PPS 166/HIST 166A: The Insurgent South

Robert Korstad


Les Todd.


Be proud to be a rebel 'cause the South's gonna do it again....
--The Charlie Daniels Band

The notion that the South will rise again has been hammered into the heads of Southerners and the rest of the nation alike, and is commonly used as a stereotype of the typical Southern attitude. While there is a very good chance that the South will not again secede, Robert Korstad is hoping to show students in his class "The Insurgent South" that, since the Civil War, the South has in fact been rising constantly against the powers-that-be.

Korstad, an associate professor of public policy studies and history, has taught the course twice before, and hopes to continue increasing awareness about Southern history. "One thing that I'm trying to accomplish with the course," he says, "is to give students a little better understanding and appreciation of how indigenous insurgent movements have developed and the kind of impact they've had on the South." In order to achieve such a large feat in such a short time, he has divided the course into four chronological sections, beginning with Reconstruction and ending with 1960s conservatism. "There will be some overlap," he says, "but I'm also trying to show how one movement influenced another."

Along with weekly readings, "The Insurgent South" incorporates audio and visual components to give students a better understanding of what people of the time were experiencing. Korstad runs a documentary film series four evenings throughout the semester, in conjunction with what is being taught at the time. This semester, in addition, the class is a designated iPod course, which means that each student who enrolls receives an iPod for class use and is allowed to keep it.

Korstad is hoping to integrate these iPods in three different ways. First, there will be public speeches available for students to download, including William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats, and various speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.

Second, many of the books that the class uses have been built around oral-history projects, and so students will be able to hear interview excerpts. Finally, Korstad will give students a sampling of protest songs that coincide with the various movements. He says he is optimistic that using the iPods will "add another dimension to the class that I haven't been able to have before."

His main goal for "The Insurgent South" is simply to expand students' knowledge of the land below the Mason-Dixon Line, he says. "This course really fits with what I've been studying and writing about for years. My personal aim for the course is to give students the same appreciation that I have for the South."

No Prerequisites


William Cooper Jr. and Thomas E. Terrill, The American South: A History, Volume II

Jacqueline Dowd Hall, Revolt against Chivalry: Jesse Daniels Ames and the Women's Campaign against Lynching

Robert Korstad, Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South

Charles Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Movement

Various articles provided on electronic reserves.


One-page commentaries on the readings for twenty of the twenty-six class periods
One ten-page research paper
One final exam
Class participation


Robert A. Korstad grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and earned both his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He became an assistant professor at Duke in 1994 and an associate professor in 2001. His research focuses on Southern labor history and African-American history in the South. He has been the director of the B.N. Duke and Trinity Scholars Program since 2000.

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