Spring 2021 - HIST 440 D100

Selected Topics in US History (4)

Myths and Realities of Martin L.King & MalcolmX

Class Number: 5633

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including nine units of lower division history.



An examination of selected topics in United States history. Content may vary from offering to offering. See course outline for further information. HIST 440 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Without a doubt, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. are the most iconic figures of the civil rights era in the United States. Both men have been memorialized in t.v., film, and music; on postage stamps; by street names; and, in King’s case, by a national holiday. Despite this recognition, the facts of their life have been hidden or distorted by mythology, including a predominant one about their binary opposition. These simplistic renderings obscure what are much more complex and interesting life stories than popular and official memory has allowed. This course will examine both men’s lives, exploring the similarities and differences in their ideas and their activism, as well as their rise to fame (or infamy). This course will offer students a new lens through which to understand African American history and the history of race in the United States.

How the Course Will Run (subject to minor revision based on my ongoing learning about the remote classroom):

Synchronous course meetings will be scheduled over Zoom each Friday. They will run approximately 2 hours, and never more than 2.5 hours.  I’ll schedule varied activities and ample breaks to avoid Zoom fatigue.

Students will be responsible for screening films and short videos outside of class time.


  • • Informed and Enthusiastic Participation 15%
  • • Asynchronous collaborative activities (e.g. blog entries, Perusall annotations of readings, etc.) 15%
  • • 2 Short Papers 15%
  • • Term Paper Proposal 5%
  • • Annotated Bibliography 15%
  • • Term Paper 35%



David Levering Lewis, King: A Biography (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013).*

Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (New York: Penguin Books, 2011).*

Peniel Joseph, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: Basic Books, 2020).*

Additional course readings will be available through the course Canvas page.  

*Please note that all three of these books are required for the course. Lewis is available free as an electronic resource through the library. One electronic copy (one user at a time) of Joseph is available through the library. Marable is not available through the library.

All three books are available electronically or as hard copies through Amazon.ca.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).