Study Civil Rights History: Course and Program Overviews

Essential Information

Programs in civil rights history are rare at any degree level, but classes that include civil rights history are often available in bachelor's and master's degree programs such as history and African American studies. They commonly focus on the African American struggle for social, political and economic equality during the mid-20th century. However, some master's students may be able to pursue a civil rights history concentration as part of their program.

Entrance into a master's program generally requires the completion of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Prior to graduation, master's students must also complete original research as well as a thesis.

Bachelor's Degrees Including Civil Rights History

Bachelor of Arts degree programs in history or African American history typically include courses on the history of the civil rights movement. Through a political, legal, cultural, economic and sociological lens, students are introduced to major events, ideologies and leaders of the movement. Some courses may incorporate other disciplines, such as women's studies, as well. Programs may allow students to take on an in-depth research project or colloquium experience so that advanced study in an area of interest like civil rights history can be pursued. Depending on the degree program pursued, coursework in civil rights history may be part of the core curriculum or elective study.

Students may study topics such as:

  • Discrimination in public transportation during the civil rights era
  • Gender and the civil rights movement
  • Educational desegregation
  • Student-organized sit-ins
  • Major civil rights leaders
  • Social, political and economic history of African Americans during the civil rights era

Master's Degrees Including Civil Rights History

Students focusing their studies on civil rights history at the graduate level may pursue a Master of Arts (MA) in History. Programs may train students in analytical, organizational and research methods for the study of themes, people and geography related to the civil rights movement. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in internship experiences. While some programs may have a few required classes, many allow students with an interest in civil rights history to focus their coursework around origins, issues, figures and themes related to the civil rights movement.

Topics may include:

  • The Sixties
  • Minority women
  • Sociopolitical movements in the African Diaspora
  • Prophetic political tradition in the civil rights era
  • African American history in the 20th century
  • American political history in the 20th century

Popular Career Options

Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in specialized or general history with a background in civil rights history may be prepared for careers in education, public history, government, politics and publishing, although in some cases, additional education, training or certification may be required. Possible job titles include:

  • Curator
  • Historian
  • Librarian
  • Archivist
  • Historical association administrator
  • Historical journal writer

Graduates who study civil rights history at the master's degree level are prepared for careers as secondary school teachers and community college instructors. They may also be qualified to work for community organizations, history agencies and societies, museums, archives and the federal government, as well as employers in the fields of journalism, information services or foreign affairs. Depending on a person's career goals, additional education, licensing or certification may be required.

Continuing Education

Individuals may choose to continue their education by pursuing a PhD in history or a related area, such as American studies. Doctoral degree students typically conduct original research in an area of interest to them, which may include civil rights history within the context of the doctoral degree field.

Students interested in the history of civil rights have the option to study the topic at both the bachelor's and master's level. Graduates can pursue careers in an array of fields, including journalism, education, community service and politics.

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