'Freedom Now': a historical sociology of black liberation in the USA, 1954-80 SOCIO4112

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Freedom Now explores one of the most defining emancipatory social movements in recent history, namely, the collective action for racial equality waged by African Americans between 1954 and 1980. A particular focus of the course will be to understand some of the key episodes of this story, including the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation in the South. From the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Freedom Rides in the South to the emergence of the Black Power Movement in the urban areas throughout the US, detailed attention will be given to understanding the programmatic perspectives of key social actors, the political repertoires employed to challenge racist structures and ideologies, and the ideational resources that helped to animate and cohere mass political action. The course will also investigate some of the key obstacles that faced this movement, including the powerful reactive racism from the 'segregationists' and the often complex and contradictory role played by the federal state, in both implementing the Voting Rights Act while deploying the ideological and repressive apparatuses of the state against key parts of the anti-racist movement.


An integral component of the course is to explore the catalytic capacities of the political and cultural struggle for black liberation, including consideration of the extent to which it helped ignite dreams of freedom, peace and love across different social groups in the US. In this sense, the course will consider the claim that the demand for black liberation cannot solely be understood as a political struggle for racial equality, but also one that helped to expand and enliven the political imaginary of other social groups striving for greater freedoms and the creation of a more democratic society. With this in mind, particular attention will be devoted to exploring the rise of related emancipatory social struggles in this period, including the women's movement, and the student anti-war movement.



Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course you need to have met the requirements for entry into our Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. You also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.


A 4,000 word essay chosen from a selection of questions.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

■ to introduce students to a range of theoretical perspectives with which to understand the struggle for racial equality waged by African Americans.

■ to help students make a critical assessment of these different perspectives in understanding the political and cultural struggle for greater freedom and racial equality.

■ to encourage students to make a critical assessment of the relationship between racial equality and other struggles for social justice and political freedom.

■ to encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the subject.

■ to equip students to make their own analysis of theses historical struggles for greater freedom and racial justice.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

have an informed working knowledge of the main perspectives about the political and cultural struggle for racial equality and democratization of American politics, and the capacity to demonstrate this in writing;

explore the connections between the political opportunity structure, resource mobilisation and ideological framing.

demonstrate advancement of analytical and oral skills through attendance and active participation in lectures and seminars.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.