What did Washington believe were the most urgent priorities for blacks at the close of the 19th century? On what issues was Washington prepared to compromise and why? What were the goals of Washington’s program and how did these differ from the recommendations of W.E.B. Du Bois? Why does Du Bois seek to “conserve” the races? How would “the conservation of the races” help the future of the Negro race as well as the future of world civilization? What principles of the American regime appear to run counter to Du Bois’s emphasis on “race organizations” and “race solidarity”? What does Du Bois mean by the “talented tenth”? Compare Washington and Du Bois on the purpose of education.
Session 26: The Progressive Reform and Self-Government
The Progressives fought for reform at the turn of the century. What principled form did their criticism take of the Declaration, the Constitution, and political decentralization take? They revered Lincoln, yet did not emulate his devotion to the Declaration of Independence, but invoked the preamble to the Constitution to make democracy more active. Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s views became living arguments again, but with interesting shifts. Self-government was in need of some assistance. What effect did their reforms—for example, direct primaries, initiative, referendum—have on federalism, separation of powers, and political parties? What legacy did the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson in particular, leave the nation?
Session 27: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic Leadership
The political and constitutional legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt is impressive. What was his extraordinary achievement? In what ways did he improve upon Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s, and the Progressives’ understanding of democratic life and political structures? How did his New Deal envision a powerful, active, and programmatically ambitious national government? How was this related to the possibility of self-government? What is his legacy?
What role did Thurgood Marshall play in the Civil Rights Movement? What was his view of the American founding? What was his opinion of contemporary activists for civil rights, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X?
Juan Williams, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, chaps. 21-23, 25-29
Lucas E. Morel, “The Joe Louis of the Courtroom” (July/August 1999)
Session 29: Brown v. Board of Education; Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Resistance, and the American Dream
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court briefly traces the history of public schools in America. How does this help the Court argue against racially segregated schools? What role do legal precedents play in the Court’s argument against “separate but equal” schools? What is meant by “intangible considerations” and how does this help the Court establish that the mere act of separating school children by race produces an unequal education? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Court’s opinion in Brown? If segregated schools did not produce “a feeling of inferiority” on the part of black children, would these schools be unconstitutional according to Brown?
Why does King reject force as a response to oppression? What is the major concern of the white clergymen who counsel King to stay away from Birmingham? What are the four stages of civil disobedience? How does King’s nonviolent resistance against a particular law actually support obedience to the government and laws? Why does King blame white moderates more than fringe elements like the Ku Klux Klan for lack of progress in securing civil rights for black Americans?
Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, “Brown’s Backlash,” 385-440
Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chaps. 6-8
Session 30 pt1: Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X
Does King’s proposal for a “Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged” indicate a shift from his earlier vision of the American dream? Does King’s advocacy of “compensatory or preferential treatment” look more to race or poverty as its justification? Is the G.I. Bill of Rights a good analogy for King’s promotion of a federal, economic program to help blacks and the disadvantaged, generally? What does “black power” mean to King?
How does Malcolm X’s theology inform his political thinking? Malcolm X insists that there is no legitimate intermediate position between “the ballot” and “the bullet.” He is highly critical of King’s reliance on “civil” disobedience. Is he correct? How does his understanding of political action, and particularly the justification for violence, compare to the right of revolution as articulated by John Locke and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? Why did Malcolm X reject integration as an aim of the civil rights struggle? Why must Black Nationalism be an internationalist movement?
“Last Answers and Interviews” (Nov. 23, 1964-Feb. 21, 1965), 194-226
Session 30 pt2: The Reagan Era and the New Deal Legacy; George W. Bush’s Founding Faith
Reagan seemed to campaign against Roosevelt’s legacy, but delighted in pointing out that he voted for him four times. Yet, he seemed to be interested in cutting back the size of the federal government and making its programs less ambitious. What were his purposes in doing so? Was his failure to cut back the size of government due primarily to Reagan’s policies during an era of “divided government,” or rather more a reflection of FDR’s success?
President Bush seems intent on arguing that his policies, both domestic and foreign, derive directly from the principles of the founding. He argues that self-government needs to be re-invigorated and places emphasis on the obligations of citizenship, and sometimes public spiritedness is difficult. He reminds us that citizenship is not a matter of birth and blood, but rather, “we are bound by ideals,” and those ideals have to be learned. Is he right? Are his arguments about the philosophical and historical heritage he appeals to persuasive?