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Global Dimensions of Race/Ethnicity, Gender and Religion in America

HUM:208 401 (36182) (3 credit hours)
Liberal Arts Seminar: Themes in the Liberal Arts
Fall Semester 2013
TR 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
F Tower 221

Professor: Dr. Deborah Henry
Office: E Tower 222
Campus Hours

Monday and Wednesday 9-9:30 a.m.
11 a.m.-Noon
1:15-3:30 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday
9-9:30 a.m
12:15-2 p.m.
. . . and by appointment
E-mail: dhenry45@stlcc.edu        
Phone: 314-644-9657            
Dept. of Social Sciences: 314-644-9395/644-9659 (emergency phone number)    


This course introduces students to global processes influencing and shaping race, gender and religion in the American experience. Students will study the historical layers of cultural, economic and political interaction between the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and North America that have influenced and shaped the role of race, gender, and religion in American history and in the modern nation.

There will be two primary learning units in this course with about half of the semester dedicated to each learning unit. The first learning unit will focus on the global dimensions of diversity in black America. We will grapple with questions such as: What does it mean to be “black” in 21st century America? Are all blacks in the U.S. African Americans? Are there more commonalities than differences among the diverse cultures of black America? To begin “unpacking” these questions, it is necessary to study the African Diaspora and slavery in the Americas. We will also study the “struggle for Africa” during 19th century European imperialism. To further our knowledge and understanding of diversity in black America today, we will study 20th century global processes such as post-colonial independence movements in Africa and subsequent political, economic and social challenges, changes in U.S. immigration laws in the 1960s and the subsequent shifts in black immigrants to America, and economic/political shifts in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The second learning unit this semester will focus on global dimensions of religious diversity in the U.S. Our study in this unit will begin with colonial and early America and consider the questions: “Was there freedom of religion in the ‘new world’?” Was religious tolerance embraced in these early years? What events and experiences shaped the ideology of the Founding Fathers as they set about writing the Constitution and the First Amendment? How did culture, race, and ethnicity shape religion in America? Studying the First and Second Great Awakening will expand our understanding of religious diversity in America. Within the very large subject of “global dimensions of religious diversity in America” we will shift our focus more directly to the arrival of Islam in America and its subsequent growth. To enrich our knowledge and understanding of Islam in America, we will begin our study with Islam in Africa and the arrival of practicing Muslim slaves from Africa in the early colonies. The African American tradition of Islam picks up again in the early 20th century with the Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam and the American Society of Muslims. The second primary tradition of Islam in America is the immigrant tradition. We will study the immigrant tradition before and after changes in U.S. immigration policies in the 1960s. Islam is one of the fasted growing religions in 21st century America. This learning unit will foster knowledge and understanding of the rich traditions of Islam in the American experience and how global migrations, economies and political processes contribute to an expanding diversity of religion in America.

You should leave this course with the understanding that we can only understand the present by questioning the past. Ask questions of the sources we read, ask yourself questions, ask questions of each other; participate, have fun, be troubled. It is by engaging the past that we develop a sense of who we are today.


Learning Unit One:

Students will be able to compare and contrast historical realities and experiences shaping the lives of peoples of African descent in the Caribbean, Latin America and the U.S.
  • Students will be able to summarize and explain global processes leading to diversity in black America.
  • Students will be able to identify and discuss cultural commonalities and differences of black Americans – native-born and immigrants.

Learning Unit Two:

  • Students will be able to describe and discuss the diversity of religions in early America and evaluate and explain the historical ideas and intellectual debate behind the First Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast the continuities and changes of Islam and the African American experience in both colonial and modern America.
  • Students will be able to evaluate and explain the global processes and domestic immigration policies influencing the immigrant tradition of Muslims in 20th century America.

Combined Units:

Students will be able to evaluate, interpret, and discuss historical evidence, both primary and secondary, to explore the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic class and religious diversity of multi-cultural Americans over time and assess this legacy for 21st century America.


All books are available in the Campus Bookstore.

  • Black in Latin America; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; New York: New York University Press, 2011 (ISBN: 978-0814738184)
  • Islam in the African-American Experience; Richard Brent Turner; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997 (ISBN: 978-0253216304)
  • Muslims in America: A Short History; Edward E. Curtis IV (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 (ISBN: 978-0-19-536756-0)