History

Diversity Statements

GHIST 101, World History to 1500

Instructor: Henry Myers

Since diversity is often perceived as relating to race relations in the United States, it might seem a bit difficult to feature it in a course which ends in 1500; however, it fits in smoothly enough for comparisons within or among early societies or discussions of how ancient and medieval items have affected the world of the twenty-first century. For example, the caste system is introduced in World History books as a product of the Aryan invasion of India, after which it is barely mentioned for the rest of the course. But wait: the caste system is based on division of the population into socially and legally separated groups, often indistinguishable from each other after many generations. It is almost impossible to get out of a caste (as opposed to a class, from which there are normally a few escape routes). There are numerous inconsistencies in the grouping within a caste system, beginning with a vague notion that the lower castes are inherently "unclean"; yet they regularly perform cleanliness-demanding work such as cooking and care of infants of the higher castes.

The course examines all peoples, races, and cultures and their connections through trade, religion, culture, politics, ideas, and in many other areas. The influences of geography, the economy, religion, culture, and ideas on specific cultures and their relations to others is also fundamental.

GHIST 102, World History since 1500

Instructor: Henry Myers

Including diversity in GHIST 102 is even easier than in GHIST 101 since the way national, religious, and racial groups treat each other is closer at hand and the links with American happenings more accessible. The course continues to stress caste and quasi-caste relations in a variety of settings, particularly African. It is certainly true that imperialism with its condescending and often brutal treatment of native Africans provided reasons for hatred in the colonies, and nearly all African countries except Liberia and Ethiopia were colonies or something like it. The last European country to liberate its last African colony did so in 1975. The short life-spans in most African countries, usually hovering in the forties, have meant that the African population is by Atlantic standards very youthful. The great majority of Africans living today have never experienced bad treatment from white folks. The whites they encounter may seem silly or strange, but they generally come across as the well-intentioned strangers they are. The main feeling they exhibit towards white people is curiosity of a very friendly sort.

Economic, cultural, social, racial, intellectual interactions in a global setting is stressed throughout GHIST 102 as students seek to better understand the contemporary world by better understanding the past. Students examine sources and interpretations to gain a better perception of how societies and peoples understood themselves and interacted with others. The course is rooted in diversity and difference.

GHIST 150: Critical Issues in Recent Global History

Critical Thinking in Recent Global History uses the content area of recent global history to develop and enhance student critical thinking skills as part of cluster 1 in General Education. The focus on recent global history provides students with knowledge of the diverse cultures, peoples, and societies around the planet and how they respond to their world and shape their lives in vastly different ways. The emphasis on critical thinking skills requires students to analysis the similarities and differences in the ways that the world’s people think about issues such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, and religion.

GAMST 200, Introduction to American Studies

Instructor: Jennifer Lockard Connerley

This course employs a variety of perspectives on minority groups in the United States, including ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Divided into chronological units, the course examines first the American cultural consumption of American Indian artifacts and stereotypes, tracing the sentimentalization of the American Indian up through the Buffalo Bill Wild West shows into the Iron Eyes Cody environmental pleas of the 1970s. We also study religious and social justifications for the idea of race in general, and examine how this idea is deployed in the institution of slavery and during the anti-Catholic nativism of the 19th century. In the 20th century, we examine racial (and gender) stereotyping in the characters and attractions of the Walt Disney company (generally the most difficult unit for the students). This class, as a Cluster 2 General Education course, actively works to examine the concerns of minority groups in the United States.

GHIST 225, United States History

Various instructors

This one-semester survey of United States History is unparalleled in the diversity of viewpoints presented. Course readings include a range of primary sources: first-person narratives, memoirs, political tracts, government documents, interviews, short stories, and films. These sources incorporate the perspectives of presidents and congressmen but also of many ordinary people --African Americans, immigrants, workers, women, social and political activists --and shed light on how a wide spectrum of participants shaped the American experience.

HIST 327, Technology in America

Instructor: Kevin Borg

Exploring and understanding diverse experiences and viewpoints is central to the study of history and common to all history courses offered at JMU. One of the aims of this particular course is to disrupt common misperceptions of technology as a white male domain marked by flashes of genius bringing useful gadgets to market. Rather, technology and culture are inextricably intertwined in all historical (and pre-historic) periods. This course surveys the history of technology from Native American canoes to the Internet to explore how technology both reflects and shapes its social, political, and economic contexts. Assigned readings in this course explore how social hierarchies based on shifting categories of gender, race, class, and even religion influence technological change and how those categories and hierarchies have at times been sustained by technological systems and at other times undermined by technological change.

GHUM 251, Modern Perspectives: Human Rights

Instructor: Louise Loe

In this course, students focus on human rights issues around the globe in the 20th and 21st centuries by reading autobiographies and interviews with people from around the world of many different cultures, all of the major religions and diverse political systems. Students study the universal human struggle to achieve freedom from colonial and foreign oppressors and to live with the legal protection of the basic human rights guaranteed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Beginning with the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, students read Gandhi's description of his early role in leading the Indian people to struggle non-violently against British imperialism. The second unit is on Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived four years in Nazi concentration camps, and became a major philosophical and psychological thinker. Next they read the autobiography of the 14th Dalai Lama and his description of the Chinese conquest of Tibet which forced him to flee Tibet 50 years ago. From Tibet, they move to South Africa, reading about the struggle against apartheid and the final victory of this movement with the election of Nelson Mandela as president. Students also learn about the interconnectedness of movements for human freedom around the world, studying how people in South Africa and the United States influenced one another in their struggle against racism. The fifth unit is on the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s with the autobiography of John Lewis, former head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, who is currently a Member of Congress. He discusses his participation in the famous March from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in the spring of 1965, which not only contributed to the Civil Rights Act, but also led to significant conflicts within the civil rights movement itself.

In later units, students study: the Human Rights movement in China and the former Soviet Union; the women of Chile who struggled against the dictator Agosto Pinochet; the heroic struggle of Aung San Suu Kyi, a remarkable woman who has fought for human rights in Burma for over 20 years, spending most of that time under house arrest. The course concludes with the plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Students read interviews with 15 Afghan women refugees who fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, killed their husbands and took away all of their rights. The students also are introduced to the art, drama and music people create while they are struggling for their freedom and how artistic creativity enables people, even under the most oppressive of circumstances, to express their feelings as well as their fears. Students are required to read newspapers, write reviews and discuss events in other countries of the world. As part of the course, each student writes a research paper on one aspect of human rights, such as the struggle for religious freedom or human trafficking. They also watch documentary films which depict the people they have read about. In their class evaluations, students repeatedly have stated that this course gave them a much deeper understanding of the human condition, of the similarities and differences between peoples and of the world we live in, both its past and its future.

GHUM 252, Latin American Identities and Cultures: Pre-colonial to Present

Instructors: Kristen McCleary, Bill Van Norman

Because this class focuses on a region of the world outside of the United States, by nature, it focuses on issues of "diversity": We teach the cultural history of Latin America by focusing on the diverse points of view of its primary inhabitants: people of European, African, indigenous and mixed race backgrounds.

One example is that we read about the plight of the indigenous peoples in Peru after contact/conquest by the Europeans. We begin the class by reading book chapter by Karen Viera Powers, "Pre-hispanic gender roles under the Aztecs and the Incas," which discusses gender relations before the arrival of Europeans. We then read a piece, written by an elite indigenous man in the 16th century, Guaman Poma, entitled, "Letter to a King: A Peruvian Chief’s Account of Life Under the Incas and Under Spanish Rule," which laments about the ways in which Spanish colonial society oppresses the indigenous commoners. Later in the class we read a novel written by a 19th-century elite European-descent Peruvian woman, Clorinda Matto de Turner, who touches on similar themes a Guaman Poma and Powers. We ask students to compare these diverse viewpoints thematically and temporally. We examine themes of social class, gender, and ethnic diversity in all of these readings.

HIST 338, US Urban Social History

Instructor: Daniel Kerr

This course examines the social dynamics in US urban and metropolitan regions from the post-Civil War period through the present. In the course, we address dynamics of how race, gender, class and sexuality shape and are shaped by the urban built environment. Students learn about the origins of residential class and racial segregation. They will examine the effect public as well as industrial policy has had on urban African-American and Latino communities. They will also investigate how Gays and Lesbians have carved out spaces for their communities within a hostile social setting.

Students will utilize many of the different types of sources and research methodologies that urban historians rely upon for their work. Using these materials and approaches, participants engage in a collective research project examining the implementation of urban renewal policies in Harrisonburg in the post-World War II era -- a project that demolished the core neighborhoods of Harrisonburg's African-American community. Using this collective research as a basis, each participant will attempt to relate the social history of Harrisonburg to the larger themes addressed throughout the class.

HIST 362, Introduction to U.S. Religious History

Instructor: Jennifer Lockard Connerley

This course provides a variety of perspectives on minority concerns -- specifically, the interests, conflicts, and concords between religious and ethnic minorities in the United States. For example, one component of this course requires studying the rise of Islam in the United States (from its earliest West African expression amongst enslaved Americans to its growth in the 20th and 21st centuries). Additionally, we discuss a range of new religious movements that are often maligned or misunderstood, including Christian Science, Wicca, Spiritualism, and the Church of Scientology. Students are actively engaged in understanding how religion is often used as both a justification and a vehicle for ethnic discrimination -- and conversely, how religion can be deployed as a tool for ensuring and legitimizing social justice.

HIST 395: The History Seminar

History majors take this required course to learn how to research, to analyze evidence and to write about history. Students are introduced to the discipline of history that involves examining the lives and actions of people from diverse backgrounds. Students read about Iroquois relations with British and Americans following the American Revolution, or the place of material culture in better understanding the lives of French Revolutionaries or French Jews before World War II, or oral history interviews of African American cotton textile workers in the South. They conduct independent historical research and write a paper on a specific topic that makes use of primary sources. Students’ immersion in primary sources enables them to better understand and value those different from themselves. Since students read each others’ papers as part of the seminar, they come to appreciate a diversity of perspectives among their peers as well as the racial, ethnic, gender, chronological and geographical diversity of humans throughout history.

HIST 428, American Workers in the Industrial Age, 1877-1948

Instructor: Steven Reich

This course provides advanced undergraduate students with an introduction to some of the key issues and debates in the history of American workers during the United States’ industrial era. The course will examine in depth a number of different but related workplaces, including the Packinghouses of Chicago, the needle trades in New York City’s Lower East Side, the Alabama coal mines of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during World War I, black and white Wobblies on the Philadelphia waterfront in the 1920s, and the shipyards of World War II California. We will explore these places and the men and women who inhabited them---native white Americans, Eastern European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans---through a variety of sources, including historical scholarship, literature, ethnography, film, oral history, memoir, journalism, and other sources contemporary to the period. Readings include Katherine Archibald, Wartime Shipyard: A Study in Social Disunity; William Attaway, Blood on the Forge; Rose Cohen, Out of the Shadow: A Russian Jewish Girlhood on the Lower East Side; Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly; Susan Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation; James Green, Death in the Haymarket; Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go; and Upton Sinclair, The Jungle.