Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Stewart E Tolnay
SOC 590
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Sociology

Examination of current substantive topics in sociology. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and the interests of the instructor. Topics covered in courses with this number lie outside those covered by other special topics courses numbered SOC 581 through SOC 589.

Class description

The is a graduate-level seminar course that will be organized around a set of books that considers the condition of life for African Americans in the United States during three general eras since the end of the Civil War. The era of Jim Crow spans roughly the period from 1870 to 1920. This was a period of drastic economic adjustment and reorganization within the American South, where 90% of African Americans lived. It saw the imposition of racial Jim Crow laws, the nearly complete political disenfranchisement of black voters, the rise of sharecropping and economic marginalization, and unprecedented levels of extra-legal lethal violence. The era of Segregation or The Ghetto spans the years between 1920 and 1980. This period includes the Great Migration that took millions of southern blacks (and whites) to northern and western cities. A massive redistribution of population from South-to-North and from rural-to-urban areas, dramatically altered the demographic profile of the African American population. Racial residential segregation and ethnic cleansing of towns, cities, and even entire counties contributed to the concentration of blacks in high poverty urban residential areas. The era of Mass Incarceration covers the years since 1980. During the last 30+ years, levels of incarceration in the United States have reached historical highs that exceed, by far, those of other developed societies. African American males with less than a high school education have been especially affected by the rise in incarceration. As a result, prison and jail now rivals marriage and the military as institutional channels for such men. The temporal boundaries of these eras are arbitrary, but they draw roughly from Loïc Wacquant* controversial and provocative claim that the U.S. has experienced sequential stages of racial control since Reconstruction. Wacquant’s bold hypothesis begged the important question of who were the “puppeteers” responsible for such a successful sequence of institutional control. Is it possible to demonstrate, empirically, the legitimacy of Wacquant’s claim? Perhaps such empirical evidence can be gleaned from the work of others. Toward that end, I have I tentatively chosen the following books for the course: JIM CROW Douglas A. Blackmon. 2008. Slavery by Another Name. The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II. Doubleday. Jay R. Mandle. 1992. Not Slave, Not Free. The African American Economic Experience since the Civil War. Duke University Press. SEGREGATION (THE GHETTO) Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid. Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Harvard University Press. James W. Loewen. 2005. Sundown Towns. A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. The New Press. MASS INCARCERATION Michelle Alexander. 2010. The New Jim Crow. Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Press. Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen. 2008. Locked Out. Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy. Oxford University Press. Becky Pettit. 2012. Invisible Men. Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress. New York: Russel Sage Foundation Press. Class sessions will be organized around discussions focused on the readings and led by the students. I also hope to invite some guest speakers to visit the class during the term., but I have not, yet, identified specific individuals for extended invitations.

* Loïc Wacquant. 2000. “America’s new ‘Peculiar Institution’: On the Prison as Surrogate Ghetto.” Theoretical Criminology 4(3):380

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Seminar style with discussions led by students.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Stewart E Tolnay
Date: 02/07/2013