Syllabus—The Fannie Barrier Williams Project

spring 2024 @ suny brockport.

Fannie Barrier Williams, ca. 1880.

African and African American Studies/History/Women and Gender Studies 381—Spring 2024—Dr. Michael J. Kramer, Associate Professor, Department of History, SUNY Brockport

Course description

The Fannie Barrier Williams Project is an ongoing digital public history inquiry into the life, times, and lasting historical significance of Fannie Barrier Williams (1855-1944). Barrier Williams was a Brockport resident, the first Black woman to graduate from the Brockport State Normal School (predecessor to SUNY Brockport), and an antiracist and women’s rights activist, educator, writer, thinker, musician, visual artist. This is a project-based, experiential learning course. With guidance and support, each student produces projects for a curated website as well as for public sharing. The course allows students to learn more about Fannie Barrier Williams, her historical context, and her legacy while also acquiring information literacy and basic digital public history skills. No advanced computer skills are required. The course is grounded in historical inquiry, however creative and Interdisciplinary approaches to Fannie Barrier Williams and her history and legacy are very much welcome.

Overall course objectives

Students will:

  • Acquire knowledge of US history, African American history, women’s history, local history, and New York State history
  • Acquire historical skills of research, analysis, interpretation, and communication
  • Expand knowledge and applicability of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice understanding
  • Acquire information literacy and how to assess evidence
  • Acquire fluency with effective use of digital tools
  • See additional History Department learning objectives

Required materials

  • Williams, Fannie Barrier. The New Woman of Color: The Collected Writings of Fannie Barrier Williams, 1893–1918. DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780875802930.
  • Hendricks, Wanda A. Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780252079597.
  • Additional readings and materials (available via course website).


Unit 01: Who Was Fannie Barrier Williams? Digital Journaling for Developing Research Questions

Week 01

Tu 01/30 What Are We Up To This Semester?

Th 02/01 FBW in Brockport and Beyond

  • Reading Due: Fannie Barrier Williams, “A Northern Negro’s Autobiography,” 5-13, in The New Woman of Color; Mary Jo Deegan, “Fannie Barrier Williams and Her Life As a New Woman of Color in Chicago, 1893-1918,” in The New Woman of Color, xii-xxxiii

Week 02

Tu 02/06 FBW As Social Justice Activist and Sociologist—Digital Reading Journal Explained

  • Reading Due: Mary Jo Deegan, “Fannie Barrier Williams and Her Life As a New Woman of Color in Chicago, 1893-1918,” in The New Woman of Color, xxxiii-lx.
  • Assignment: Student info and syllabus review due at start of class.
  • Assignment: Digital Reading Journal starts. We will use the discussion boards to share our observations of Wanda A. Hendricks’ biography of Fannie Barrier Williams as we read it. Each Reading Journal entry should include (1) one quotation from the biography, not more than three sentences; (2) the page number of the quotation; (3) a comment about the quotation, why did it make an impression on you? Why does it matter? Explain cogently and with precision, in not more than three sentences.

Th 02/08 FBW: Early Life

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “Introduction” and “North of Slavery: Brockport,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 1-27.

Week 03

Tu 02/13 FBW in Hannibal, Missouri, Washington, DC, and Boston, MA

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “‘Completely Surrounded by Screens’: A Raced Identity,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 28-49.
  • Assignment: Digital Reading Journal Entry 01 due by start of class.

Th 02/15 FBW Arrives in Chicago

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “Creating Community in the Midwest: Chicago,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 50-68.

Week 04

Tu 02/20 FBW Builds a Life in Chicago

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “Crossing the Border of Race: The Unitarians, the World’s Fair, and the Chicago Woman’s Club,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 69-92.
  • Assignment: Digital Reading Journal Entry 02 due by start of class.

Th 02/22 No Class

Week 05

Tu 02/27 FBW in Progressive Era Chicago

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “A Distinctive Generation: ‘The Colored Woman’s Era’,” “The New Century: North and South Meet,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 93-149.

Th 02/29 FBW in Progressive Era Chicago and Back to Brockport

  • Reading Due: Wanda A. Hendricks, “A New Era: Duty, Responsibility, and Tension” and “Conclusions,” Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race, 150-176.

Unit 02: Digitally Annotating the Works of Fannie Barrier Williams—Starting to Make Sense of Primary Sources

Week 06

Tu 03/05 Visit Brockport Local History Museum

  • Reading Due: Fannie Barrier Williams, “A Northern Negro’s Autobiography,” 5-13, in The New Woman of Color.
  • Assignment: Digital Reading Journal Entry 03 due by start of class.

Th 03/07 Workshop

  • Assignment: Digital Annotation Project starts. We will use the digital tool Hypothesis and the Chrome browser to comment on a set of selected essays by Fannie Barrier Williams. You can set up your Hypothesis account at the Hypothesis website. You must install the Chrome browser, set up a Hypothesis account, and install the Hypothesis extension in Chrome by following the instructions at the Hypothesis website. Then join the private FBW Project group on Hypothesis. For the digital annotation assignments, each student will create at minimum two annotations per FBW essay and write two responses to other students. Each annotation should offer a precise, compelling observation about something FBW wrote; in clear prose, your annotation should then explain why (explaining why is the crucial part) the selected text is significant (why does it matter? What makes it important to questions of history, politics, culture, and society?). Responses should be encouraging but can also probe implications of other annotations: what does the annotation make you think about thematically, in terms of issues of history, justice, equality, struggle, freedom, race, gender, class, region, or some other topic?). In class we will discuss digital annotation and how it might help us work, as both individuals and together, to understand FBW, her biography, her context, her legacies, more effectively.

Week 07

Tu 03/12 Visit Morgan Manning House

Th 03/14 Open


Week 09

Tu 03/26 Reading FBW Herself

  • Reading Due: FBW, “The Intellectual Progress of Colored Women of the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation,” “Club Movement among Negro Women,” “Do We Need Another Name?” in The New Woman of Color, 17-46, 84-86.

Th 03/28

  • Reading Due: FBW, “The Problem of Employment for Negro Women,” “The Colored Girl,” “Colored Women of Chicago,” “Industrial Education—Will It Solve the Negro Problem?,” in The New Woman of Color, 52-57, 63-69, 78-83.
  • Assignment: Digital Annotation 01 due by start of class.

Week 10

Tu 04/02

  • Reading Due: Fannie Barrier Williams, “The Need of Social Settlement Work for the City Negro,” “The Frederick Douglass Centre: A Question of Social Betterment and Not of Social Equality,” “Social Bonds in the ‘Black Belt’ of Chicago: Negro Organizations and the New Spirit Pervading,” “The Frederick Douglass Center[: The institutional Foundation],” “A New Method of Dealing with the Race Problem,” in The New Woman of Color, 107-132.

Thu 04/04

  • Reading Due: Fannie Barrier Williams, “Refining Influence of Art,” “An Extension of the Conference Spirit,” “In Memory of Philip D. Armour,” “Eulogy of Susan B. Anthony,” 100-106, 92-95, 135-137.

Unit 03: Zotero to Understand Historical Context and Interpretive Debates (Historiography): What Was “Respectability” Politics?

Week 11

Tu 04/09 Zotero Workshop

  • Reading Due: Deborah Gray White, “The First Step in Nation Making,” Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1999), 21-55.
  • Assignment: Digital Annotation 02 due by start of class.
  • Assignment: Zotero Project starts. Zotero is a free, digital bibliographic tool created by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It can help you collect and organize research, sources, and citations. Each student will use the tool to assemble three additional books, articles, or other sources related to FBW, her life, context, and legacies from the WorldCat library system and JStor article database by way of Drake Memorial Library. Then, using the Zotero add function or using the web save page, each student will research and add three sources to our group library in Zotero. In class, we will practice inserting these citations into footnotes and bibliographies, making corrections to the entries to match Chicago Manual of Style formatting, and exploring why we cite sources and how it can empower research and learning. To complete the assignment, use “Copy Bibliography” from the Edit menu in Zotero to paste your sources into Brightspace Assignment text box, then upload assignment. For more guidance on using Zotero, see the Drake Memorial Library About Zotero Resource Guide.

Th 04/11 Deborah Gray White and Martha Jones on Respectability Politics

  • Reading Due: Martha Jones, “Lifting as We Climb,” Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (New York: Basic Books, 2020).

Week 12

Tu 04/16 Kevin Gaines’ Critique

  • Reading Due: Kevin Gaines, “Preface: The Intersections of Racial Liberalism and Racial Uplift Idelogy” and “Introduction: Uplift, Dissemblance, Double Consciousness, and the Ideological Dimensions of Class,” Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995), xi-18.

Th 04/18 Brittany Cooper’ Rebuttal

  • Reading Due: Brittany Cooper, “Introduction: The Duty of the True Race Woman” and “Chapter 1— Organized Anxiety: The National Association of Colored Women and the Creation of the Black Public Sphere,” Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 1-55.

Unit 04: Table Tents and Slideshows: Using Canva and Slideshow to Design Public Projects About FBW’s Life, Context & Legacies

Week 13

Tu 04/23 Canva/Slideshow Workshop

  • Assignment: Zotero Project due by start of class.
  • Assignment: Table Tent/Slideshow Project starts. For the final exam in the course, students will create (1) Table Tent public history displays using Canva. Each will consist of one quotation from Fannie Barrier Williams (on one side of the Table Tent) and a well-written, precise, cogent paragraph explanation of the quotations significance, written for a general audience (on the other side). The table tents will also include a QR code that links to the FBW Project website, an image of FBW, and the name of the student who created the text. Each will also have a short one-sentence biography of FBW written together by the class. The Table Tents will be displayed on Seymour Union cafeteria tables and Drake Memorial Library tables as well as at Spring 2024 graduation events such as luncheons. (2) To provide further explanation of the Table Tent project, students will each create a digital slideshow of the quote, paragraph, and additional information and explanation to convey the significance of FBW’s life, historical context, and legacies with regard to that particular quotation. These will be displayed online and on the large monitors in the lobby of the Fannie Barrier Williams Liberal Arts Building. We will primarily use Google Slides to create the slideshows, although students may also, if they wish, use Powerpoint or Keynote and important the slideshow into Google Slides. The final assignments in the course will be “scaffolded,” meaning that as we move toward the end of the semester, there will be smaller assignments to help you draft your final projects and receive feedback on them so that you can iterate, revise, and bring the final projects to completion successfully and satisfyingly. We will hold an in-class workshop on how to use Canva and Google Slides and use additional class time, if required, to gain competency with the digital tools and work toward the goals of the final projects.

Th 04/25 Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture

  • Reading Due: Hettie V. Williams and Melissa Ziobro. “Introduction,” A Seat at the Table: Black Women Public Intellectuals in US History and Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2023).

Week 14

Tu 04/30 Table Tent/Canva/Google Slideshow Workshop

Th 05/02 Ella Baker

  • Reading Due: Text, video, audio, and downloadable documents at “Ella Baker,” SNCC Digital Gateway.
  • Assignment: Table Tent Quote Selection and One-Paragraph Explanation due by start of class—draw on annotation work of FBW with Hypothesis; select a quotation that mattered to you, that you saw as historically or thematically significant, and that you would like to share with people who know little to nothing about Fannie Barrier Williams. How can you help new audiences at Brockport and beyond campus learn about this figure and appreciate her life, historical context, and legacies more fully? Your quote should be placed in the template on Brightspace, followed by a draft of your paragraph. This kind of short writing is challenging. You must articulate the significance of the quotation briefly, efficiently, precisely, and accessibly. Think of yourself writing a wall label next to a painting in a museum exhibition. How can you clearly and cogently express what matters about the quotation to someone who is unfamiliar with Fannie Barrier Williams? How can you get that person interested in the quotation’s content, in who FBW was, and in why the quotation might spark the person to scan the QR code to find out more about FBW?

Week 15

Tu 05/07 Audre Lorde

  • Reading Due: Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” and “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2007).

Th 05/09 Combahee River Collective, bell hooks & Closing Reflections

  • Reading Due: Combahee River Collective Manifesto; bell hooks, “Introduction,” “Talking Back,” and “Feminism: A Transformational Politic,” Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (New York: Routledge, 2015), 1-9, 19-27.
  • Assignment: Table Tent Quote Update—Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Paragraph Revisions and Reflection—Google Slideshow Draft due by start of class.
    • (1) First, update your quotation if you received feedback that your original selection has issues.
    • (2) Then it’s time to revise. This is an assignment I call “Thirteen Ways of Looking at your Paragraph” (inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”). Your goal is to revise your paragraph 13 times. Yes, 13 times! Feel free to use a word processing application such as Microsoft Word for your work, but when you are ready, paste each revision into the Brightspace Assignment textbox. By iterating, but saving each iteration, you will begin to improve the paragraph while preserving past efforts. After your first 12 revisions, use the 13th one to create your final revised version of your paragraph.
    • (3) Then, write a one-paragraph reflection about the process of iteration and revision of the paragraph: what did you notice as you did the revisions? When you looked back at earlier versions of the revision, were there any moments worth returning to in your final version? When did revisions feel like they went off-track? Did any new ideas emerge while iterating? If so, what were they? What got confusing and what clarified? What are you struggling with still in your paragraph at this stage of revision?
    • (4) Develop a rought first draft of your Google Slideshow. Include in the link to your Google Slideshow Draft in your Brightspace textbox response.

Final Due Wednesday, 05/15

  • Table Tent text and design in Canva uploaded to Brightspace.
  • Google Slideshow link uploaded to Brightspace.


  • Student info and syllabus review 5%
  • Reading Journal 01 5%
  • Reading Journal 02 5%
  • Reading Journal 03 5%
  • Digital annotation 01 5%
  • Digital annotation 02 5%
  • Zotero assignment: 5 secondary sources 5%
  • Table Tent Quote Selection and One-Paragraph Explanation 10%
  • Table Tent Quote Update—Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Paragraph Revisions and Reflection—Google Slideshow Draft 10%
  • Final
    • Table tent Canva template 15%
    • Slideshow 15%
  • Participation in class (speaking, listening, responding to others respectfully and engagingly) 15%


This course uses a simple evaluation process to help you improve your understanding of history. Note that evaluations are never a judgment of you as a person; rather, they are meant to help you assess how you are processing material in the course and keep improving your skills of public history knowledge and understanding.

There are four evaluations given for assignments—(1) Yes!; (2) Getting Closer; (3) Needs Some Work; (4) Needs Serious Attention—plus comments, when relevant, based on the rubric below. The policy in SUNY Brockport Department of History Masters-level coursework is that a grade below a B- is considered unacceptable for graduate work.

It is important to turn assignments in on time, as some are “scaffolded,” which is to say many build on previous assignments. Late assignments will lose one full grade every two days they are late.

Remember to honor the Academic Honesty Policy at SUNY Brockport, including no plagiarism. In this course there is no need to use sources outside of the required ones for the class. The instructor recommends not using algorithmic software such as ChatGPT for your assignments, but rather working on your own writing skills. If you do use algorithmic software, you must cite it as you would any other secondary source that is not your own. More information on SUNY Brockport’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Overall course rubric

Yes! = A-level work. These show evidence of:

  • clear, compelling assignments that include
  • a credible argument with some originality
  • argument supported by relevant, accurate and complete evidence
  • integration of argument and evidence in an insightful analysis
  • excellent organization: introduction, coherent paragraphs, smooth transitions, conclusion
  • sophisticated prose free of spelling and grammatical errors
  • correct page formatting when relevant
  • accurate formatting of footnotes and bibliography with required citation and documentation
  • on-time submission of assignments
  • for class meetings, regular attendance and timely preparation
  • overall, insightful, constructive, respectful and regular participation in class discussions
  • overall, a thorough understanding of required course material

Getting Closer = B-plus-level work, It is good, but with minor problems in one or more areas that need improvement.

Needs Some Work = B-level work is acceptable, but with major problems in several areas or a major problem in one area.

Needs Serious Attention = C-plus-and-below work. It shows major problems in multiple areas, including missing or late assignments, missed class meetings, and other shortcomings.

E-level work is unacceptable. It fails to meet basic course requirements and/or standards of academic integrity/honesty.

Assignments rubric

Successful assignments demonstrate:

  1. Argument – presence of an articulated, precise, compelling argument in response to assignment prompt; makes an evidence-based claim and expresses the significance of that claim; places argument in framework of existing interpretations and shows distinctive, nuanced perspective of argument
  2. Evidence – presence of specific evidence from primary sources to support the argument
  3. Argumentation – presence of convincing, compelling connections between evidence and argument; effective explanation of the evidence that links specific details to larger argument and its sub-arguments with logic and precision
  4. Contextualization – presence of contextualization, which is to say an accurate portrayal of historical contexts in which evidence appeared and argument is being made
  5. Citation – wields citation standards effectively to document use of primary and secondary sources
  6. Style – presence of logical flow of reasoning and grace of prose, including:
    1. an effective introduction that hooks the reader with originality and states the argument of the assignment and its significance
    2. clear topic sentences that provide sub-arguments and their significance in relation to the overall argument
    3. effective transitions between paragraphs
    4. a compelling conclusion that restates argument and adds a final point
    5. accurate phrasing and word choice
    6. use of active rather than passive voice sentence constructions

Citation: Getting Better at Using Chicago Manual of Style

You are not required to use Chicago Manual of Style in this course, but if you wish to improve your skills with CMoS, the following information can provide help.

  1. There is a nice, quick overview of citation from the Chicago Manual of Style Shop Talk website. It includes lots of information, including:
    1. Formatting endnotes.
    2. Tipsheet (PDF).
  2. For additional, helpful guidelines, visit the Drake Library’s Chicago Manual of Style page.
  3. You can always go right to the source: the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is available for reference at the Drake Memorial Library Reserve Desk.

Writing consultation

Writing Tutoring is available through the Academic Success Center. It will help at any stage of writing. Be sure to show your tutor the assignment prompt and syllabus guidelines to help them help you.

Research consultation

The librarians at Drake Memorial Library are an incredible resource. You can consult with them remotely or in person. To schedule a meeting, go to the front desk at Drake Library or visit the library website’s Consultation page.

Attendance policy

You will certainly do better with evaluation in the course, learn more, and get more out of the class the more you attend meetings, participate in discussions, complete readings, and finish assignments. That said, lives get complicated. Therefore, you may miss up to four class meetings with or without a justified reason. If you are ill, please stay home and take precautions if you have any covid or flu symptoms. Masks are perfectly welcome in class if you are still recovering from illness or feel sick. You do not need to notify the instructor of your absences. After four absences, subsequent absences will result in reduction of final grade at the discretion of the instructor. Generally, each absence beyond four leads to the loss of one grade level in the final course evaluation.

Disabilities and accommodations

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Brockport Faculty Senate legislation, students with documented disabilities may be entitled to specific accommodations. SUNY Brockport is committed to fostering an optimal learning environment by applying current principles and practices of equity, diversity, and inclusion. If you are a student with a disability and want to utilize academic accommodations, you must register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to obtain an official accommodation letter which must be submitted to faculty for accommodation implementation. If you think you have a disability, you may want to meet with SAS to learn about related resources. You can find out more about Student Accessibility Services or by contacting SAS via the email address or phone number (585) 395-5409. Students, faculty, staff, and SAS work together to create an inclusive learning environment. Feel free to contact the instructor with any questions. Since we are doing more intensive digital work in this course, please be aware that there are “loaner” laptops one can borrow at the Drake Memorial Library reserve desk as well as relevant software for the course projects installed on machines in Drake Memorial Library in addition to using your own personal computer.

Discrimination and harassment policies

Sex and Gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, are prohibited in educational programs and activities, including classes. Title IX legislation and College policy require the College to provide sex and gender equity in all areas of campus life. If you or someone you know has experienced sex or gender discrimination (including gender identity or non-conformity), discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking, we encourage you to seek assistance and to report the incident through these resources. Confidential assistance is available on campus at Hazen Center for Integrated Care. Another resource is RESTORE. Note that by law faculty are mandatory reporters and cannot maintain confidentiality under Title IX; they will need to share information with the Title IX & College Compliance Officer.

Statement of equity and open communication

We recognize that each class we teach is composed of diverse populations and are aware of and attentive to inequities of experience based on social identities including but not limited to race, class, assigned gender, gender identity, sexuality, geographical background, language background, religion, disability, age, and nationality. This classroom operates on a model of equity and partnership, in which we expect and appreciate diverse perspectives and ideas and encourage spirited but respectful debate and dialogue. If anyone is experiencing exclusion, intentional or unintentional aggression, silencing, or any other form of oppression, please communicate with me and we will work with each other and with SUNY Brockport resources to address these serious problems.

Disruptive student behaviors

Please see SUNY Brockport’s procedures for dealing with students who are disruptive in class.

Emergency alert system

In case of emergency, the Emergency Alert System at The College at Brockport will be activated. Students are encouraged to maintain updated contact information using the link on the College’s Emergency Information website.

Additional Brockport policies

Visit the official Brockport policies webpage.

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