Civil Rights Movement and Public Policy
The Civil Rights Movement and Public Policy This course examines the historical Civil Rights Movement and how its impact on public policy transformed national race relations and ideas of citizenship and helped to redefine American democracy. We will examine the interactions between ordinary people and democratic institutions, social movement leaders and presidents, community activists and policy makers in trying to reimagine notions of equality, citizenship, freedom and democracy. Some questions we will ask: What was the Civil Rights Movement and who were the major players, actors and organizations that shaped this movement? How did grassroots activists shape the movement for racial, economic and gender justice during this era? What role did presidents and political leaders play in shaping the movement’s national policy aspirations? The course will examine the historic CRM as a vehicle to discuss contemporary civil rights debates, especially voting rights and criminal justice reform. The course will take a panoramic view of the civil rights period, beginning during the New Deal and concluding with a discussion of Black Lives Matter. Along the way, we will discuss the CRM’s heroic period, including the roles played by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson, while also paying careful attention to the way in which community activists at the grassroots level shaped a movement we still too often think of solely in national terms. Finally, we will explore contemporary policy debates over voting rights, mass incarceration and racial segregation and see how (and if) past policy debates inform current ones.