Topics in American History: Race and Drugs in American History


This course explores the racial construction of the use of legal and illegal substances in American history from the mid-19th century to the present. We will spend time engaging in a historical analysis of the social, economic, and racial dynamics that defined drug addiction in popular imagination, and examine how these factors contributed to discussions about legality, access to substances, one's ability to be rehabilitated, and criminal status. Regarding criminality we will particularly explore sociological and theoretical perspectives of labeling, habitual and occasional offenders, and moral panic in order to understand how racial minority groups were targeted for different rhetorical, legislative, and economic purposes. One major goal of the course will be to outline the early 20th century beginnings of the war on drugs and connect it to the century long growth of a militarized police system and prison industrial complex. We will secondly work to understand the role of local and national political actors, law enforcement, and the media in manufacturing and maintaining connections between race, crime and drugs. Ultimately, we will use our study of drugs to contextualize 21st century issues of police violence, increases in homicide in minority communities, mass incarceration, poverty, segregation, and mass movements of protest.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; AS HUM

Section 01

Topics in American History: Race and Drugs in American History
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