HSTY 120-01X Pandemic Schedule

Nothing about the remainder of the semester will approach what we could describe as “normal.” Our revised schedule and assignments reflect the reality that every one of us is dealing with an unprecedented and rapidly changing situation. The primary goal of the course is for us to think about how we use autobiographies–that is, the life stories of individual Americans–as historical sources. I have tried to distill the course down to that essence.


Over the next weeks many of us will face challenges to our schedules, workloads, and health (though I hope as few as possible for that last). I would therefore like to revise the syllabus to offer a modified version of something called contract grading. What that looks like in this course is that you will earn at least a B in the course if you make a good-faith effort to complete all assignments for the course. (This includes completion of any assignments due prior to spring break.) Please note that I may revise this offer to reflect updates from the university administration about school-wide policies about grading for this semester.

If you have not turned in any assignments from the first half of the course, please contact me and we can discuss the best course of action.

Should you become ill or your circumstances otherwise make it impossible for you to complete course requirements, please contact me and the Dean of Students when you are able.


Most of the remaining work of the course can be done asynchronously, that is, without us having to meet at the same time. I have planned a few live sessions (noted on the schedule below) when I would like us to gather on Blackboard Collaborate for a discussion at the regularly scheduled course time. These sessions will be recorded so that you can view them at a later time if you cannot log on at that time.

For all other dates I will post video lectures and other materials that accompany your reading and writing, which you may review at whatever pace works best with your schedule.

My plan is to have a live session during the first week of May so that we can share together your projects on the autobiographies you individually selected.

Mar. 30 LIVE MEETING: Check-in and Plan

Apr. 1 Slavery and Freedom in Antebellum America

  • Optional: American Yawp, chs. 10-11

Apr. 6 Honors Projects

Apr. 8 Frederick Douglass and a Life in Slavery

  • Douglass, Narrative of the Life, preface, letters, chs. 1-4

Apr. 13 Check in on Honors Projects

Apr. 15 Reading Douglass

  • Douglass, Narrative of the Life, chs. 5-9

Apr. 20 (Patriots’ Day)

Apr. 22 “How a Slave Was Made a Man”

  • Douglass, Narrative of the Life, chs. 10-11, appendix

Apr. 27 Honors Projects due

Apr. 29 Douglass as an Abolitionist Politician

  • Douglass, Narrative of the Life, selected documents
  • Option 1: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
  • Option 2: Any other 3 documents

May 4 Honors Projects

  • LIVE Session (or recorded) with comments on honors projects

May 6 Course Conclusion

Final exam due: Weds., May 13 by 2:30 pm

Revised Assignments

Unit 3: Slavery and Freedom in Antebellum America

As you read, you should post reading journal entries in which you discuss your ideas, questions, and thoughts about reading Douglass’s Narrative of the Life. These should be posted to Blackboard and are due each Wednesday. You may also use the space to connect our reading of Douglass to the historical context discussed in The American Yawp and posted video lectures, as well as other material in the course. Finally, you are welcome to use the journal as a space to think about how we might consider the impact of Douglass in American life today.

Honors Project

For the independent autobiography you are reading, you will create a slide deck that introduces the author and his/her autobiography and offers some brief context about how we should read the text as a historical source.

Final Exam

You will write a brief essay exploring the use of autobiographies as historical sources. Specific instructions will be posted in mid-April.