The South in American History

Online Courses

Please note: Registration for this course has concluded.

The South in American History

The South has played a central role in American history from the first permanent English colony through the United States of today. Join Gilder Lehrman and University of Richmond president and professor of history Edward L. Ayers—and look south for American history.

The class will explore the creation of the largest and most powerful slave society of the modern world and the attempt to create a new independent nation to sustain that society. The course will chart the ending of slavery for four million people, the social transformations that followed in Reconstruction, and the upheavals of the first New South. For the twentieth century, the class will document the world of segregation, the overthrow of that system, and the emergence of the complicated and sometimes conflicted South we know today.

The course will include a broad range of historical actors as active participants in the story, incorporating economics and politics, religion and culture. Innovative digital tools will help teachers see and teach this history in new ways.


  • The course will meet for live sessions led by Professor Ayers every other week, from 7:00-9:00pm Eastern Time, on the following dates:
    • Tuesday, January 13
    • Monday, January 26
    • Tuesday, January 27
    • Monday, February 9
    • Tuesday, February 10
    • Mid-term break—February 16-27
    • Monday, March 2
    • Thursday, March 5
    • Monday, March 16
    • Thursday, March 19
    • Tuesday, March 31
  • The class will consist of two types of sessions:
    • Six seminar sessions will consist of lecture and discussion with Professor Ayers.
    • During four digital history lab sessions, Professor Ayers will introduce a digital archive and then direct participants to mine it in search of documents and questions that could be shared with students. This work will take place during each lab session, and Professor Ayers will be available to answer questions live.
  • All sessions will be recorded and available to watch on-demand.
  • Regular attendance is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.

Readings & Assignments

  • All graduate participants will receive a free copy of the course text, The Oxford Book of Southern History, edited by Edward L. Ayers and Bradley C. Mittendorf.
  • Participants will also read selections from a course reader to be provided as a PDF through the course website.
  • Preparation for each of the six seminar sessions should take about three hours, comprised of reading approximately 100 pages of primary documents and short scholarly articles or book chapters.
  • No reading will be assigned for the four digital history lab sessions.
  • Assignments include:
    • Six 300-word essays, submitted as blog posts, summarizing and critiquing one of the assigned readings for each seminar session.
    • Four outlines of lesson plans using digital history archives, with one completed during each of the digital history lab sessions.
    • One multimedia project showcasing the use of digital history archives to study a course theme of each participant's selection.
  • You will receive the syllabus on the first day of class.


  • Graduate participants may join live sessions and complete assignments in pursuit of 3.0 graduate credits from Adams State University for $600.
  • Auditors may watch session recordings and pursue a Continuing Education Certificate of Completion for $25. Teachers from Gilder Lehrman Affiliate Schools may audit for just $15. Please note that auditors are not permitted to take part in the live sessions.


  • Registration begins November 15 and concludes January 9, 2015, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.
  • Please note that the credit-bearing graduate section of the course is limited to 100 participants and may fill before the registration period ends.

Lead Scholar

Edward L. Ayers

Edward L. Ayers is President of the University of Richmond. The author/editor of ten books (including the Bancroft Prize–winning In the Presence of Mine Enemies), Ayers also directed the online history project “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War.” He serves as a cohost of BackStory, a nationally syndicated radio show that connects American history to the present day. In 2003, he was named Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Last year, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal at the White House by President Barack Obama in recognition of “his commitment to making our history as widely available and accessible as possible.”


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