Struggles for Freedom: African American History from the 17th to 20th Century


Held in conjunction with the WEA at the Norden Farm Centre for the Arts.

Having become essential to the southern economy by the late 17th century, it was not until the passing of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865 that slavery was formally abolished. Despite moments of promise, African Americans were still not considered equal citizens. It was not until the post-war years that the civil rights movement finally challenged the legal foundations of Jim Crow segregation.

This study day will examine African Americans' experiences both as slaves and as freed peoples as they struggled for freedom and equality.

Programme details

This study day will be held at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Altwood Road, Maidenhead SL6 4PF. You can opt to attend either in person or online via a livestream.


Slavery in North America
This lecture examines slavery in North America from the arrival of the first African slaves in 1619. We will consider the nature of the slave economy and enslaved people’s experiences within it.


Spirituals, Sabotage and Slowing Down: Resisting Slavery
This lecture considers a variety of ways in which enslaved people resisted the dehumanising nature of slavery, both through small acts of agency and through larger examples of resisting or escaping from the system.

Lunch break
Please note: lunch can be pre-ordered from the café-bar. The consumption of your own food and drink is not permitted on the premises at Norden Farm.

Emancipation and Jim Crow: why the end of the Civil War didn’t bring freedom
This lecture asks why the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that freed enslaved people in certain states and the 13th Amendment in 1865 that abolished slavery did not bring freedom to African Americans. Moving into the late nineteenth century we will examine the introduction of Jim Crow legislation that restricted African Americans’ rights.


Civil Rights: struggles for freedom and equality a century after the Civil War
The final lecture takes us into the post-World War II years and the Civil Rights Movement. We will consider a range of different approaches to the campaign, including those led by Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael.



Description Costs
Tuition (includes tea/coffee) £40.00
Tuition (online attendance per household, £1 booking fee) £41.00


Dr Ruth Percy


Ruth Percy is a historian of modern Britain and the United States at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. Her research interests include women, class, gender and the city.



To join in person at Norden Farm:

Steph Diggon (WEA), 19, Gorse Road, Cookham, SL6 9LL.

Email: or Telephone: 01628 563676.

Please contact Steph Diggon to check course availability if you wish to attend the study day at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts. If places are available, please complete the application form she will send you and indicate how you prefer to be contacted. We need your phone number or email address so we can get in touch with you if needed.

Please complete a separate application form for each place and email to Steph Diggon or post to the address above, paying either by bank transfer to Workers’ Educational Association Maidenhead sort code 60-30-06 account number 26604507 with your own name as reference, or by cheque payable to WEA Maidenhead Branch.

If the day is cancelled a full refund will be given. Please contact Steph if you wish to cancel.

To watch online via a livestream:

You will need to enrol direct with the Norden Farm Centre for the Arts following this link:

In their confirmation email, Norden Farm will send links to their Live Streaming Guide, with information on how to test the stream in advance and what to do should you experience problems on the day. 

This event features a live chat feature alongside the stream, so please use this to ask questions. Ruth Percy will answer these briefly at the start of the following session. 

Please contact Steph Diggon for course materials (e.g. agenda, reading list etc) when you book and with any questions.

You can cancel your online place with Norden Farm up to 24 hours beforehand and the course fee (less £1 booking fee) will be refunded in full. 

Please note that this course will not be recorded.