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Study information

American Slavery since Abolition (1865-to the Present)

Module titleAmerican Slavery since Abolition (1865-to the Present)
Module codeHIC2006
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Kristofer Allerfeldt (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Since 2000 the UN, the EU and the UK have all sponsored measures aimed at defining, investigating and attempting to control slavery – so has the US. Yet modern abolitionists claim there are more slaves in our times than ever. This module attempts to uncover the history of post “abolition” slavery in the modern US and aims to get students to consider a variety of questions related to slavery including: How do we define it? Why has it continued? Who are the victims? What sort of numbers were enslaved? What measures have been taken to curb it? Why did/does it continue?

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will investigate a wide range of topics. It will look into the nature of US slavery scrutinising such manifestations as the Prison Industrial Complex; the sex trade, wage slavery and coolie labour. Close comparisons will be made with plantation slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade to encourage an understanding of the changing nature of slavery. It will look at how slavery is fostered by immigration legislation and sexual and economic inequality. It will examine how and where abolition legislation has succeeded or failed – and why. It will pay particular attention to ties between crime and slavery, examining in some detail issues of agency and coercion. All these will be investigated in their historical context with close attention to the historiography, as well as with reference to the problem today.

The module will use his ties with a network of current activists, especially legislators, law-enforcers and modern abolitionists. It is intended to offer you an opportunity to understand, first hand, the problems and issues involved in drafting assessing and enforcing legislation on such a complex topic.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. To gain a good knowledge of the history of US slavery, before and after 1865
  • 2. To gain the ability to argue why slavery continued after abolition, and what measures have been taken to control/eliminate it

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Formulate appropriate questions relating to a body of source material and utilise that material to answer these questions
  • 4. Evaluate critically the reasoning of discourses current in the period under study

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Combine independent, autonomous study with the ability to work collaboratively
  • 6. With minimum guidance, digest, select and synthesise evidence and arguments to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument

Syllabus plan

The module will have a spine of eleven lectures. These essentially address broad topics in a thematic structure. Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Defining slavery
  • The US abolitionist movement
  • Race and slavery
  • The wage slave
  • The sex slave
  • Immigration and slavery
  • Slave traders
  • Slave narratives in fiction and fact
  • Slavery and the caste system
  • American slavery in a world context
  • The historiography of post-abolition US slavery

Each of these topics will be expanded in eleven seminars that will run concurrently with the week’s theme. You will be given questions on ELE to address and on which to present in small groups developing ideas put forward in that week’s lecture.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1111 thematic lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching11Prepared discussion questions given on ELE to be presented and debated in seminar groups
Guided independent study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly seminar questions answered in groups10 minutes1-6Discussion with peers and module convenor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay902000 words1-5Written comments and oral feedback on request
Seminar participation10Continuous1-4Attendance mark and oral feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-5Referral/deferral period
Seminar participationRepeat study or mitigation1-4Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Kevin Bales, Disposable People (Berkeley, 1999)
  • Douglas Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name (New York, 2008)
  • Pete Daniel, The Shadow Of Slavery (Urbana, 1972)
  • Julia O’Connell Davidson, Modern Slavery (London, 2015)
  • Joel Quirk, The Anti-Slavery Project (Philadelphia, 2011)
  • Gretchen Soderlund, Sex Trafficking, Scandal and the Transformation of Journalism 1885-1917 (Chicago, 2013)
  • Phil Williams (ed.), Illegal Immigration and Commercial Sex (London, 1999)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Slavery, USA, 1865-2017, Human Trafficking, Prisons, Coolies, Race, Sex Trafficking, Abolition, Immigration Control

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date