Civil rights movements in the 20th century have led to extensive gains in justice and equality for African-American citizens. Brown versus the Board of Education led to the demise of separate but equal education and through desegregation of schools opened access to better school facilities and eventually to greater access to higher education. The Civil Rights Act contributed to the desegregation of housing. The voting rights act increased access to the ballot for previously disenfranchised citizens. Antipoverty programs contributed to economic advancement of African-Americans. As impressive as these gains may be much more remain to be done. Moreover the gains from previous generations are threatened by re-segregation of neighborhoods and schools, by high rates of joblessness and incarceration among African-American men and thinly veiled efforts to restrict access to the ballot box. This course examines four distinct contributions to the well-being of African-Americans: educational achievement, effective family functioning, justice in the legal system and the exercise political power especially through vote. These are the principal levers for maintaining African-American well-being in terms of educational achievement, building wealth, maintaining health, and accessing quality housing.

This course critically examines on four aspects of the experiences of African Americans implicated in the attainment of justice and equality: African-American parenting, the educational achievement gap, criminal incarceration/reintegration and constraints on political participation. Students will read from a variety of original sources and consider policy and practice solutions that are being considered to address these problems. The course will utilize lecture and seminar formats, encourage active student participation and social interaction. Students will prepare for class through assigned and suggested readings, reflection and writing. Students will choose one of the four course themes (achievement gap, family functioning, criminal justice or political participation) and join a workgroup charged with evaluating current approaches to these social challenges and formulating their own solutions. The results of these workgroups will be documented in the form of an assigned term paper.

Learning objectives for this course include a) deeper knowledge of the challenges to attaining equality and justice in African-American communities, b) a robust conceptual framework for analyzing current policy approaches and c) capacity to formulate thoughtful approaches to the problems of justice and equality.  Student attainment of these outcomes will be evaluated through weekly commentary papers on readings, an objective exam and a final project paper.