Race and ethnicity are social constructs, not biological categories. They are the product of history, made and remade over time. As historians, we seek to understand how these social categories are constructed and put to use, how racial and ethnic identities are lived and experienced, and how they intersect with other collective identities, such as class, gender, nationality, and region. The history of race and ethnicity is inexorably tied to histories of political and economic power, labor and class struggle, and cultural production and expression. By studying race and ethnicity relationally, and by incorporating racial and ethnic formation and perspectives into other categories of analysis, we acquire a deeper understanding of social and cultural interactions, the distribution and contestation of power, and political action and social mobilization.
The Corcoran Department of History has considerable strengths in this sub-field as well as a number of resources for scholars and students. Faculty members have researched and written on racial politics and labor organizing in the Jim Crow South; race, real estate, and housing in the metropolitan United State; racism and the environment; whiteness and segregation culture; music, cultural expression, and racial identities; and slavery and capitalism. We offer courses on the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, Race and Real Estate in the US, the Jim Crow Era, Race and Inequality, African American Music, and the Struggle for Racial Equality at UVA. Members of our department are affiliated with the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies and the Americas Center/Centro de las Américas.