African-American History I (512:378)  

T-TH, 1:10-2:30, Campbell Hall, Room A2


Professor Mia Bay

Office: Van Dyck Hall 223A, tel. 732-932-7092; email

Office Hours: Thursdays 11:30-12:30 and by appointment



Course Description

This course is a survey of African-American history from its beginnings through emancipation and Reconstruction. We will study and analyze the African origins of black Americans, the middle passage, the development of plantation slavery, and the many historical changes that shaped African-American life and culture thereafter—from the Revolution to the Civil War. Topics will include the impact of the Revolution on African-American life; the emancipation of slavery in the post-Revolutionary North and the development of a free black community there; antebellum slavery slave culture, and slave resistance; the black abolitionist movement; and African-American freedom struggles during the Civil War and Reconstruction. 


Course Requirements


The weekly readings required in this course average 100 to 200 pages.  Students are expected to do all the reading, and be prepared to discuss readings in class (please bring your readings to class).


Reading Assignments

To facilitate discussion, one-page (200-word) comments on the reading are due on designated “DISCUSSION” days.  Informal written assignments, your comments can be hand written or typed and should summarize and discuss the assigned discussion reading. (Occasionally, I may give you a more specific discussion assignment.) There are ten discussion days; and you must submit written responses to the readings on seven of those days (ie. you are allowed to miss three).  Your comments will be graded with a check (if completed and focused on the readings), a check plus (if  particularly well done) or a check minus (if  barely passable).  An extraordinarily good record on the comments (many check-pluses) will raise your course grade by half a grade (from "B" to "B+," for example). Barely passable comments (many check-minuses) will lower your grade by ONE FULL GRADE (from "B" to "C," for example.) Turning in less than eight comments will lower your final grade by up to TWO FULL GRADES (from "B" to "D," for example.)  Late comments will not be accepted (except in the case of excused absences).


Papers and Exams

In addition to the reading assignments, course participants must complete two papers, a midterm exam and a final exam.  Both the papers and the exams will be based on the course readings. Students are free to consult outside readings in preparing papers, providing they are cited in full.  Please note that plagiarism is a violation of University Policy and subject to disciplinary proceedings. Papers submitted late will be marked down one letter grade; no assignment will be accepted more than one week past the due date.



Attendance is mandatory.  Roll will be called at the beginning of class, please note that you must sign if you arrive after roll is called.  Beginning the second week you are expected to attend the entire class. More than three unexcused (medical, family emergency) absences will lower your grade one letter grade.  Six unexcused absences will result in failure.  Arriving in class more than five minutes after class begins will count as half an absence. Signing in and leaving early (without notifying the instructor) is a triple absence.  If you cannot get to this class on time due to a schedule conflict, do not enroll in this class.


Course Grade

The course grade will be divided as follows: the first paper will count for 20% of the final grade; the second and third papers will comprise 25% participation and attendance will make up the remaining 30%. Additionally, your grade will be determined by your performance on the reading assignments, as described above.  Students must complete all course work in order to pass the course.




We will use six books in this course, which can be purchased Rutgers University Bookstore. Please buy the books promptly:  the bookstore returns the books in the middle of the semester, so if you do not get the books before then, you may have difficulty purchasing them.


1) Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Classic Slave Narratives (Signet Classics Paperback: 2002) 2

2) Breen, T. H., and Stephen Innes. "Myne Owne Ground": Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676. Oxford 2004).

3) Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Harvard University Press: March 1, 2001)

4)Gary B. Nash The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution. Harvard, 2006.

5) Robin Kelley and Earl Lewis, To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans, vol. 1 (Oxford:  2000)

6) William Dillon Piersen, Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England (University of Massachusetts Press, 1988)

7) Wilbert L. Jenkins, Climbing Up to Glory: A Short History of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction, 79-159


Other Readings

The other readings listed on the syllabus are available on either at the online links provided on the syllabus.  The URLs are also listed, in case you have a problem with the links.


PLEASE NOTE that in order to view and print many of these readings, you will have to be either on campus or logged into the Rutgers University Library Catalog, which owns these publications.


You can log on at the Libraries home page Please print out all course readings early in the semester, and bring your printed copies of readings scheduled for each DISCUSSION class with you to when you come to class. Let me know if any of the URLs present technical difficulties—problems accessing or printing the readings for a given class will not be accepted as excuse for coming to class unprepared once the semester is underway.


If you have poor access to the online readings, and would prefer buy them in the form of photocopied course packet, please let me know and I will have a packet prepared for you.      





History 512: 378 Weekly Schedule


Week 1: Introduction



September 2: Introduction


September 4:  Africa, Europe and Rise of the Atlantic Slave Trade


Kelley and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew, 3-52;



Week 2:  From Africa to America


September 12: The Triangle Trade


September 14: The Middle Passage: DISCUSSION #1


Readings: Oloudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oloudah Equiano, in Classic Slave Narratives, 1-81

James Barbot, Jr., "A Supplement to the Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea," (London, 1732)

Alexander Falconbridge, An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa (London, 1788)  

Alexander Falconbridge describes the treatment of newly arrived slaves in the West Indies (1788)



 Week 3: The Origins of American Slavery


September 16: Idle Indians and Lazy Englishmen


September 18:   Breen, T. H., and Stephen Innes. "Myne Owne Ground"DISCUSSION # 2


Readings:  Breen, T. H., and Stephen Innes. "Myne Owne Ground," Virginia Slavery Laws:




Week 4: The Plantation World takes Shape


September 23: The Plantation World: Production, Control and Resistance


September 25: Film: Slavery and the Making of America, Episode 1: 


Kelley and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew, 53-102; An Act for the Better Ordering and Governing of Negroes and Other Slaves (1740); Black Yankees, 1-64






Week 5:  Slavery in the North


September 30 : “Godly Society:” Slavery among the Puritans and Quakers (Piersen, Smith)


October 2: Black Yankees: A Somewhat Different Slavery?


**** 1st Paper due – October 2, 1:10PM ****


Reading: William Pierson, Black Yankees, 65-160



Week 6:  The Revolutionary Era


October 7: The African-American Experience during the Revolution


October 9: American Slavery, American Freedom DISCUSSION #3 (Nash)


Reading: Gary B. Nash The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution 1-170




Week 7:  Slavery in the New Nation


October 14: Film: Slavery and the Making of America, Episode 2 :


October 16: The Limits to Emancipation (Johnson, Freehling, Jefferson) DISCUSSION #4 


Reading: Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, 1-44; Readings:  Kelley and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew, 103-198

William W. Freehling, The Founding Fathers and Slavery, The American Historical Review, Vol. 77, No. 1. (Feb., 1972), pp. 81-93.

Stable URL:

Thomas Jefferson,  Notes on the State of Virginia 1781-1782,  Query 14 "Laws" The administration of justice and description of the laws?






Week 8:  Many Thousands Gone


October 21: The Expansion of Slavery in the South


October 23: : The Domestic Slave Trade: (Johnson) DISCUSSION #5


Reading: Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, 4-220



Week 9: Life in the Slave South


October 28: Slave Culture and Community


October 30: Gender Relations in the Plantation Household: DISCUSSION #6(Brent,) 


Reading: Linda Brent, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” in Classic Slave Narratives, 341-515



Week 10:  The Black Freedom Struggle I


November 4: The Free Black Community (Walker, Douglass)


November 6: Abolitionism and Slave Resistance: DISCUSSION #7


Reading:  David Walker, “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” Articles I and II;

Maria W. Stewart, An Address Delivered before The Afric-American Female Intelligence Society of America (1832)

Frederick Douglass, “Autobiography of an American Slave,” Classic Slave Narratives, 243-332



11: The Black Freedom Struggle II


November 11: Impending Crisis: The Nation and the Politics of Slavery in the 1850s:


November 13: Pro and Antislavery Voices (Fitzhugh, Sumner, De Bow, Horton) DISCUSSION #8


  *****2nd Essay Due – November 15**** Click here for Topic


Reading: Kelly and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew, 169-226; George Fitzhugh, Negro Slavery, Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society; ; Plantation Management, De Bow's Review, (February 1853): 177-8 l Wilbur H. Siebert, Light on the Underground Railroad The American Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 3. (Apr., 1896), pp. 455-463.



Week 12:  The Civil War


November 18: Film: The Black Military Experience- Film: Glory


November 20:                                 ***Thanksgiving Break***



Reading: Wilbert L. Jenkins, Climbing Up to Glory; 1-78; Kelley and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew, 227-243; Robert Gould Shaw, “The Raid on Darien, Georgia,”

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Chapter 2, Camp Diary. ; Letter from Corporal Henry James Gooding





Week 13:  Emancipation


November 25: Jubilee: First Freedoms DISCUSSION # 9 (Jenkins, Higginson, Shaw)

November 27: “A Hard Fight For We:” Emancipation

Reading, Wilbert L. Jenkins, Climbing Up to Glory, 79-159; Kelley and Lewis, To Make Our World Anew 243-280.
Black Residents of Nashville to the Union Convention, January 9, 1865


Week 14:  Reconstruction


December 5: “A Hard Fight For We:” Emancipation


 December 7: Slavery and the Making of America 4



  ****3rd Paper due**** December 4 (See Topic)


Reading, Wilbert L. Jenkins, Climbing Up to Glory: A Short History of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction, 161-231

Leslie Schwalm," Sweet Dreams of Freedom": Freedwomen's Reconstruction of Life and Labor in Lowcountry South Carolina,” Journal of Women's History 9:1 (Spring 1997), 9-30.



Week 15:   The Legacy of Reconstruction


December 12: The End of Reconstruction: DISCUSSION #10 (Jenkins, Du Bois, Schwalm)


Reading: W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, “Reconstruction and its Benefits,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 15, No. 4. (Jul., 1910), pp. 781-799.

“Everything Points to a Democratic Victory this Fall” (1874)
A white Southerner Look Back: Mrs. Emma Falconer: