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First-Year Seminar (101-6-1)


Law and the Civil Rights Movem


Joanna Lynn Grisinger
847 491 3987
620 Lincoln St #201
I am an American legal historian who works on the modern administrative state. At Northwestern, I teach courses on law and society, U.S. legal history, gender and the law, and constitutional law. My first book, The Unwieldy American State: Administrative Politics since the New Deal (Cambridge, 2012), examines the politics of administrative law reform; I am currently working on a project about the relationship between administrative agencies and social movements.

Meeting Info

Allison Residential Comm 1021: Tues, Thurs 11:00AM - 12:20PM

Overview of class

LEGAL ST 101-6-20, First Year Seminar: "Law and the Civil Rights Movement"
Prof. Joanna Grisinger, Fall 2022

This course explores the relationship between law and civil rights in modern American history - in particular, African Americans' efforts to secure their legal, political, civil, and economic rights. How and why did the American civil rights movement pursue legal change (in the courts, in the legislatures, and in administrative agencies)? How and why did legal actors (including judges, White House officials, members of Congress, and state governors) engage with civil rights reformers? What are the benefits of pursuing legal change, and what are the limits? In order to answer these and other questions, we will read and discuss material including court cases, statutes, speeches, memoirs, newspaper articles, photographs, and songs.
By the end of the quarter, students will be able to read and analyze diverse primary sources carefully and accurately, with attention to the author's perspective, position, and credibility, and to the source's general context; read, evaluate, summarize, and engage with scholarly works by others, and be able to analyze authors' arguments for evidence, context, strength, and credibility; make clearly written and organized arguments that are well supported by primary sources; and understand how to work with integrity and to properly cite facts, ideas, and scholarship.
Students will also engage with primary documents and scholarly research related to social inequalities and diversities; better understand how such differences as race, class, and gender are related; better understand the impact that histories, institutions, and/or social structures have on local issues and on individual experiences and identities, including their own; and think and write more critically about political, social, economic, and/or cultural issues related to social inequalities and diversities.
Students will also practice setting and evaluating academic goals; communicating effectively and respectfully; studying effectively; and knowing when and how to ask for help.

Teaching Method


Evaluation Method

class participation, multiple writing assignments

Class Materials (Required)

- Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi (New York: Delta, 2004)

- Other materials will be available through Canvas.

Class Notes

Attendance at first class required.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar