MA/PGDip Gender, Sexuality and Culture

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Race, Gender and Power in the American South: From Slavery to Segregation

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER62001
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course examines the origins, development and legitimisation of race and ‘whiteness’ – a powerful form of institutional power granting white men legal, social and psychological authority over blacks, Indians and women – in the American South, from first settlement in the seventeenth century to the establishment of Jim Crow segregation in the southern states in the late nineteenth century. It outlines the complex and contested process by which different groups of southerners, Native Americans, Europeans and Africans, internalised or sometimes challenged notions of racial identity and came to regard themselves, and those around them, as ‘white,’ ‘black’ or ‘red’. Students will consider the broad significance of race to the historical development of the South and to scholarly debates about the nature of southern society. The course will provide points of comparison, assessing southern race relations within a broader national and international framework. 


Available on which programme(s)? 

English and American Studies MA 

Gender, Sexuality and Culture MA  

History MA 

Other humanities MAs as appropriate 

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)? 

Yes (PG only) 

Available to students on an Erasmus programme 



- Consider the origins, consolidation and enduring significance of race in the American South 

- Explore historiographical debates considering race and the development of the southern colonies that became the southern states after the American Revolution  

- Develop skills of critical thinking and close analysis through a detailed engagement with a range of primary and secondary sources  

- Hone students’ research, presentation, and writing skills as well as their capacity to construct a sustained and coherent argument of a standard appropriate to MA-level work  

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to: 

- to recognise that race has multiple and contested meanings;  

- to appreciate the interconnection of race, class, gender and other markers of status and identity; 

- to coherently evaluate the utility of race to the historical development of the American South, using primary and secondary sources 

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught by means of one 90 minute seminar per week; sessions will include lectures at times 

teaching, materials including lecture slides, bibliographies, & handouts (posted on Blackboard) 

Students will be encouraged to use Blackboard discussion boards  

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to: 

- to understand the ways in which race underpinned power relations and the southern social structure at particular historical moments; 

- to be familiar with the major contentions of the substantial scholarship, in different fields, exploring the social construction of identity 

- to confidently navigate historiographical debates concerning race and the American South over a long duration 

Practical skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to: 

- plan and execute independent research essay; 

- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course; 

- speak and write clearly about the historical evolution of race and racism in the American South; 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources; 

- produce written work using appropriate language for an academic audience;  

- produce written work that collects and integrates primary and secondary sources to develop a critical argument; 

 - demonstrate good teamwork skills by acknowledging the views of others and working constructively with others 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

Numerical grade and written comments on essay within 15 working days 


Verbal feedback on essay plan 


Individual consultation in office hours or by appointment 


Recommended reading

David Brown and Clive Webb, Race in the American South: From Slavery to Civil Rights (Gainesville, 2007)  

Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, 2003) 

George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History (Princeton, 2002)  

Stephen Kantrowitz, Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 2000) 

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (New York, 2016) 

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (New York, 2010) 

Theda Perdue, Mixed Blood Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South (Athens, 2003) 

Joshua D. Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families Across the Color Line in Virginia (Chapel Hill, 2003) 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 16.5
Independent study hours
Independent study 133.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Brown Unit coordinator

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