Pre-College Programs
Summer@Brown

« Return to Course Catalog

Black Panthers, Brown Berets: Radical Social Movements of the Late-20th Century

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

View related courses »

Course Description

This course examines the histories of radical social movement organizations and individuals from the Black, Latin@, Asian, and Native American communities. We will explore their greatest achievements along with their deepest pitfalls, and ponder the teachings these experiences can provide for us today. Students will heavily utilize primary sources--film, theater, paintings, and autobiography--to learn about this history from the perspective of those who took part in the movements.

Between 1950 and 1980, the United States witnessed a mobilization of radical social movements led by Black, Latin@, Asian, and Native American communities. The legacy of this activism lives on in popular memory, as names like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers have become iconic--even controversial--in the American mainstream. Still, others remain lesser known but equally important in shifting the course of history and challenging racial politics in the U.S.

Who are the individuals and organizations responsible for leading this wave of social activism? What goals did they aspire to, what organizing strategies did they employ? Which forces enabled their mobilization, and which led to their decline? How is this moment remembered--commemorated, celebrated, or criticized--today?

This course examines the histories of radical social movement organizations and individuals from the Black, Latin@, Asian, and Native American communities. We will explore their greatest achievements along with their deepest pitfalls, and ponder the teachings these experiences can offer us today. Topics range from free school lunch programs and mobile healthcare facilities, to FBI shootouts and international decolonizing alliances. Students will utilize primary sources--film, theater, paintings, and autobiography--to learn about this history from the perspective of those who took part in the movements. We will conclude by considering representations of the radical social movements in the contemporary moment.

The final project for this class will be for each student to produce a poster series dedicated to the topics of this course. We will learn about the importance of poster art in communicating the needs of local community residents. Before the age of digital media, activists utilized posters as a central tool for organizing. These posters were responsible for issuing a call to action, spreading information about the groups and their work, and condemning injustice. The student posters should contain these same elements, making it clear to the viewer who the groups are, when and where they were functioning, the injustices they condemn, and what they hope to achieve. As a series, this assignment allows students to build up to a significant cumulative project over the course of the term, and will serve as a portfolio documenting the major topics covered throughout the term.

Students will leave the class having developed skills skills in historical investigation, arts and media analysis, and cultural studies. This course will be particularly suitable for those interested in the fields of history, ethnic studies, the 20th Century, and communications.

At the conclusion of the course, students will have a portfolio reflecting the course’s major topics and analysis, the skills to critically read texts and perform visual arts analysis, experience in communicating academic ideas to a non-academic audience, and historical context from which to understand contemporary social movements, community organizing, and activist work.

This course has no prerequisites--all are welcome!

youtube instagram