer of the institution, or his or her
designee. The chief executive officer or designee must take into account the legislative intent of TEC 51.911(b), and the student and
instructor will abide by the decision of the chief executive officer or designee.

These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.