The history and ethics of protest in America

June 03, 2020

A free online course for the SEGL community 8PM Eastern on Wednesdays in June and July

Course description:

George Floyd is dead and America is convulsing.

How ought we to respond, and why?

This discussion-based course will help provide historical and ethical context to our current national trauma, and help participants find their own way forward. Using classic SEGL readings, films, and case studies, along with today’s most influential thinking, we will wrestle with questions as old as our Republic:

Is violent protest ever best, and if so, when and why?

How should we interpret John Locke’s famous concept (enshrined in the Declaration of Independence): “the consent of the governed”?

How should our backgrounds inform how we understand and respond to potential injustice?

Along the way, we will give special attention to the role of African American men (from Crispus Attucks, the first person killed in the American Revolution, through Mr. Floyd) in inspiring, participating in, and responding to protests. Guest experts will enrich our understanding.

Course certificate is available here!

Password is Ethics!@


Wednesday, July 29: Where do we go from here?: our final class.

Suggested homework for this session:

Review and reflect on the following questions. Feel free to write your responses:

  1. What is the most important thing I saw in this class?
  2. What are the most important conclusions I reached as a result of this class?
  3. What, if anything, have I done differently in the past few weeks as a result of this class?
  4. What, if anything, will I do differently in the future as a result of this class?

“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Sister Outsider Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde, Ten Speed Press, 2016.

Please complete the attendance survey here; we need a bit more information to process course attendance and to award you a certificate.

Past Classes

Wednesday, July 22:

Protesters and the Police, Part II: A conversation with Professor Adriane Lentz-Smith.

Adriane Lentz-Smith is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in Duke University’s Department of History, and a Senior Fellow at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics. Her current research focuses on violent encounters between African Americans and the police. [n.b. These readings are scheduled for publication later this year; please do not distribute them to anyone outside of the SEGL community.] Each of these readings will take longer than previous homework assignments; make sure to schedule enough time in advance!

Suggested homework for this session:

  1. Lentz-Smith, Adriane “The Laws Have Hurt Me”
  2. Lentz-Smith, Adriane “The Unbearable Whiteness of Grand Strategy” (this may be of particular interest to SEGL graduates given the final Ethics and Leadership case study on grand strategy).

Wednesday, July 15: “It’s going to require every single one of us”: SEGL alums in action.

Featuring SEGL Alums Peter Beck (Fall '19), Toella Pliakas (Spring'16), Afia Tyus (Spring '16), Miles Weddle (Spring '15), and Courtenay White (Fall '18).

Suggested homework for this session:

  1. Beck, Peter and White, Courtenay. “Historical Findings and Accompanied Discussion On the Rev. Dr. Anthony Toomer Porter.” [Note the authors’ disclaimer: “While we fully intend to make our findings public, please do not share this document with anyone outside of the SEGL community. We are still in the organizing phases in how to best address and utilize this information for change. Thank you.”]

Wednesday, July 8: “Protesters and the Police: Part I” with DC Police Union Chair Gregg Pemberton and Vice Chair Medgar A. Webster, Sr. [Note: Part II, with Duke University Professor Adriane Lentz-Smith, will take place on Wednesday, July 22nd.]

Suggested homework for this session:

Wednesday, July 1: “A Highly Interesting Object”: the role of monuments in popular protest, with educator and FREED actor Marcia Cole and Kirk Savage, History of Art and Architecture Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Suggested homework for this session:

Wednesday, June 24: “Performative Wokeness” in response to popular protest: A conversation with writer and New York Times editor Aisha Harris.

Suggested homework for this session:

  1. Have a conversation with three different people. Discuss the following prompt with them: What do the people most affected by racism need in this moment, and from whom? Journal about what you have learned from these conversations. Again, this work is not required.If you choose not to complete it, reflect in your journal about why. Was it not worth your time? Was it the wrong thing to do? Did it make you uncomfortable? Is there another conversation you think might be more useful?

Wednesday, June 17: “You broke the contract!”: A conversation with author Kimberly Jones on the ethics of violence in popular protest.

Suggested homework for this session:

Wednesday, June 10: “Tell me how you feel, but don’t say it too harshly”: the ethics of allyship in popular protest.

Suggested homework for this session:

Wednesday, June 3: A conversation with Dr. Farah Peterson, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and author of “Black Lives and the Boston Massacre” in The American Scholar.

Suggested homework for this session:

Zoom Information:

This course is powered by teleconferencing software called Zoom. You do not need to sign up for Zoom or install the Zoom software to participate in this class, though there are a few limitations if you do not. If you do not want to sign up for and install Zoom, skip down to the appropriate instructions below.

Smartphone: To participate in a show using a smartphone (Android or iOS), install and sign up for Zoom using the app on your phone. Go back to your phone’s browser, and click the “Join the Conversation” logo above. It will open Zoom on your phone and take you directly to the conversation.

Computer: To participate in a show using a computer, you can sign up for and install Zoom here. If you already use Google products (like GMail), you can sign up using the “Sign In with Google” button. Once you’re done, click the logo above, and install Zoom using the “download and run Zoom” button. It will then take you to the conversation.

If you do not want to sign up for and install Zoom: Click the logo above, then click “start from your browser.” It will look like the image below. Then, enter your name in the correct prompt. No need to install Zoom!

If you cannot download or install the application , start from your browser first.

Using Zoom: Once you’re in the conference room, you’ll receive a prompt to “Join Audio by Computer.” Click that link.

If you are using a web browser, Zoom will now ask to access your microphone. Allow it to do so by clicking “allow” on the prompt that appears. Now, click on the camera in the lower left hand corner. Zoom will now ask to access your webcam; allow it to do so. You should only have to do this once:

Your microphone will be muted once you enter the conversation, but the hosts and the other guests will be able to see you. You may turn your webcam off by clicking the camera in the lower left hand corner again. If a host has invited you to speak during a conversation, you’ll need to turn your microphone on by clicking the microphone button, also at the lower left corner of your screen.