Civil Liberties in Modern America
Professor Steven Lawson
TTh 4th Period, Scott 121
This course traces the struggle for civil liberties and civil rights in Modern America. Students will gain an understanding of constitutional protections in the Bill of Rights and of the criminal justice system, but this is not primarily a course in legal history or the law. Rather, this course uses well-known criminal trials and Supreme Court decisions to explore three topics: the battle for free speech, legal questions concerned with war and national crisis (free speech, espionage, war crimes); and the civil rights and women's rights movements The course is organized chronologically to tie the cases to the unfolding of 20th- (and 21st-) century American political history. It will cover cases involving the prosecution of anarchists and labor organizers, cases that highlight the black struggle for civil equality; cases arising from Cold War espionage accusations, and cases dealing with war crimes and free speech. I am particularly interested with the way these cases fit in modern American culture, and for that reason, we will show movie dramatizations of several of the cases (and suggest others that students may wish to view). You must follow the rules laid out in the History Department statement on classroom etiquette; you should consult this before coming to class.
Documentary information, some of which we will use for this course, can be
found at the following web site:
An extended biblliography, listing books, web sites, and movies, can be found at:
1. Complete the weekly reading assignments (see the schedule that follows) and participate in class discussion. Participation will be factored in to the final grade; reading assignments will be evaluated in papers and exams.
2. Take a mid-term and final examination (the final will cover the material since the mid-term). Note: the final is Wednesday May 11th, the last days of finals, from to . Each will count approximately 25% of the grade.
3. Write two short essays based on the assigned readings, class discussion,
and films. One will be on the Scopes Case (due February 14th); the other on the
4. Participate in class discussion; participation is expected and graded. Discussion will count 10% of the grade.
Book List for Famous Trials (Spring 2007):
Richard Polenberg, Fighting
Faiths: The Abrams Case, the Supreme Court, and Free Speech (1987)
Jeffrey Moran, The
Jeanne W. Houston & James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar. Random House. ISBN: 0-553-27258-6
Charles Zelden, The
Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim,
Four Hours in
Philippa Strum, When Nazis Came to
1. Abrams v.
2. Sacco and Vanzetti
3. John Scopes (1925) - Charged with intentionally violating
4.. Scottsboro (1931-1933) - Trial of nine black youths charged with the rape of two white women in Alabama; case appealed to the Supreme Court as Powell v. Alabama (1932).
4. Japanese Internment Camp Cases (1943-1944) - Cases of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu; cases involved the constitutionality of the military orders removing American citizens of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coast early in WWII and relocating them in internment camps.
6. White Primary Case (1944) The Texas case of Smith v. Allwright, which declared the Democratic white primary unconstitutional and pried open the door to black voting in the South
7. Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg (1951) The
couple were convicted of delivering information about the construction of the
atomic bomb to the
6. Brown v. Board of Education of
Jan. 16 : Introduction.
18 Abrams Read: Fighting Faiths, Ch. 1-4.
Read: Fighting Faiths,
25 Sacco and Vanzetti
. 30 Film: Sacco and Vanzetti
(Director: Guilano Montaldo).
See also: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/SaccoV/SaccoV.htm
Feb. 1 Scopes Read: The Scopes Trial pp. 1-72
6 Film: Inherit
Read: Scopes Trial, pp. 73-170
8. Film: Inherit the Wind (cont), pp. 171-214
20. Scottsboro (Paper due on Scopes)
22 White Primary Case (Smith v; Allwright)
27 Smith v. Allwright
Mar. 1 Mid-Term Examination
Film: Rabbit Moon
20 Japanese Internment
Read Farewell to Manzanar (entire book)
Film: Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
5 Brown v. Board of Education
Paper #2 Due:
Read: Four Hours, pp. 1-141.
17 Calley Read: Four Hours, pp. 142-283.
19 Calley. Film: Remember
My Lai (film adaptation of Four Hours at MyLai)
Read: Four Hours, pp. 284-378.
24 Skokie Read: Nazis
26 Skokie Read: Nazis