SST 102: The Southern Protest Mixtape

Brian Foster, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Southern Studies, is teaching Honors Southern Studies 102 this semester. The interdisciplinary course is structured as an examination of southern protest culture, and organized like a mixtape. See excerpts from his syllabus below. This is part of an occasional series in which we share syllabi from Southern Studies courses.

Foster with his Fall 2016 Race and Space class.

Southern Studies 102 / Introduction to Southern Studies

The Southern Protest Mixtape

Spring 2017
By B. Brian Foster

a recording on a cassette tape, CD, or digital medium consisting of blended or recombined tracks, or a series of tracks with smooth transitions.


IMG_1924The American South is a riddle, a paradox—a region of tragedy and romance, violence and agape; a place of laughter and lynching, fried gizzards and sweet tea; home of Wallace and King, Hurston and K.R.I.T.; cathedral of southern belles, debutantes, and Bounce. This course interrogates the people and history of the South through a critical reading of the region’s protest culture(s)—Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” Merle Haggard’s “I’m just a White Boy,” Beyonce’s “Formation,” and others. In the first section of the course, we will consider the conceptual foundations of “racism,” “race,” “regionalism,” and “protest.” We will then survey key events, figures, and epochs of southern history, from Slavery and Emancipation to Outkast’s audacious pronouncement—“the South Got Something to Say”—at the 1994 Source Awards. In the final section of the course, we will examine personal and alternative notions of protest. This course is highly interdisciplinary. We will consider perspectives from a variety of disciplines, from sociology to the humanities, and “texts,” from scholarly essays to popular culture.


This course is meant to help develop your: (1) capacity to engage issues related to racism, racial inequality, and social change; (2) awareness of the diverse people and complex histories of the U.S. South; (3) ability to critically assess and deconstruct the relationship between historical and contemporary social issues; and (4) understanding of interdisciplinary research methods. Beyond these, please take note of the general curricular goals put forth by the College of Liberal Arts.

Course Schedule

Tape 1 – Kreation

Kreation—itself an homage to Mississippi-based rapper, Big K.R.I.T.—samples from an assortment of both southern- and non-southern-based protest music. The goal is to motivated students to address conceptual questions such as, “what is racism?” and “what constitutes protest?”

Week 1
Tuesday (1/24) – Intro / “What’s your song?”

  • Syllabus and Course Overview

Thursday (1/26) – Interlude / A Sociology Primer

Week 2
Tuesday (1/31) – “Southern State of Mind” (Darius Rucker) / Turning South

  • Reed, John. 2013. “The Three Souths.” Pp. 11-21 In Minding the South.
  • Reed, John. 1993. “The South: Where is it? What is it?” Pp. 5-28 in My Tears Spoiled my Aim.

Thursday (2/2) – “Power” (Kanye West) / What is Racism? What is Race?

  • Feagin and Feagin. 2011. “Basic Concepts…” Pp. 4-27 in Racial and Ethnic Relations.
  • Lukes, Steven. 2015. “Introduction.” Pp. 1-13 in Power: A Radical View.

Week 3
Tuesday (2/7) – “Fuck I Look Like” (Kai Davis) / Racialization, Regionalization, and Intersectionality

  • Hull, Gloria, Patricia Scott, and Barbara Smith. “Introduction.” in But Some of us are Brave.
  • Robinson, Zandria. 2014. “Introduction.” Pp. 11-23 in This Ain’t Chicago.
  • Emba, Christine. 2015. “Intersectionality.” The Washington Post.
  • Recommended (Watch): Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “The Urgency of Intersectionality.” (19 min.)

Thursday (2/9) – “Get up, Stand up.” (Bob Marley) / On Protest and Art

Tape 2 – Epoch

Epoch samples songs and performances that illuminate some aspect of southern history. Many of the linkages are obvious—they are written or performed by southern artists, focus on an issue or symbol endemic to southern culture, or problematize conventional narratives about the South and southern history. Students will critically engage each track, while also using the music as entre to a broader conversation about what was happening in the South—socially, culturally, politically, intellectually—at the time the song was made.

Week 4
Tuesday (2/14) – “Roll Jordan Roll” (written by Charles Wesley) / The Antebellum South

  • Jones, Leroi. 1999. “Slaves: Their Music.” Pp. 17-31 in Blues People.
  • Palmer, Robert. 1982. “Beginnings.” Pp. 23-48 in Deep Blues.
  • Watch: “Slave Songbook.” (17 min.)

Thursday (2/16) – “Dixie(Daniel Emmett) / The Post-Emancipation South

Week 5

Tuesday (2/21) – “Strange Fruit” (Billie Holiday) / From the Cross to the Lynching Tree

  • Wells-Barnett, Ida B. 1892. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases.
  • Equal Justice Initiative. Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.
  • McFadden, Syreeta. 2016. “He Lived.” Buzzfeed.

Thursday (2/23) – “We Shall Overcome” (Guy Carawan) / Civil Rights, Pt. I

  • Reed, T.V. 2005. “Singing Civil Rights – The Freedom Song Tradition.” Pp. 1-39 in The Art of Protest.

Week 6

Tuesday (2/28) – “Onward Christian Soldiers” (S. Baring-Gould) / Civil Rights, Pt. II

  • Simon, Bryant. 1997. “Introduction.” in Race and Rumors of Race by Howard Odum.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center. 2011. “Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence.”
  • Recommended (Read): Jacobs, Michael. 2010. “Co-Opting Christian Chorales: Songs of the Ku Klux Klan.” In American Music.
  • Watch: “The Invisible Empire: the KKK and Hate in America” (27 min.)

Thursday (3/2) – Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone) / Civil Rights Pt. III

  • Loudermilk, A. 2013. “Nina Simone and the Civil Rights Movement.” JIWS.
  • Pierpont, Claudia R. 2014. “A Raised Voice”The New Yorker.
  • Recommended (Read): Feldstein, Ruth. 2005. “I Don’t Trust You Anymore” in JAM
  • Recommended (Watch): “Hard Talk with Nina Simone” BBC. (25 min.)

Week 7
Tuesday (3/7) – Interlude / Mid-Term

Thursday (3/9) – Flex (Party Boyz) / Flex Day

Week 8 Spring Break / No Classes

Week 9

Tuesday (3/21) – “Give More Power to the People (The Chi-Lites) / Bloody Lowndes

Thursday (3/23) – “I’m just a White Boy” (Merle Haggard) / (Racial) Pride and Prejudice

  • Hughes, Charles. 2015. “Pride and Prejudice…” Pp. 128-151 in Country Soul.

Week 10

Tuesday (3/28) – “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” (Outkast) / The South Raps

  • Grem, Darren E. 2006. “The South Got Something to Say.” In Southern Cultures.

Week 11 – No Class

Tape 3 – Aesthetic

On the Aesthetic tape students begin/continue to grapple with “alternative” notions of protest, including their own approaches to resistance and social change.

Week 12
Tuesday (4/11) – “From Dixie with Love” (Ole Miss Band) / Old South New

Thursday (4/13) – “Explode” (Big Freedia) / LGBTQIA in the South

Week 13
Tuesday (4/18) – “Borders” (Denice Frohman) / Latinx in the New South

Thursday (4/20) – “Formation” (Beyoncé) / Reimagining “South”

Week 14 – Class Presentations

Week 15
Tuesday (5/2) – “21 Questions” (50 cent feat. Nate Dogg) / Q&A with Brian

Thursday (5/4) – “Time Machine” (Big K.R.I.T.) / Class Review