Francis Gourrier first joined the History faculty in 2016 as a Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation/ Teaching Fellow and is now Assistant Professor of American Studies and History. He is a U.S. historian, broadly trained in African American history. His teaching and research interests are the civil rights movement, gender and American society, youth/ student activism, education, and migration studies. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Kenyon College, an M.A. in Afro-American Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Gourrier’s dissertation, “Civil Rights Husbands: A New History of Manhood in the Black Freedom Movement,” examines the various ways men challenged and reproduced gender hierarchies, aided their wives’ political leadership, and used activism to define their manhood.

Prior to his career in academia, Gourrier taught middle school in Oakland, California.

He is a native of New Orleans.

Areas of Expertise

African American; women and gender; modern U.S. history (1845-present).


2018 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of Wisconsin-Madison

2012 — Master of Arts from Univ of Wisconsin-Madison

2008 — Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College

Courses Recently Taught

This course introduces students to the principles of American studies through the exploration of American history and culture during the 1900's. We will explore the nature of American society in this critical period through the study of the race relations, women and gender, music and youth culture. Guest lectures, films and student presentations complement the course and students will be asked to engage actively in its development. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors need permission of instructor. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

Why is education often at the center of struggles for racial justice? Do students of color on college and high school campuses face political obstacles today that are comparable to those of the 1960s? What does it mean when political leaders and public intellectuals say, “education is the civil rights issue of our generation?” In this seminar, we will examine the interplay of race and education in student protest traditions in the U.S. Students can expect to interrogate representations and expressions of youth culture, sites of student rebellion, and systems of power in educational institutions. Specific topics of study will include Critical Race Theory, civil rights and black power, anti-war protests, sexual assault on college campuses and issues of access to higher education for undocumented students. As a topic of inquiry in American Studies, students in this seminar will engage “in provocative thinking about the contradictions of U.S. ideals and lived realities” through interdisciplinary measures. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

This course will introduce students to the major theoretical writings about education—Dewey, Kozol, Ravitch and Freire. We will inquire about the "global achievement gap" and "cultural literacy" and interview teachers from a broad range of educational backgrounds — public, private, parochial and charter. The seminar will meet weekly and students will engage during the week in Moodle discussions about issues raised in the readings. Students also will have a participant-observer experience in a public high school, with an introductory day in early January break and a week-long residency the second week of spring break. Credits given only for attending all components of the course. Permission of instructor required.This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: junior standing.

The course will provide a setting for advanced guided student work in American studies. Students will work collaboratively to assist one another in the development of individual research projects that represent the synthesis of the six courses they have crafted for the major in American studies. The course is required of all American studies senior majors and concentrators. Permission of instructor required. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

Individual study is an exceptional opportunity available to junior or senior majors who find that the ordinary course offerings at Kenyon do not meet their needs for the major. Individual study may be taken only for 0.5 units of credit. Students must have the approval of the department chair in order to apply to enroll in an individual study. Students must present a detailed reading list and syllabus, including a schedule of assignments/projects and due dates, to the American studies faculty member with whom they choose to work. The faculty member who agrees to supervise and direct the individual study will confirm the syllabus and schedule in writing to the director of the program. The student project must culminate in a public presentation. The overall evaluation is a combination of student self-evaluation and faculty assessment of the student’s performance, both of which will be reported to the department chair along with the final grade assigned in the course. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the registrar’s deadline. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement.

This course is a historical examination of the 20th-century migration of African Americans out of the rural South into American cities, especially cities outside the South. The seminar will look at the historical causes of migration, how the migration changed through time, and the importance of the route taken. The class will read the seminal scholarship and works written or created by the migrants. Students will engage in their own research. Previous enrollment in a college-level 20th-century United States history course is recommended. No prerequisite. Offered every two or three years.

One historian has described the years between 1880 and 1920 as the "nadir of black life." During this period, African Americans were politically disenfranchised, forced into debt peonage, excluded from social life through Jim Crow segregation, and subjected to historically unprecedented levels of extralegal violence. This course will examine how African America was affected by these efforts at racial subjugation and how the community responded socially, politically, economically, intellectually and culturally. Topics will include the rise of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois as political leaders, the founding of the NAACP, the birth of jazz and the blues, the impact of the Great Migration, racial ideologies, lynching, and class, gender and political relations within the African American community. This counts toward the modern and Americas/Europe requirement for the major and minor. Offered every three or four years.

This course focuses on the conceptual frameworks used by historians and on debates within the profession about the nature of the past and the best way to write about it. The seminar prepares students of history to be productive researchers, insightful readers and effective writers. The seminar is required for history majors and should be completed before the senior year. Open only to sophomores and juniors.This counts toward the practice and theory requirement for the major. Prerequisite: history or international studies major or permission of instructor.

This upper-level seminar focuses on manhood in U.S. historical perspective. Although history is often taught and studied from the perspective of men or through a close examination of male actors, only recently have historians begun to analyze the ways in which men express and experience manliness and masculinity. Like women, men also live social lives shaped by gender. Using gender as a category of historical analysis, we will explore how maleness has been defined and how those definitions have been protected, challenged, and transformed over time. Students will critically examine what it means for gender to operate as a socially constructed, rather than natural, category. Specific areas of focus may include historical constructions of gender binaries, power, imperialism, race/gender intersections, sexuality, sports, and fraternal organizations. This course counts toward the Americas and modern requirements for the major and minor. An intro-level history course is recommended. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

The years between 1954 and 1975 have been variously described by historians as a Second Reconstruction and the "fulfillment of the promise of the American Revolution." These years, which constitute the civil rights era, witnessed African Americans and their allies transforming the nation by overturning Jim Crow segregation, challenging racism, and expanding the idea and reality of freedom in America. While this period was one in which most African Americans fought for greater inclusion in American society, it also was one which saw the rise of militant nationalist organizations like the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party that sought to separate themselves from an America they saw as hopelessly depraved and racist. This seminar will be an intense exploration of this revolutionary period and its personalities through close examination of a variety of primary and secondary sources, documentaries and motion pictures. This counts towards the modern and Americas/Europe requirements for the major and minor. Offered every two or three years.