L57 RelPol 305

Between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Freedom

Spring 2016, M/W 10:00–11:30AM

line drawing of three people teaching superimposed on each other

This course focuses on the political and spiritual lives of Martin and Malcolm. We will examine their personal biographies, speeches, writings, representations, FBI Files, and legacies as a way to better understand how the intersections of religion, race, and politics came to bare upon the freedom struggles of people of color in the US and abroad. The course also takes seriously the evolutions in both Martin and Malcolm’s political approaches and intellectual development, focusing especially on the last years of their respective lives. We will also examine the critical literature that takes on the leadership styles and political philosophies of these communal leaders, as well as the very real opposition and surveillance they faced from state forces like the police and FBI. Students will gain an understanding of what social conditions, religious structures and institutions, and personal experiences led to first the emergence and then the assassinations of these two figures. We will discuss the subtleties of their political analyses, pinpointing the key differences and similarities of their philosophies, approaches, and legacies, and we will apply these debates of the mid-twentieth century to contemporary events and social movements in terms of how their legacies are articulated and what we can learn from them in struggles for justice and recognition in twenty-first century America and beyond.