American Freedom: Civil Rights Movements in the '20th Century' HIST4298

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores the twentieth century history of civil rights activism in the United States. It will discuss key civil rights movements in their political and cultural context, including the African American civil rights movement, Indigenous rights movements, LGBTQ activism, the Chicano movement and the Women's Liberation movement. Specific themes such as race, gender, sexuality and nationality will be explored in the context of these claims to American freedom.


8 x 1hr lectures; 4 x 2hr workshops and 4 x 1 hr seminars over ten weeks as scheduled in MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Essay proposal - 1,000 words - 30%

Course Essay - 3,500 words - 60%

Oral contribution - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will 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

This course aims:


■ To introduce students to a broad, transformative period of US history.

■ To provide students with the knowledge of how different groups and individuals have made claims to civil rights in 20th century America.

■ To give students the opportunity to investigate different kinds of activism, and social and political change.

■ To hone students' historical skills by providing them with the skills to analyse a range of political and cultural texts including autobiographies, speeches, newspapers and film.

■ To give students the opportunity to enhance their skills in source criticism with the use of primary materials in seminars and in the assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


■ Appraise a range of organisations, individuals and political movements associated with civil rights movements in 20th century United States.

■ Analyse the causes, processes and results of social and political upheavals and of cultural conflict connected to civil rights claims.

■ Recognise the relationship between contemporary and past understandings of freedom and civil rights in US society.

■ Critically examine, assess and comment on a variety of key political and cultural sources and make use of them to construct an argument.

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.