In 1776, the idea of self-evidence was used to ground the argument that "all men are created equal." Historically, however, equality has often proven less of a guarantee and more of a promise. Beginning with the "Declaration of Independence," the recognition of a person as fully human has depended on assumptions regarding race, class and gender. In this course we will read stories of people who found their humanity challenged by federal law. Through their stories we will examine how these writers used words to resist the historical circumstances in which they had to fight for identity. We will also consider how different kinds of writing -- legal, scientific, autobiographical and fictional -- employ different strategies to affect their reader and the world.
Authors will include Benjamin Franklin, Charles Brockden Brown, E. A. Poe, William Apess, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Lydia Maria Child, Zitkala Sa, Mark Twain, Monica Sone, Ann Petry, and Jonathan Kozol. We will also consider secondary critical and historical works. Requirements: active participation in class discussion, short response papers, two essays, a mid-term and final.