Debating Justice, Politics, and Culture in Black America, From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter

What follows is a reading list based upon a writing-based history course that Austin McCoy taught in the Fall of 2015. While teaching the course, he relied heavily on primary sources and short secondary sources due to the stringent page limit (45 pages per week).

Here he has gently revised the syllabus. He includes a few more readings that enhance the list. The topics are listed in the order that were assigned. He added two topics – one on the Black Panthers and Donald Trump. He also included a Spotify playlist of music that inspired the class.

PDF Version: Black Lives Matter Reading List.

White Supremacy and Racial Identity

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Excerpts from “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic (2014) (Read parts I-IV).
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” in Souls of Black Folk (1903).
  • Frances Beale, “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female” (1969).
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Letter to My Son” (2015).

Civil Rights Movement: Direct Action

Civil Rights Movement and Memory: From Rosa Parks to Selma

Racial Violence, Police Brutality, and Urban Uprisings

  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Tangle of Pathology,” in The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965): 29-43.
  • James Baldwin, “A Report from Occupied Territory,” The Nation (1966).
  • Philip A. MacComb, “Who is Behind the Race Riots?,” National Review, September 20, 1966.
  • Kerner Commission, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1967): 1-29.

What We Want is Black Power: Debating the Direction of Black Protest

  • Malcolm X, “Message to the Grassroots” (1963).
  • Stokely Carmichael, “What We Want,” New York Times Magazine (September 1966).
  • Richard Nixon, “Bridges to Human Dignity,” Human Events, May 25, 1968.
  • Fran Sanders, “Dear Black Man,” in The Black Woman: An Anthology, ed. Toni Cade (1970).

The Black Panthers

  • Watch: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2016).
  • Watch: Beyoncé, “Formation,” Super Bowl Performance (2016).
  • Donna Murch, Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (2010).
  • Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, “Ten Point Program: What We Want, What We Believe” (1966).

Black Worker Rebellion in Detroit

  • Read Selections of Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, Detroit, I Do Mind Dying and Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis.
  • James Boggs, “The Challenge of Automation” (1963).
  • Michael Hamlin, “Some Accomplishments of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers,” in A Black Revolutionary’s Life in Labor: Black Workers Power in Detroit (2015).

Challenging the Second Wave: Intersectionality and Black Feminism

  • Becky Thompson, “Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism,” Feminist Studies, 28: 2 (Summer 2002): 336-360.1
  • Brittney Cooper, “Intersectionality,” The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory (2016).
  • Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1977).
  • Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” (1984).


The Hip Hop Generation

  • Read selections of Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (2005).
  • Tricia Rose, “Bad Sistas: Black Women Rappers and Sexual Politics in Rap Music,” in Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1993).
  • John McWhorter, “How Hip Hop Holds Blacks Back,” City Journal (Summer 2003).
  • Sacha Jenkins, “The Eternal Illmatic” (2015).

Crime and the Carceral State

  • Elizabeth K. Hinton, “A War within Our Own Boundaries: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Rise of the Carceral State,” Journal of American History, 102: 1 (June 2015).
  • Heather Ann Thompson, “Inner-City Violence in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” The Atlantic, October 30, 2014.
  • Tricia Rose, “Public Tales Wag the Dog: Telling Stories about Structural Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era,” Du Bois Review, 10: 2 (2013): 447-469.
  • Lynn Norment, “Charles Rangel: Front-Line General in War on Drugs,” Ebony (March 1989): 128-134.
  • Donna Murch, “Who’s to Blame for Mass Incarceration?,” Boston Magazine, October 16, 2015.
  • Michael J. Fortner, “Historical Method and the Noble Lie,” Boston Magazine, October, 23, 2015.

Black Sexual Politics

  • Barbara Smith, “Soul on Hold” (1985).
  • Cheryl Clarke, “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance” from This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981).
  • Janet Mock, “I Was Born a Boy,” Marie Claire, May 18, 2011.

Black Politics in the 21st Century

21st-Century Black Feminist Politics

Campus Protest: From #BBUM to #Mizzou

Narrating the Movement: Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter

Race, Trump, and the 2016 Election2


  1. I had students get into groups and reverse outline Thompson’s article. The activity was successful on two fronts – students learned how scholars articulated and proved their arguments with evidence. They also learned a history of feminism that challenged some of the stereotypes often perpetuated in public discourse. Return to text.
  2. I chose Staples’s and Eley’s articles from Blain’s and Connolly’s “Trump Syllabus, 2.0.” Return to text.