Racial Justice in the 20th Century United States and South Africa – Fall 2017

Course numbers: AAAS 346S, HISTORY 396S, ICS 351S, POLSCI 336S, PUBPOL 326S

Course attributes: CCI, R, W, CZ, SS

Course description:

In 1966, Robert Kennedy gave a speech to thousands of University of Cape Town students.  He began with something of a history lesson.  “I came here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage.”  Kennedy paused before delivering the punch-line – a punch-line that drew laughter of self-recognition.  “I refer, of course, to the United States of America,” Kennedy concluded.

Scholars, pundits, and historical actors have long drawn parallels between the United States and South Africa – two countries founded on the premises of racial inequality.  In this course, we will explore the machinations of race from the quickening of industrial development to the present.  We will consider the benefits and pitfalls of thinking comparatively, as well as cover such topics as segregation, transatlantic religious and cultural exchanges, living apartheid and Jim Crow, struggles for liberation, the American anti-apartheid movement, memory and the struggles for social change, and the notion of “post-racial societies.”

Professor biography:

Professor Shapiro studies American social and southern history, as well as South African history. She is now engaged in three distinct projects. The first consists of a biography of Archbishop Walter Khotso Makhulu, archbishop of Central Africa between 1980 and 2000.  A graduate of the same seminary and a direct contemporary of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu who served as Archbishop of Cape Town,

Second, explores South Africa’s apartheid-era emigration policy and its relationship to notions of citizenship and state formation, as well as the ways in which passports and other kinds of travel documents formed part of the oppressive apparatus of the successive National Party governments.

Third, Professor Shapiro is researching the transnational careers of seven influential South African medics who came to North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s to work at Duke and UNC, Chapel Hill. Primarily epidemiologists and family and community medicine doctors, this cohort adopted a “social medicine” approach. These pioneering doctors generally left South Africa when the National Party introduced apartheid in the late 1940s/1950s. Several ended up in North Carolina, where they had long and illustrious careers.