Francis Gourrier first joined the History department in 2016 as a Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation/ Teaching Fellow and is now an assistant professor of American Studies and history. He is a U.S. historian, broadly trained in African American history. His teaching and research focus on gendered questions of racial conflict, civil rights, student activism, Black identity and politics. Prior to his career in higher education, Gourrier taught middle school in Oakland, California. He was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.


2021-2022 Career Enhancement Fellow by Mellon Foundation & Institute for Citizens & Scholars 

Areas of Expertise

African American, 20th Century U.S., Gender, Movement/s, and Education


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 long 1960s. We explore a range of thematic topics that may include, but are not limited to, civil rights, women's liberation and the counterculture. Guest lectures, films and student presentations complement the course and students are asked to engage actively in its development. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

What is the meaning of soul? Is it more than just a musical genre? Is it a black thing? Is it American? Students in this course examine the expressive forms of soul: in music, film, fashion, religion, literature and food. Soul's popularity is certainly linked to the Black Power era, but it also has its own temporalization — a "post-soul" era. Key to our exploration, then, is a historical grounding in American race, class and gender politics during the latter half of the 20th century. While much of our focus is on the United States, the global circuits of soul also figure prominently in our study. Listening and feeling are key to meaning-making in this course, and prompt discussions around (dis)ability. The course builds on approaches from ”Introduction to American Studies”: the circuit of culture, artifactual analysis and close reading of cultural texts. This counts toward the politics, culture and society requirement for the major. Prerequisite: AMST 108. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement.

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. Junior standing. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement.

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 other year in rotation with Senior Colloquium.

This course is a historical examination of the 20th-century migration of African Americans out of the rural South into American cities, especially outside the South. The seminar looks at the historical causes of migration, how the migration changed through time, and the importance of the route taken. The class reads the seminal scholarship and works written or created by the migrants. Students engage in their own research. This course counts toward the modern and Europe/Americas requirements and the African American field for the major. Previous enrollment in a college-level 20th-century United States history course is recommended. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. 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 examines how African America was affected by these efforts at racial subjugation and how the community responded socially, politically, economically, intellectually and culturally. Topics 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 Europe/Americas requirements and the African American field for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every three or four years.

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 explore how maleness has been defined and how those definitions have been protected, challenged, and transformed over time. Students 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 modern and Europe/Americas requirements for the major. No prerequisite. An intro-level history course is recommended. 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 intensely explores 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 Europe/Americas requirements for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every two or three years.