According to scholars of the legal movement known as “Critical Race Theory,” American law has played a foundational role in producing and maintaining racial inequality. But how exactly has the law created racial differences and hierarchies? And how have people of color responded to or challenged these legal constructions? In this course, we will read nineteenth and twentieth-century legal texts such as treaties and Supreme Court opinions alongside literary and personal narratives that “write back” against their claims and assumptions. We will cover topics ranging from Mexican American property rights to Japanese internment and school desegregation, reading authors such as Maria Ruiz de Burton, Frederick Douglass, Julie Otsuka, and Ntozake Shange. The goal of the course is to introduce students to legal and literary writing that illuminates key moments in American race relations and to enable them to begin thinking through complicated questions of racial inequality, citizenship and rights, and freedom/justice. Course requirements will include active class participation, one short response paper, a midterm, and a 10 page final paper.
Fulfills Humanities and Social Science Sector (for students admitted after Fall 2006 and later) requirement.