African American History to 1865


In this course, we will interrogate the history of people of African descent in the United States, from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the outbreak of the Civil War.  We will discuss major events in early African-American history to consider how the twin engines of slavery and the quest for freedom shaped the lives of millions of African and African-American people in the United States.  Students will consider how social, economic, political, and legal frameworks established in the period between the colonial era and the Civil War influenced the lived experiences of African Americans, enslaved and free.  Topics will include: pre-colonial West and Central Africa, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the development of North American slavery, resistance and revolution in Atlantic slave communities, gradual emancipation laws, economics of slavery, the gendered experience in slavery and freedom, and black people’s participation in anti-slavery politics.  Students will learn about the multifaceted experiences of African Americans by analyzing primary and secondary sources, films, and historical fiction.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts