Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Race and Ethnicity Courses

The History Department’s Contribution to the Race and Ethnicity Requirement

The formation of individual and group identity is a fundamental concern of historical analysis, and the U-M History Department has been a leading center of research on the politics of identity, past and present, notably including "race" and "ethnicity." Reflecting this disciplinary and departmental expertise, the History Department offers more than three dozen courses that fulfill the Race and Ethnicity (R&E) requirement, running from introductory surveys to specialized thematic seminars. Some courses focus on modern United States or world history to investigate the causes of racial and ethnic injustice today. Others explore distant times and places where “race” and “ethnicity” were not even concepts through which people organized their worlds.

The diversity of ways humans have sorted individuals into groups is one of history’s principal lessons. No categories of identification are primordial or fixed by nature, and intersections with other aspects of identity such as nationality, religion, gender, class, caste, political party, and sexual orientation shape the personal experiences and social consequences of race and ethnicity. Despite the fluidity of identities across time and space, all societies categorize individuals into groups and interactions between these groups form the essence of politics. Historical analysis shows how such categories become institutionalized through the conscious manipulation of powerful elites and the organized resistance of oppressed communities, as well as everyday practices of record keeping, religious worship, dress codes, hiring, road and railway construction, standardized testing, medical training, tax collection, and myriad other mundane activities. Racism and ethnocentrism thus become systemic, which manifests as enduring differences in wealth, health, power, and freedom.

By exploring the endless diversity of past societies, students in History R&E courses develop comparative perspectives and analytic skills that empower them to expose systemic racism in the present and to imagine—and work for—more just futures at the University of Michigan and beyond.