Historians and Racial Conflict In America

Instructor:  Bob Rackmales

  • Zoom and Online Class
  • 6 Sessions, Thursdays from 3pm – 5pm, Sept. 24, Oct 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
  • Registration for the Zoom portion of class open until September 16
  • Class full, Zoom registration closed
  • How to participate without Zoom registration
  • $20

From the 1940s until today some of our most eminent historians have made significant contributions to public understanding of an issue which is once again at the center of national attention—social and political conflict based on race. Since understanding requires that we consider the meaning of events that happened many generations ago, historians’ views should continue to play a key role as we debate these questions.

This course will consist of six classes, each focused on a single historian. Required reading and video links are listed below each class:

Class 1: The Irony of Southern History. C. Vann Woodward

Class 2: Race and the Meaning of America. John Hope Franklin

Class 3: A Questionnaire on Monuments. Eric Foner

Class 4: Race and History in Virginia. Drew Gilpin Faust

Class 5: Frederick Douglass’s Vision For America. David Blight

Class 6: America’s Enduring Caste System. Isabel Wilkerson

The required readings for each class, consisting of a brief biography of each historian and the article whose title is listed above, are available as links below. In addition, suggestions for further reading and links to relevant videos are provided below.

Members may take part in the course by registering for six discussions via Zoom (see details above) or by sending their questions/comments to the instructor at rrackmales@gmail.com.

6 Sessions, Thursdays from 3pm – 5pm, Sept. 24, Oct 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Book and Video Recommendations


  • Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History, NY, 1952
  • Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, Philadelphia, 2001

Drew Gilpin Faust

John Hope Franklin

C, Vann Woodward

  • C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, NY, Third ed. NY, 1974
  • John Herbert Roper, C. Vann Woodward: Southerner, Athens GA, 1987

Eric Foner

David Blight

Isabel Wilkerson

Bob Rackmales has degrees in history from Johns Hopkins (where C. Vann Woodward was one of his professors) and Indiana Universities. He was also fortunate to meet John Hope Franklin through a mutual friend. During his 32 year Foreign Service career he assessed the causes and consequences of ethnic conflict in such diverse places as Nigeria, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and as Director of the Office of Human Rights at the State Department.