The Global Pursuit of Freedom

Course Description: In this seminar, we will study the diverse ways civil rights activists attempted to forge solidarities that transcended national borders, taking time to interrogate how those transnational connections shaped activists’ understanding of political power and the goals of the movement. In the process, we will raise new questions about the legacy of the civil rights movement, the idea of “American” identity, and the politics of global citizenship. To what extent was the civil rights movement “home grown” and to what extent were its ideals and tactics imported from elsewhere? In what ways did a global identity for people of African descent change the way African Americans saw themselves? What was strategically similar and different about a civil rights movement that operated within the context of U.S. politics and a Human Rights movement that emerged out of and simultaneously transcended other political and legal traditions? To aid our inquiry, we will investigate a variety of primary documents, consider scholarly debates about the civil rights movement in the United States, and learn from local Cleveland organizations committed to racial justice and civil rights.